Gay Americans denied the right to a Las Vegas wedding

David Horsey / Los Angeles Times (April 1, 2013)

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has heard the arguments on both sides of California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the smart bet seems to be that, though both restrictions on same-sex marriage are very likely to be struck down, the court is not going to make a sweeping ruling that will allow homosexuals to marry in all 50 states.

That means the political fight will go on and on. Yes, the new conventional wisdom is that gay-rights advocates are certain to win the war, but, without a clear declaration from the high court that marriage equality is a constitutional right, there are many battles yet to be fought. And the easy ones are largely over. Getting approval of same-sex marriage in places such as Washington or California or the liberal Northeast is a cinch compared to what it will take to change hearts and minds and laws in states such as Alabama and Oklahoma and Utah.

A very hard task remains and the irony is that, for heterosexuals, getting married is ridiculously easy. Any pair of drunk, heterosexual fools in Las Vegas can fall in love over the craps table, run off to find an all-night chapel and wake to find themselves with hangovers, cheap wedding rings and membership in the sacred club of husbands and wives.

In 2004, Britney Spears showed up at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Vegas and married her childhood friend, Jason Allen Alexander, only to have their union annulled 55 hours later. Britney is hardly the only celebrity to have perfected the art of marriage as a short-lived publicity stunt (take a bow, Kim Kardashian!). Then there was blond bimbo Anna Nicole Smith who married an 89-year-old billionaire without having to prove it was for love, not for the inheritance. 

Many fabled movie stars – Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor come immediately to mind – adored being married and had the multiple spouses to prove it. Marital antics are not just a Hollywood thing, though. No matter who they are or where they live or how many times they may have proved inept at matrimony or just plain unwise in the choice of a mate, anybody can get married and divorced and married over and over again – as long as he or she is not gay.

Meth addicts and gang-bangers can legally tie the knot and often do – sometime after the births of their children and before their own premature death. Even inmates in prison are sometimes allowed to marry. But two men who have built a home and spent devoted, monogamous decades together still cannot get married in most states. 

That is not to say that gay people will prove to be any more successful and smart at marriage than straight Americans. I already am acquainted with two lesbian couples who married as soon as they could do it legally and divorced within a couple of years. Homosexuals are human. They will be just as foolish and unskilled at creating wedded bliss as the rest of us. But if a couple of gay guys or lesbian gals want to swill Gimlets and Cosmopolitans and then stagger to the altar at some neon-lit Las Vegas wedding chapel, they should have as much right to their folly as any other Americans.