For years following the breakup of my marriage I wallowed in anger, despair, and self-recrimination. I had been determined to spare my daughter the prolonged, nasty, and bitter divorce that tore apart my childhood home, yet the best I could do was paint a smiley face on her uncertain future.
"You're so lucky," I lied to my then 4-year-old. "You get to have two houses."
Of course, like any rational person I blamed my ex. But I also blamed myself... again and again. Like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five I had become unstuck in time, the tiniest train of thought instantly transporting me back to some distant moment when I said the wrong words or made the wrong choice, then suddenly sweeping me off to an idealized future of marital bliss that I would never experience.
Introspection can suck.
But I'm happy to report that the clouds have cleared from my eyes, for while reading the state supreme court decision upholding Washington's Defense of Marriage Act, I had an epiphany. All my brooding and blaming and finger pointing had been misplaced. The divorce wasn't my fault after all. It wasn't even my ex's.
It was the gays'.
Writing for the plurality, Justice Barbara Madsen healed my emotional wounds with words of clarity and wisdom. The very purpose of DOMA, she counsels, is to "encourage stable families."
"The legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers the state's legitimate interests in procreation and the well-being of children."
Of course! How could I have been so blind for so long?
The very title of the act—"Defense of Marriage"—implies that marriage must be defended from something, and since DOMA's only legal impact is to bar same-sex marriage, clearly that something is the gays. All this time I thought my marriage had dissolved due to selfishness or immaturity or a failure to communicate, but now I no longer blame myself. I blame the gays for gnawing away at the institution of marriage and tearing asunder my daughter's once-happy home.
But mostly, I blame Dan Savage.
Oh sure, he pretends to be that outrageous sex columnist and outspoken Stranger editor, but the "Dan Savage" you think you know is little more than a cleverly marketed, youth-oriented brand. The real Dan is a quiet homebody and same-sex family man, faithfully devoted to his longtime partner and their adopted son. For all intents and purposes Dan and his partner are married in everything but name, certificate... and the 1,500 or so legal, social, and financial benefits and obligations afforded us normal folks.
What chance did my marriage ever have when my wife and I knew all along that Dan was making a mockery of it by raising a healthy, happy son, all the while buggering his partner down the hall? Hell, it's a wonder we managed to procreate at all.
Now don't ask me why gay marriage threatens the institution or how Dan's long-term, loving relationship undermined my own. I'm no lawyer or conservative legislator. All I know is that five of nine elected justices ruled that committed, monogamous faggotry like Dan's is responsible for my marital discord, and that's good enough for me. My marriage was also damaged by plaintiffs like Johanna Bender and Sherri Kokx and their young sons Zach and Quintin, to say nothing of David and Michael Serkin-Poole and their three grown children.
As it stands now the Defense of Marriage Act isn't much of a defense anyway—my own marriage failed three years after its passage. To defend straight marriages like mine, DOMA needs to be strengthened.
Oh sure, if we really want to defend marriage and "encourage stable families" I suppose we could work toward providing all our citizens a living wage, universal health care, affordable child-care, and other essential services that help relieve the financial and day-to-day stresses of the average, two-working-parent household. But all that costs money, whereas blaming the gays is free as the air we breathe.
In her dissent Justice Mary Fairhurst berated her colleagues for condoning "blatant discrimination against Washington's gay and lesbian citizens," but she just doesn't get it. At a time when 43 percent of marriages end in divorce and only a little more than half of all children live in a household with their married, biological parents, "blatant discrimination" is exactly the point.
It sure as hell beats blaming myself.
David Goldstein blogs daily at Horsesass.org