Years ago, a rural radio talk show host assailed a proposal to recognize gay marriage.

“If that passes,” the host said, “everyone will be doing it.”

Everyone? No. Were such a law to pass, heterosexual men are not about to marry other heterosexual men, nor would heterosexual women wed other heterosexual women. Some of the arguments on this subject approach absurdity.

Legal same-sex marriage is not the question before Arizonans. Statute already defines marriage in Arizona as between one man and one woman. On Nov. 4, voters are being asked to make that definition constitutional. Specifically, Proposition 102 reads that, in the Arizona Constitution, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.”

Statutory protection of heterosexual marriage is apparently not good enough for Arizona legislators, and amendment proponents, who fear “activist judges” would overturn statute, gay people could then be married in Arizona, and all heck would ensue.

“Just like it is currently illegal in Arizona, same-sex marriage was once illegal in Massachusetts and California,” write Mark and Marilyn Smith in the secretary of state’s publicity pamphlet. “And just like events in Massachusetts and California show, Arizona is only one court case away from having same-sex marriage forced on us by activist judges.”

“This is not about mere tolerance,” writes Sen. Sylvia Allen. “… same sex marriage is about forcing all within our society regardless of religious or traditional beliefs to accept radical changes which will have far-reaching consequences.” Those affected, she writes, include “the children who must endure the selfish desires of adults.”

“Marriage is about family,” Susan and Shawn Shepherd write. “It is about honoring our own lives and the lives that came before us. By changing the fundamental concept of marriage, we change the foundation of society.”

And, from the other side …

“It is beyond our understanding why Arizona lawmakers are attempting to rewrite our Constitution to discriminate against a group of its own citizens,” write Lucy and Richard Silva-Stump of Tucson. “The constitution guarantees civil rights to all citizens, yet this amendment would mean that only particular citizens in specifically defined families would be entitled to the rights and protections of married couples.”

“Citizens should be very careful with constitutional amendments,” writes Marsha Arzberger, a state senator from Willcox. “We do not need unnecessary amendments of our Constitution.”

The League of Women Voters has weighed in.

“Why would anyone want to write discrimination into the Arizona Constitution?” the League asks. “That’s what this amendment would do. It is not about prohibiting ‘gay marriages.’ Arizona already has a law that does that. It is about setting in stone in the Arizona Constitution a category of second-class citizens who are deprived of a right, based on their sexual orientation — privacy rights of our bedrooms and relationships that the rest of us take for granted.”

The faith community does not align on one side of the argument, nor the other.

“This anti-marriage amendment is extremely divisive at a time when both Arizonans and the nation see the need and echo the call to bring people together,” write a number of Tucson religious leaders. “This amendment is morally, religiously and financially divisive, and would be destructive to many Arizona families.”

The argument that’s hardest to understand is that this amendment would “protect” the institution of heterosexual marriage. Protect it from what? Certainly, marriage is under stress like never before, but those threats are complex, to include financial, intimate, economic, media, substance abuse and so many other forces. If gay people were to marry in Arizona — and remember, right now, they cannot — how would they threaten traditional marriage?

But that’s not the question, remember. Further, Arizona is not Massachusetts, and it is not California, maybe America’s two most liberal states. Any decision by Arizona’s “activist judges” would certainly trigger legal response.

Fundamentally, don’t we have a lot of more pressing matters before us, as citizens and as a state? Let’s get this off the ballot, for good. In 2006, Arizona voters defeated a similar “marriage amendment.” We suggest they do so again in 2008.

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