This month, my wife and I will celebrate the tenth anniversary of our wedding on the shores of Lake Austin—a decade of love, commitment, a spat or two, fun, adventure, and ever-deepening devotion. Until recently, it felt like the most stable and natural thing in the world, an agreement to share our lives that continues to enrich our lives.
And yet, I am troubled. In recent weeks, I have felt that our marriage—apparently so solid, so secure—is threatened. Two thousand miles away, in Massachusetts, and a few hours south, in San Francisco, other people are rushing to partake in those same values we share: commitment, love, devotion. This confuses me, even though I don’t personally know any of these people, and I’m assured that their marriage certificates will in no way undermine the validity of our own.
But I know better. There is only so much love and devotion to go around, and if everyone is allowed to share in it, there will be less for those of us who already have it. Allowing the state to certify the wrong people’s commitment to each other inevitably places our own in jeopardy, because our marriage is too fragile to withstand the reverberations from the actions of these distant strangers.
This isn’t the first time that marriage has been threatened in this country. Decades ago, back in our native South, the danger arose that the wrong people might attempt to share their love and commitment. Oh, the official rhetoric didn’t dwell on this—it was all about maintaining the integrity of the races, states’ rights, and so on. But when people like us got to talking, eventually you’d hear the real fear: Next thing you know, black men will be marrying white women. And that would threaten every single marriage between white people, for the same reasons that those strangers in Boston and San Francisco threaten my marriage today. Now, black and white people get married all the time, and my marriage is therefore less secure than ever.
So it gives me great comfort that our President has decided, upon solemn and sober reflection, to protect our fragile, decade-long relationship by supporting a constitutional amendment that defines just who is allowed to certify their love and commitment. That’s the government’s job: to determine the validity of our most intimate decisions, even if they affect only me and my wife. Without the official stamp of government approval, our relationship is neither sacred nor secure.
Of course, the President plays no role in the passage of such an amendment—that’s up to the states or Congress. But he can certainly use that aptly named bully pulpit to keep the spotlight on this danger. Because otherwise, our attention will be distracted from this grave and gathering danger to our marriage by transitory trivialities—the worst economy since the Great Depression, the deliberate export of millions of jobs, the fabricated war and needless deaths of hundreds of Americans in Iraq, the failure to bring the leaders of the September 11 attacks to justice, the growing hatred of America resulting from an arrogant foreign policy that puts American corporate interests above everything else, the systematic looting of the Treasury by the richest of the rich and their government minions, the rigging of the last presidential election, the ravaging of the environment to provide profits for Republican campaign contributors, and so on.
For the next few months, the President’s allies in the Republican Congress and corporate media will make certain that presidential and congressional candidates and editorial pages spend more time discussing this threat to my marriage than any of these other distractions. Thousands, maybe millions of people who might have voted—or not voted—based on those diversions will rush to the polls and vote to defend my marriage from those distant strangers in California and Massachusetts who threaten it.
And so the President who protected my marriage will be re-elected, and perhaps our truly sacred document, the Constitution, will be expanded to define who can legally certify their love and commitment: Us. Not them. This government edict will alleviate the recent confusion that has endangered what my wife and I had foolishly believed was a strong relationship. Amid all the turmoil of modern times, we shall have clarity at last, confusion no more. And finally, my marriage will be safe.
Former Observer editor Brett Campbell defends his marriage to Carole Patterson in Oregon.