"Dearly beloved, we are gathered together in the sight of God and before these witnesses to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony."
So begins most traditional marriage ceremonies in Western culture for as long as anyone can remember. Now we are told such exclusivity of preserving marriage for men and women discriminates against people of the same sex who wish to "marry" each other.
Some forms of discrimination are good, because they send a signal and provide an example that certain behavior is to be preferred over other behaviors for the betterment of society.
That a president of the United States would feel compelled, for whatever reason, to make a public statement that marriage should be reserved for men and women is a leading indicator of the moral state of the union.
Imagine Calvin Coolidge saying such a thing, even in the "Roaring '20s." He might as well have stated the equally obvious that the sun rises in the east.
Today, right and wrong, an objective concept rooted in unchanging truth, has been dismissed in favor of the imposed rulings of federal judges guided by their own whims and opinion polls (various polls show the country equally split between those who oppose same-sex marriage and those who would allow it). We are now adrift to sort out our choices based on a weather vane principle: Whichever way the wind blows is where we'll go.
When nothing is either true or false and all decisions about life and morals are based on personal choices and whatever new trend happens to capture our attention, we lose our moral sense, which, like an immune system, was established to protect us from cultural, as well as biological viruses.
The charge is made that President Bush is again using the issue of same-sex marriage to rally his base. But it is not the president who has made this a political issue. Those who would melt the glue of marriage, which has held societies together for millennia, are using the legal and political system for their own ends.
In every state where same-sex marriage has been on the ballot, it has been decisively defeated. But like the war in Iraq, the insurgents in the culture wars believe all they must do is hang on long enough and the majority will surrender because protracted warfare interferes with our pursuit of pleasure and material consumption.
Some claim that heterosexuals ought to tend to their own marriages before they prohibit people of the same sex from marrying. While it is true that too many heterosexuals divorce (and too many others live together without becoming married), using this as a wedge to undermine a norm, which, when practiced, serves children and society well, is not a sufficient reason for broadening - and therefore undermining - the traditional definition of what it means to be married.
Allowing same-sex marriage would be the ultimate in social engineering on a scale even grander than the judicial fiat that brought us abortion on demand. And it won't stop there.
People whose beliefs about marriage are founded on religious doctrines can expect lawsuits accusing them of discrimination should they refuse to hire someone who is "married" to a person of the same sex.
Some countries have enacted or are considering laws that prohibit anyone, including ministers, from publicly stating that homosexual practice is wrong, or a sin. Remember sin? Sinful is what we were before we became "dysfunctional."
Religious groups who operate adoption agencies and schools under government contracts could face lawsuits for opposing same-sex marriages. Under Massachusetts' anti-discrimination law, for example, the state told Catholic Charities it must place foster children with same-sex couples or lose its state license to operate its adoption agency. Faced with a choice between its beliefs and the heavy hand of government, Catholic Charities of Boston decided to get out of the adoption business.
We can expect more of this. A Utah polygamist has filed a federal lawsuit demanding that he not be discriminated against for wanting to marry more than one woman. His attorney cites last year's Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Texas sodomy law. Richard G. Wilkins, a law professor at Brigham Young University, notes, "If you can't require monogamy, how in the world can you deny the claims of the polygamists, particularly when it's buttressed by the claims of religion?"
Exactly. When there isn't a no to any behavior, then there must be yes to every behavior. If same-sex marriage is allowed, no one will ever be able to say no to anything again.
Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist and a host on Fox News Channel. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Tuesday and Thursday.