We built this altar, but will they come? (National Post, July 07, 2003)

If you build it, they will come. It worked for the baseball diamond in the movie Field of Dreams, but apparently it doesn't work for gays. Weeks after an Ontario court invited gays to wed, a decision enthusiastically feted at Toronto's Gay Pride events, The Washington Post claimed "hundreds of gay Americans are streaming north to get married." But in fact only about two dozen or so couples have signed on for a major-league commitment. Embarrassing, to say the least, for gay marriage proponents. If not in ultra-liberal Hogtown, where? If not now, when?

Recently The New York Times added gay unions to its marriage announcement pages. At first there were many gay partnership announcements. The numbers then began a steady decline. Over four issues, I have seen only one such announcement.

In 1999, a Montreal family enjoyed a flurry of celebrity when a son "married" his partner in an elaborate, made-for-TV video-documented traditional wedding. The family wrote a book to publicize their fraught progress toward the big day (in Eatons famous Art Deco dining room). The privacy-seeking father was persuaded by his politically correct and empathetic wife that it was only "right" and "fair" and "just" that their son receive "equal" emotional and financial support to that given their heterosexual children when they married.

The men lived in New York in a creative milieu with the coolest heteros and gays on this planet. And yet strangely, on receiving the news of their forthcoming "marriage," not a single one of their friends came forward to throw them an "engagement" party, a fact lingered over by the "grooms" as a source of pain.

Climaxing in a post-wedding dinner speech, the father said he had no doubt his family's courageous initiative in breaking down odious barriers to equality for gays would pave the way for many other gay men and their families to fulfill their yearnings for normalcy. And yet, to my knowledge, in the four years that have passed since then, not a single other gay couple in Montreal has "married" in this mock-hetero fashion.

I sat on a task force on gay marriage at my synagogue some years ago. After several emotional and passionately debated sessions, it was finally agreed -- for the rabbi himself knew he could not perform a true marriage ceremony in good conscience -- that he would be willing to preside over a ceremony in which a mezuzah was affixed on the door of a gay household and in this way give a traditional blessing to the shared dwelling. I thought it was an excellent compromise. And yet, again, not a single gay couple in Montreal has to date stepped forward to avail themselves of this opportunity.

The Field of Theory is landscaped and ready. Where are the players? The answer is: The whole marriage-for-gays movement is a construct of the liberal imagination, a naked Emperor on parade, and the cheering throng -- blindfolded by choice -- are the activist judges, timorous politicians and anti-establishment intellectuals who have co-opted what should have been a national debate on an issue whose unknown social consequences have not been considered in the rush to eradicate history.

The gay-marriage-rights issue has been fabricated out of whole cloth by social revolutionaries who have run out of traditional social institutions to mow down. The fact is: The overwhelming majority of heterosexuals want to marry because in doing so they are joining a historical stream and are reinforcing links to the generation that came before as well as affirming the one to follow. The overwhelming majority of gay men do not want to marry because, by biological definition, they are not in the historical stream. Unlike heterosexuals, every generation of homosexuals must re-invent itself. This is why the spectacle of a gay marriage ceremony will never have the solemn impact or underlying meaning of a real marriage.

When government created civil unions, offering benefits and rights parity to gay couples, the battle for gay rights was over, and that's when the champagne should have been handed round. It was a win-win situation for gays and heteros.

But political militants -- the expression "politically correct" comes out of Mao's cultural revolution -- prefer a zero-sum game: The former victims win only when the former winners lose. To radicals, gays are not individuals but a collective torch, fuel to their hungry bonfire of historic social norms. But the empirical evidence so far suggests given the level playing field of public acceptance through civil unions, most gays will choose to play ball rather than jump through the activists' fiery hoops.


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