Sunday, July 11, 2004

Queer Eye for the Welfare Mom 

If everyone chipped in, say, ten bucks, do you think we could buy Tom Friedman another six weeks of vacation leave? From Barbara Ehrenstein in the NYT:
Commitment isn't easy for guys — we all know that — but the Bush administration is taking the traditional male ambivalence about marriage to giddy new heights. On the one hand, it wants to ban gays from marrying, through a constitutional amendment that the Senate will vote on this week. On the other hand, it's been avidly promoting marriage among poor women — the straight ones anyway.

Opponents of gay marriage claim that there is some consistency here, in that gay marriages must be stopped before they undermine the straight ones. How the married gays will go about wrecking heterosexual marriages is not entirely clear: by moving in next door, inviting themselves over and doing a devastating critique of the interior decorating?

It is equally unclear how marriage will cure poor women's No. 1 problem, which is poverty — unless, of course, the plan is to draft C.E.O.'s to marry recipients of T.A.N.F. (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). Left to themselves, most women end up marrying men of the same social class as their own, meaning — in the case of poverty-stricken women — blue-collar men. But that demographic group has seen a tragic decline in earnings in the last couple of decades. So I have been endeavoring to calculate just how many blue-collar men a T.A.N.F. recipient needs to marry to lift her family out of poverty.

The answer turns out to be approximately 2.3, which is, strangely enough, illegal . . . .

[Lisalyn] Jacobs thinks that the administration's mixed signals on marriage — O.K. for paupers, a no-no for gays — are part of the conservative effort to "change the subject to marriage." From, for example, Iraq.

But this may be too cynical an explanation. Quite possibly, the administration wants to ban gay marriage so that gay men can be drafted to marry T.A.N.F. recipients.

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