Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, who defeated longtime (1977-2011) 4th District Representative Ike Skelton in last fall’s election, has been called, for good reason, “Missouri’s anti-gay zealot.”
Recently Rep. Hartzler (b. 1960) has compared gay (same-sex) marriage to polygamous marriage. She asked, in opposing the idea, “If you just cared about somebody, have a committed relationship, why not allow one man and two women or three women to marry?”
Listening to a local radio station earlier this week, I heard clips of Hartzler’s June 2 talk (at the Eagle Forum in D.C.), which included the above statement, and comments on her talk. The host of the program fully agreed with Hartzler on that point, although he did disagree of some of her later, more outrageous statements.
But is polygamous marriage and same-sex marriage basically the same ethically and to be equally accepted if traditional marriage is not maintained? I think not.
The difference is that of innate orientation. Surely no one can argue that people are born with a polygamous orientation. But there is ample reason to recognize that some people are born with a homosexual orientation. That is the way they are “wired” from birth.
A more serious question might be whether other people are perhaps born with, say, kleptomania or pedophilia. But even if such should be the case, which I seriously doubt, there is no doubt that such “disorders” are harmful to society, just as promiscuity often is. But the same cannot be said for homosexuality, depending on how it is expressed, of course. (There can be, and is, harmful homosexual activity just as there can be, and is, harmful heterosexual activity.)
Hartzler ran the public campaign for Missouri’s anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment, which 71 percent of voters approved. Thanks to Hartzler and the many who agreed with her, since 2004 the MO constitution has stipulated: “That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.”
Now seven years later Hartzler is working hard to see that that law remains in MO and that DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act that became federal law in 1996) is defended. She has the full support of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, of course, who join with her in criticizing President Obama. Earlier this year the President concluded that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional and so the Justice Department should cease defense of that section in the Act.
(Section 3 of DOMA ends by declaring that “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”)
Certainly Representative Hartzler has the right to oppose same-sex marriage, and it is clear that a majority of voting Missourians has agreed with her position in the past, and may still agree with her.
But it is not valid for Hartzler to oppose same-sex marriage by saying that there is no basic difference between approving that and other non-traditional forms of marriage such as polygamy. The two are not the same kind of thing, and we should beware of people who try to equate them in an attempt to “protect” traditional marriage by opposing same-sex marriage.