Marriage answer 'naive,' but not horrible

May 10, 2009

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Carrie Prejean has the right to believe that marriage is whatever she wants it to be. She also has the right to pose topless for a lingerie shoot. Where it gets itchy is when you tell people, "I have the right to believe as I choose; and you have the right to believe as I choose, as well."

Prejean, however, did not say that. What she did say probably deserves to be read twice by people on both sides of the issue.

In the annals of the same-sex marriage debate, Prejean won't even make footnote status. But this one little snapshot in time is emblematic of how and why the issue has suddenly, and almost stunningly turned in recent weeks.


Instead of states dragging their feet, it's now almost a race to legalize same-sex marriage.

It's as if - after eight years on the social-movement wagon - there is a pent-up demand, not just for tolerance, but reality and common sense as well. Even notable Republican soldiers seem to have decided that same-sex marriage is not the hill they want to die on.

The obvious difficulty, is that the Party of Limited Government Interference can hardly claim credibility when it's telling people right and left how they ought to live their private lives. Again, the paradox - we have the right to live the way we want and so do you, as long as we approve.

Of course, it would be, to use Carrie Prejean's word, naive, to think that this change of heart is about seeing the error of inconsistency, and not about votes.

Most social upheaval - the women's vote, civil rights - comes on the heels of mass uprising. The same-sex marriage sea change has come on the heels of mass apathy.

As an issue, same-sex marriage doesn't really move the meter one way or the other anymore. Especially among moderates and young people, it's not that big a deal.

What is a big deal is this: If a political party is going to tell one subgroup how to live, there's a pretty good chance that at some point in the future it will want to tell you and me how to live as well.

And when the political party itself makes a study of unsavory indiscretions, there is a tendency among Christians and non-Christians alike to turn to the Bible: Speck. Plank. Eye.

Preajean blamed youth on her now-famous photo shoot, a defense that is eerily similar to Larry Craig's wide stance. She said she was young and naive. She still is. And she has a lifetime to reconcile some still-forming thoughts.

The answer she gave to a beauty pageant judge regarding same-sex marriage was, to my mind, legitimate enough. She was raised in a Christian family to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

What was she supposed to do, lie? Tell the judges what they wanted to hear?

The disconnect is that presumably her upbringing didn't encourage her to take her shirt off in front of the cameras, either. Maybe it didn't come up at the supper table.

Depending on your morals or beliefs, you will choose or choose not to pose nude, go to church, cheat on your wife, contribute to charity, lie about your age or refrain from eating meat on Friday.

But you cannot make laws out of beliefs - not good ones, anyway. Does anyone believe there should be a law requiring everyone in America to give up something for Lent?

Same-sex marriage is not entirely parallel, but it's close. And here is where it pays to listen to Carrie, in total:

"Well I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family, I do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that's how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman."

A bit convoluted, yes, but the young woman was under the gun. Loosely translated, Prejean said that she holds her religion and her beliefs dear, but she recognizes the rights of other Americans to make choices that are based on their beliefs as well.

A pageant judge called this answer, "the worst in pageant history." But there is a country mile's worth of difference between her answer and the tiresome "homosexuality is an abomination" claptrap.

History is a bit like an earthworm, always moving beneath the surface, making radical changes to the soil that are only noticeable with the benefit of time. One day same-sex marriage will go as unremarked upon as a woman walking into a voting booth. Prejean's view - you have a right to your beliefs, even if I don't agree with them - isn't world changing. But it is slow and necessary progress.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at Tune in to the Rowland Rant video at, on or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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