Last night the Democratic candidates for President had a talk about their stances on gay marriage, civil unions, and related issues. It almost goes without saying–these days, anyway–that they danced around the issue, talked a lot about “civil unions,” and basically did everything they could to not say they were in favor of gay marriage while implying that they were, so as to cover all the bases without opening themselves up to “traditional values” attacks later in the campaign.

I understand their fear, but I think they’re cowardly. Of course, as they demonstrated last weekend when they caved to President Bush, Democrats are pretty consistently cowardly these days, so I shouldn’t be all that surprised.

(It almost goes without saying that this is not the kind of forum the Republicans will have any time soon. The Republicans have made a pact with their social-conservative wing to oppose things like stem cell research, abortion, gay marriage, and things of that nature, and so bloviate endlessly on those topics. Which is incredibly ironic, because almost any individual Republican–of a certain monetary class–is completely open about any social issue. If an upper-class Republican teenage daughter got pregnant, there would be an abortion. If an upper-class Republican son or daughter were gay, they would be accepted (witness Cheney’s daughter). If an upper-class Republican needed the research and treatment that can only be provided by stem cells, they would want it. And so on. But they’ve made their Faustian bargain, and so publicly they maintain their absurd hypocritical stances.)

In any event, I find this whole business to be a lot of hooey, honestly. It breaks down into two pieces:

Religion: If you are gay and want to get married in your religious tradition, that’s something you have to work out with your priest/pastor/rabbi/imam/whatever. Not an issue for the state.

State: Here’s the rub, eh? A married couple has rights that a non-married couple does not. My wife can inherit, can take responsibility for our children, our finances if I am incapacitated, and a whole host of other things. If I’m sick and in the hospital, she can visit me. We can file federal income taxes jointly. And on and on.

Some folks say let’s create a “civil partnership” law, that marriage is “sacred,” that we don’t want to “dilute” marriage by “allowing” gays to marry, that having gays marry would be a “threat” to “traditional marriage,” and other such nonsense. What a crock.

Let me take this one piece at a time:

Civil partnerships: Can you say “separate but equal?” Didn’t we try this before and have it not work? It’s just a cop-out. Either go whole-hog and let folks get legally married, or admit the truth: you don’t want gays happy and committed to each other.

Marriage is “sacred”: That’s not for the state to decide, it’s for religious leaders. Go talk to them. Otherwise, shut up.

Threat to “traditional marriage”: This is the silliest of all. First of all, there’s no such thing as “traditional marriage.” How many wives did Solomon have? Was that “traditional?” Second, how on Earth is two guys getting married a threat to my marriage? Or anyone’s marriage? If your marriage is so shaky that reading about Bruce and Steve getting hitched down at Zilker park this Sunday causes your wife to leave you, pal, your have a lot more problems than outlawing gay marriage is going to cure.

I have been around gays and lesbians my whole life. Literally. When my parents went on a second honeymoon to the Virgin Islands when I was 10, they left my siblings and I in the care of a gay man. We’ve all had gay and lesbian friends since we were children. And here’s the thing, homophobes: all three of us are married with children, and none of us have been divorced. I’ve been involved with the same women in a monogamous relationship for 14 years now. There were gay and lesbian couples at our wedding. I’ve been to gay and lesbian weddings myself. And wow, gee, my marriage is spectacularly unthreatened! Imagine!

Look: some folks find homosexuality “yucky.” I get it. You don’t like it. You don’t want to admit it out loud, so you hunt for reasons–religious, legal, what-have-you–to support your feelings of discomfort. But they’re all rationalizations. All I’m saying is, keep your yuck feelings to yourself; stop trying to legislate them and force the world to abide by your prejudices. These folks just want to get married, be happy, and have the same rights as everyone else. That’s all. They don’t want to rape your sons and daughters. They don’t want to steal your wives and husbands. They just want to settle down, live their lives, and have the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that you enjoy. Why should you let your feelings of yuck stop them? That’s just wrong.