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Jewish World Review July 24, 2001/ 4 Menachem-Av 5761

Suzanne Fields

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Marriage with impediments -- Weddings have become big business. Marriage is once again fashionable among feminists. The cynical jokes have been replaced by creative fantasies and women see their day in the spotlight as dreamy as a night at Cinderella's ball.

It's definitely chic for liberated women to love, honor (if not obey), to dress in white (without the symbolic purity) and to promise fidelity "'til death do us part'' (despite the prenuptial agreement.) You could ask Gloria Steinem. She's a married lady now.

Alexandra Jacobs, writing in the oh-so-hip New York Observer, calls the feminist bride of today the "I-do feminist.'' The feminist of the '90s who joined a sort of take-back-the-makeup movement has now decided to milk the beauty myth for all it's worth and land a man in the process.

"Women are not only embracing marriage, which in theory could have been obsolete by now,'' she writes, "but manicuring to hyper-perfection the very domestic idyll their mothers rallied to escape.''

These new brides are not reading "The Joy of Cooking,'' the 1950s Bible for new housewives, but they're not reading "The Joy of Sex,'' either, that how-to book of the sexually liberated singles of the '70s. "Home Comforts,'' an encyclopedia of housekeeping, is popular among sophisticated young marrieds as a kind of upscale pseudo-intellectual Martha Stewart.

What's good for the goose and gander is now seen by homosexual men and women as good for the goose-and-goose as well as the gander-and-gander. It's no longer satire in certain circles to see figures of two men or two women atop the wedding cake. Gays who pride themselves on good taste are naturals for planning the feasts, flowers and decorations for the weddings of others - so why not customize their own? This gives new meaning to Queen(s) for a Day.

Not everyone finds humor in the idea of men "marrying'' men and women "marrying'' women. The Alliance for Marriage, a pro-family advocacy group, held a press conference in Washington the other day to plump for amending the constitution to define marriage as the union of opposite sexes.

The Founding Fathers might be astonished by this one, but the idea has broad support that cuts across religious and political affiliations. It's especially popular in the black community.

The Rev. Walter Fauntroy, president of the National Black Leadership Roundtable and pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington, compared the condition of the family today to the plight of the black family in slavery, when black children were "born into a system that was based upon the destruction of the nuclear family and where children were brutally denied the socially integrating experience of being reared by the mothers and fathers who were united in holy wedlock.'' That's why, he says, he supports such a constitutional amendment.

But there's strong opposition from the left and the right, too. The conservative magazine National Review supports the amendment, but Andrew Sullivan, an out-of-the closet homosexual, attacks it not as a homosexual but as a conservative, arguing that it tramples on federalism, violating the rights of states to set their own standards by imposing a uniform standard on the entire country: "The amendment is more typical of the excesses of modern liberalism than anything vaguely conservative.''

Many conservatives who oppose homosexual marriages agree with Mr. Sullivan's argument. They're not persuaded that "gay marriage'' will alter the promiscuous homosexual lifestyle or that it will create committed relationships promoting social stability. The amendment ultimately reflects cultural frustration rather than cultural conservatism. Many family-values folk simply feel their voices are drowned out by homosexual activists in the media and in the courts.

Homosexual marriage, however, remains an unpopular idea. Thirty-four states have enacted laws defining marriage as the union only of a man and a woman. Only Vermont has legalized a form of "same-sex marriage,'' but calls it "civil union.'' At the Washington press conference for the amendment, one preacherman after another decried fatherless families, citing the emotional and financial pain often inflicted on children in single-parent families.

But barring homosexual marriage by constitutional amendment, it seems to me, is hardly the solution to a problem. A renewed recognition of the moral basis of heterosexual marriage is the better way to go. Maybe this is the hope of the "I-do'' feminists and their "I-do'' husbands, as they settle down to raise families of their own.

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© 2001, Suzanne Fields. TMS