Saturday, June 03, 2006

State vs. Conviction

How come a US President gets away with claiming moral hegemony?

President George W. Bush again has taken up his crusade for a constitutional gay marriage ban. His arguments are rather less presidential, let alone constiutional, than fit for a pope. ‘Ages of experience have taught us that the commitment of a husband and a wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society." And he adds: "Marriage cannot be cut off from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening this good influence on society."

In the good old European tradition of strict separation of Church and State, any similar declaration of a public official would be considered a blasphemy. But in the US, or at least in a substantial (southern) part of it, the President gets away with it.

The reader should not misunderstand me. In my own social, cultural and religious life I am not particularly enthusiastic about the idea of gay marriage. I cannot possibly see it as an equivalent to the public institition of marriage which is mainly geared to protect (women and) children. In fact, I consider any marriage other than between a man and a women perfectly silly.

However, as a regular civilian (and as a lawyer) I would never even contemplate to deny my fellow human beings the bonds they wish to create with one another. If two guys or two women wish to make promises and call this ‘marriage’, well so be it. My sense of equality precedes any distinction that I make according to my societal values.

Not so Mr. Bush - and not so quite a few of his followers. Either Mr. Bush is not clever enough to understand the various distinctions that can – and can not – be made depending on one’s responsibilities or one’s perspectives. Or he is turning back – on purpose – on one of the essential foundations of our Western democracies. This is not merely the separation of Church authority versus State authority; it includes the wider responsibility never to let public legitimacy become the hostage of one single morality.

Mr. Bush is asserting a position that no US citizen with a sound mind should allow him to retain at any time, for any cause.
Post scriptum 7th June 2006:
Today the US Senate blocked the proposed gay marriage ban. It is a relief that common sense apparently still prevails in American politics.