A ballot initiative in San Francisco opposing gay marriage.

Well, actually not but in principle.

The argument that same-sex marriage is unconstitutional is pretty simple.  The 14th Amendment to the Constitution reads in relevant part, “No State shall […] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Allowing straight people to marry, while forbidding gays, violates that guarantee of equal protection.

The counter-argument sounds like a joke.  Gays are allowed to marry!  Of course, they can, they just have to marry members of the opposite sex, just as straight people have to.

San Franciscans, almost universally, reject that argument.   When Judge Vaughn Walker “overturned” Proposition 8, which had formally defined marriage in California as requiring one man and one woman, there was literally dancing in the street.

But now a very similar issue will be voted on in November: will a particular practice be forbidden equally to those who wish to practice it and those who don’t.  The practice in question is circumcision.

The proponents of the initiative like to call circumcision “MGM”, for male genital mutilation, which I’m sure makes the executives at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer absolutely livid, but it serves a purpose.

The idea, of course, is not to upset the nice people who brought you Gone With The Wind and Hot Tub Time Machine, but rather to cast male circumcision as somehow equivalent to FGM, female genital mutilation, but think about it.  In a typical FGM, the girl, aged eight or 10, is held down while her clitoris and chunks of her labia menora are hacked off with an unsterilized piece of broken glass, and then the vaginal aperture is sewn shut.  A few years later (assuming the victim even survives the process), on their wedding night, her husband is supposed is supposed to tear open the scarred-over vulva as if it were a wedding present from David Cronenberg and have intercourse with the bleeding wound.  If the producers of those Saw movies made S&M porn, it might be something like this.

The goal, beyond sheer sadism, is to make sure that a woman who was subjected to such treatment will be reluctant to engage in sex, even with her husband, and therefore be unlikely to commit adultery — and I bet it works.  Apparently, the notion of just bringing home flowers once in a while never occurred to some people.

Male circumcision by contrast is the safe removal of a tiny bit of flesh and having it done in no way negatively affects the patient’s health or sex life.

The “Intactivists”, as they like to call themselves, have no real arguments.  A circumcised male is at least as well off as an uncut one; better in some sense, because the foreskin can trap dirt and contaminant if not kept scrupulously clean.  The partner of a circumcised male is much better off; she is much less likely to contract horrifying diseases like AIDS and cervical cancer.

The fact that the “Intactivists” have trouble distinguishing between FGM and circumcision shows their real motivation: circumcision squicks them out.  For whatever reason, the idea just makes them shudder with revulsion.  I guess it isn’t any huge mystery: imagine a scalpel hover right around your reproductive bits and you too might be thinking, “Hang on, let’s talk about this first.”

To an observant Jew or Muslim, there’s nothing to talk about.  God commands them to do it and when He talks, you listen.  Most of the rest of us, when somebody thinks he’s hearing from God, tend to hang back and let that guy go to Heaven or Hell his own way.  Sure, if someone (having heard from God or for some other reason) is up in the clock tower with a rifle, we’ll take action, but until and unless something like that happens, normal Americans say, live and let live.

The “Intactivists” don’t feel that way.  Their squick factor, they think, gives them the right to trample over the liberties of others.

Well, that’s just what the anti-gay-marriage people were thinking.

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