editorial (2006-23)

Bijou Debut

Everything old is old again, fortunately

Protect Us From Marriage Protection

Let’s save amendments to the U.S. Constitution for something real

Bijou Debut

But no one was oohing and ahhing when they walked into the theater. It wasn’t the inside-out renovation/re-creation the Tennessee boasted when it reopened a year and a half ago. Few were astonished at the transformation, and no one suffered any illusion that it’s brand new. We recognized the joint.

Even on the first night after the renovation, the Bijou already seemed lived in. The floor’s still a little lumpy, the woodwork is muffled in blankets of paint, the big red plush curtain looks like it has come down on more than a few shows. It has the feeling of your great-aunt’s parlor. If your great aunt was, say, Maria Callas.

We have no complaints. The theater’s famous acoustics are still as close to perfect as we expect to hear this side of the River Jordan. It’s still as true as it ever was that there are no bad seats at the Bijou, and for now at least that rule even applies to the upholstery.

This time, we have reason to believe, with a management that’s both well-connected and well-intentioned, the Bijou is here for good.

Protect Us From Marriage Protection

The most embarrassing passage in the U.S. Constitution, so far, is the Amendment XVIII—which made liquor, wine, and beer illegal in the United States. There’s no question that alcohol abuse was a major problem in 1918, directly accountable for murder, spouse abuse, child abuse, divorce, rape, and a wide array of serious and fatal accidents. The ladies of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union cited facts to back them up. To them, outlawing alcohol outright, on a national basis, through Constitutional amendment, seemed to make sense. Even the liquor interests found it hard to counter their arguments.

Prohibition turned out to be a silly solution to a real problem.

The proposed Constitutional ban on gay marriage is a silly solution to a make-believe problem.

Gay marriage is hardly legal to begin with. It may be marginally so in the state of Massachusetts. The overwhelming majority of other states specifically ban gay marriage.

So it’s a puzzle. Maybe it’s a crafty strategy in the War on Terror. We’re trying to convince the Taliban and al-Qaeda and Hamas, who oppose gay marriage just as strongly as Dr. James C. Dobson does, that we’re really on their side-—and that they should attack someone else, like the Canadians.

Or maybe, as some say, the amendment has no chance of passage, and is being proposed purely as a litmus test. And we agree that it is probably a very accurate litmus test. It’s a litmus test of legislative frivolity. 

Conservatives have historically spoken strongly in favor of states’ rights. Through the 1990s, we heard a litany of charges against the conservatives’ favorite bugaboo, the “federal government”: that the federal government was oppressing the states, and individuals within them, with its unnecessary regulations. Power, they claimed passionately, should be decentralized.

Now that Republicans are in charge of it, though, the federal government is their best pal. In the case of the so-called “marriage protection amendment,” at least, some conservatives seem more than happy to exalt the federal government to unprecedented heights, giving it powers it has previously never held, powers even to define personal relationships, above and beyond the purview of state governments.

The proposed amendment would deny states the right to affirm a gay union as “marriage,” even if a majority of the citizens in that state, or their chosen judiciary, should favor such a definition.

According to President Bush, the amendment would “fully protect marriage from being redefined.” We suspect that if you’re worried about your own marriage being redefined, the U.S. Constitution may not be your main problem.

Is any heterosexual marriage anywhere threatened when the citizens of any one state, or Canada, legalize gay marriage?

Heterosexual marriages face a lot of threats. Divorce ends half of all marriages. Divorce may be affected by alcoholism, poverty, two-career families, and other factors. For whatever it’s worth, divorce rates are much higher in the U.S. than in Canada, where, incidentally, gay marriage is legal.

In what way, President Bush and Senator Frist, do gay unions threaten the institution of marriage?

The Temperance ladies may have had a bad idea, but at least they had some statistics to back them up.