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Joe Conason: The Only True Way to Save Marriage from Obama

Right-wing critics defend the 'sanctity of marriage' while compromising their own

For honoring his conscience on the issue of marriage equality, President Barack Obama earned angry rebukes from all quarters on the right, including the Uncle Toms of the Log Cabin Republicans, who said he was “a day late and a dollar short”; teenage mom Bristol Palin, who mocked him for invoking his daughters in changing “thousands of years of thinking about marriage”; and 50-year-old virgin Ann Coulter, often engaged but never wed, who called his decision “a sign of desperation.”

On the Fox Nation website, minions of Roger Ailes accused Obama of declaring “war on marriage,” echoing Rush Limbaugh’s charge that “the president of the United States is going to lead a war on traditional marriage,” while Karl Rove simply gloated that the controversy has left him “in a bad place” with Catholic and conservative voters.

All of these reflexive attacks were consistent with Republican propaganda shrieking that matrimonial rights for gay people will destroy the institution they hope to uphold. It is a puzzling argument, especially because the principal right-wing complaint against homosexuals for so many years was their alleged promiscuity. Now gays and lesbians are charged with trying to ruin the family because they want to take vows of fidelity.

In this historic moment for human rights, listening to the likes of Ailes (now on his third marriage) and Limbaugh (currently married to wife No. 4), not to mention Rove (divorced twice), it is impossible to believe that Republicans screaming about the future of wedlock are sincere. If they are truly worried about marriage, they should stop harassing gays and campaign for the only change that might make a real difference.

They could outlaw divorce, or least repeal the ultra-liberal, no-fault divorce laws that they’ve used to their own advantage.

Across America — and particularly in the red states that have rejected gay marriage — divorce rates are continually rising, along with teen pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births and single motherhood (which somehow afflict gay-friendly blue states far less). Gay rights obviously isn’t the cause of marital strife and separation in those places where hostility to same-sex relationships is considered a religious duty. To achieve their professed goal of protecting marriage, shouldn’t the divorce addicts of the Republican right renounce their sins and return to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Old Testament, which forbid divorce except under a few very restricted circumstances?

Of course such a return to bygone moral standards would severely inconvenience men like the hypocrites named above — along with Rupert Murdoch, Newt Gingrich and a very large proportion of the GOP congressional caucus — and will therefore never occur. Restricting divorce wouldn’t be good social policy, anyway. Yet it is worth noting that the most enraged defenders of the traditional, heterosexual conjugal bond are men who have repeatedly trashed their own marriages.

Why should Limbaugh and his ilk deny gays and lesbians a chance at wedded bliss? Can they possibly set a worse example, after all, than he did?

Joe Conason writes for Creators Syndicate. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

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