THE GOOD FIGHT ‌ Christians Gone Crazy 

And now they want to trash our constitution

The battle over Amendment 1 to the state constitution is raging across South Carolina, including my front yard, where some sleazy bastard — a Christian, no doubt — has stolen two "Vote NO" signs.

There is bitter irony surrounding this mean-spirited, ill-conceived amendment, which would "protect" marriage by keeping gay people from indulging in it. The very idea of protecting marriage in South Carolina begs the question: Who is protecting it from the likes of local legislators John Graham Altman III and Wallace Scarborough and former Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler, all Christian Republicans who have beat the family values drum even as they have known ugly divorces (in Altman's case, two)? Last week another Christian crusader had an arrest warrant issued against him for threatening the man who was dating his estranged wife. Rep. Thad Viers of Horry County called it a "political hit job," but police apparently took it more seriously.

In the heat of all this family values rhetoric, several people have come forward to drop the names of prominent Christian Republicans, in the legislature and other local positions, who have mistresses, illegitimate children, and other records of misbehavior. Someday I might out them all in one big column just to clear the air around here.

Attorney General Henry McMaster is one of the leaders of the Amendment 1 campaign. He seems oblivious to the fact that this proposed amendment is in violation of the U.S. Constitution on at least two counts — the "full faith and credit" clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees "equal protection under the law." Most law students know this by the end of their first year. Why our attorney general doesn't know — or doesn't care — should be a warning to all of us. In a state where Christian Republicans are calling for "responsible government," it seems that a responsible attorney general might warn his legislature and the public that their proposed amendment will not pass federal muster and will cost the state a lot of money to defend in court. But in this religiously obsessed, sexually repressed, politically demented little state, none of that matters. The good Christians are out to punish the homosexuals and no amount of facts or reason will deter them. In this regard, McMaster is clearly following the example of his predecessor Charlie Condon, who fought several expensive and ill-advised battles — including the fight to keep women out of The Citadel. In South Carolina, demagoguery trumps good judgment every time.

Another driving force behind Amendment 1 is the Palmetto Family Council, headed by one Oran P. Smith. Testifying on Amendment 1 earlier this year before a state Senate subcommittee, Smith and those who testified with him provided an astounding insight into the Christian mentality. Those of us who know the right-wing Christian understand that, in his mind, sex exists solely for procreation. Any other use of it is evil. To the Christian, sex is the enemy which must be suppressed, subdued, banned, and abolished in all forms except the act of procreation. What is surprising is that they said it so clearly last spring in Columbia.

"Marriage operates to curb the results of irresponsible sex between persons of the opposite sex," Bryan Babione, senior legal counsel for the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, told the solons. "But same-sex couples do not implicate or further the state's interest in marriage." That is to say, they do not have babies.

"Marriage turns on whether the couple has the potential to procreate," Babione said.

At his turn, Smith testified, "[Marriage] is always about producing and raising the next generation of humanity which society needs ... Marriage regulates sexuality. Marriage establishes sexual guardrails."

This explanation also helps to explain the Christian attitude toward abortion. Conception is not only the proper purpose of sex, they reason. It is the proper consequence of sex, and for one to abort a pregnancy is to avoid the consequence of sex. To protect the unborn fetus is to assure the procreation of the species, but it is also to assure that a woman bears the consequences of sex, whether the pregnancy is wanted or not. To justify their abhorrence of abortion, Christians have declared that human life is sacred from conception to birth. Of course, after birth, they really don't give a damn what happens to a child, as their social policies make abundantly clear.

Next week, we go to the polls, and the betting is safe that this abominable little amendment will pass and become part of our state constitution. It will do nothing to make our state more livable, to make our schools or roads or environment better. It will simply keep us divided and distracted. And, like so much of our public policy, that's what it is intended to do.


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