Such passion -I'm thinkin' Howard Dean has nothing on Ms. Letourneau, except, of course, maybe audio.
Our marriages often provoke us to throw the china and utter the unforgivables. The context is usually personal, not political, but either way, passions run high. In May, barring some unforeseen procedural hindrance, gay couples will wed for the first time ever in the U.S. They will have that opportunity by order of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled last week that it is unconstitutional to deny them marriage licenses. Gays and lesbians across the country celebrated. Hundreds of gay people have already called or e-mailed town clerk Doug Johnstone in Provincetown, Mass., to ask when they can marry. One of the licenses Johnstone's office will issue will be his own. After 25 years together, he and his partner will finally have the chance to say their vows before the commonwealth.
Many other Americans are worried that even though a freedom has been granted, an institution has been threatened. 'If we have homosexual marriage mainstream, I can't even describe to you what our culture will be like,' warns Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, one of the leading anti-gay-marriage organizations. Many conservatives object that such a monumental social change was sanctioned by such a small group — four of seven judges on the Massachusetts court. "We're hearing from people throughout the country," says a hoarse Glenn Stanton, spokesman for Focus on the Family, a conservative group in Colorado Springs, Colo. "They don't know which to be more outraged at — the death of marriage or the death of democracy.
The gay-marriage debate, because it touches the emotional and social fabric that makes up family, can be brutal. Last March in Nebraska, the attorney general issued an opinion saying that under the state's constitution, gay people do not have the right to make burial arrangements for their partners. The generally civil members of the Massachusetts court were barely civil to one another by the time they issued their second opinion. In her ruling, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall said Justice Sosman, who had dissented, 'so clearly misses the point that further discussion appears to be useless.' It is a small sign that tempers are likely to flare when the national debate begins.[Nitpicker emphasis]