Recently, I was a panelist on MSNBC. The topic was same sex marriage. A fellow panelist called for a Marriage Spring. We know what that means. Or we think we do. The unmarriage advocate wants us to hurry up and overthrow the existing order. Do it as the Arab Street has been doing it: Assemble a vast mass of people entering the square to insist on change. Demand an end to an oppressive old order. And it will all happen with stunning suddenness—just as the winds of change have blown through the Arab world. Or so they say.
We all remember the hopeful Western journalists who flocked to Egypt after missing the outbreak of massive demonstrations throughout the region.
Perhaps, though, my Arab Spring/Marriage Spring debate opponent has forgotten how quickly the mood changed in Tahrir Square when the mass movement got to Egypt.
Well, Egypt quickly moved to oust 30-year despot Hosni Mubarak and install in his place Mohamed Morsi as the Muslim Brotherhood’s “democratically elected” successor. In short order, Mubarak was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Only to be followed by a military coup against Mohamed Morsi and his trial and death sentence.
Or, should we consider Libya’s chapter in the Arab Spring? There, 40-year dictator Muammar Kaddafi was captured by an Arab mob, beaten and shot to death. The interim government that replaced him refused to turn over to the U.S. the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Then, that same government refused to protect U.S. Embassy personnel at Benghazi and four Americans, including our Ambassador, were murdered.
So the question I would have asked my fellow panelist on MSNBC had I gotten the chance is this:
What part of the Arab Spring do we want to bring to America?
The comparison between overturning marriage this spring and the convulsions of the Arab Spring are really quite interesting. Few people gave much thought to what would replace the systems being overthrown. Without respect for basic human rights—like freedom of religion, freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of the press—we were unlikely to see an improvement in the Mideast.
But in another sense, the comparison is way off base. Those mobs in the Arab Street thought they were overthrowing tyrannical regimes. Nothing like that exists here. America’s marriage laws have stood the test of time. They are good and just laws, designed to protect the weak and vulnerable.