Wake up, I tell myself, shake it off. Still, it takes a few moments of darkness before I relax, certain that I'm not at my own gay wedding.
I stumble out of bed, put on some coffee and open the daily paper.
"Gay marriage ban sought."
After my nightmare, that headline seems comforting, until I realize that Missouri legislators aren't trying to outlaw gay marriage because they want to protect me from spending any more money on gifts from Williams-Sonoma.
Missouri already banned gay marriage once. But now the Massachusetts Supreme Court has decided that 10 percent of the population has a right to the same state-sanctioned marital bliss that 90 percent of straight people enjoy -- until half of them get divorced, anyway. So Missouri Republicans want to change our state constitution so they won't have to honor the "full faith and credit" clause of the U.S. Constitution, which forces us to recognize other states' laws (including marriages). And they want to put the gay-marriage question to voters in, hmm, November.
It's clearly a gimmick to get right-wingers out to the polls in a big election year. I'm flattered that my gay brothers and sisters hold so much power. But nobody likes to be used, and this year gay people are the Republican Party's lube-less one-night stand.
So I call up State Representative Susan Phillips, a Northlander who represents southern Platte County and chairs the legislative committee that gave initial approval to the anti-gay-marriage bill. She's certain the Missouri House and Senate will both agree to put it on the November ballot. What she seems less sure of, though, is why gay marriage is such a threat -- other than because it just is.
"It's all about traditional marriage," she says. "Do we want to see an erosion, destroy all of our history of marriage being between a man and a woman and all the benefits that affords? The majority of our population believes in traditional marriage between a man and a woman, so we want to do everything we can to protect that."
Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels' big public hitching might have been an affront to good taste, but come on -- it destroys all of the history of marriage?
"Traditional marriage is primarily for procreation, and gay couples are not going to reproduce, first of all," Phillips explains -- or tries to, anyway -- when I press her about what exactly is so wrong with gay marriage. "If our founding fathers would have had a clue that two men or two women would have ever wanted to marry, they probably would have put that in the original document, but it was so far from what they could have imagined that they wouldn't have thought it necessary."
Hey, that must explain why they didn't put anything in the Constitution about black people being equal, either! They just must not have been able to imagine life without their slaves! But Phillips still hasn't convinced me that gay marriages hurt straight marriages.
"OK, if you allow marriage between two men or two women, then before long it'll be between a man and his mother, a man and his stepmother, someone and their sibling or 14-year-olds. You see, there's no end to that, once you open it up." She may be on to something here. Much better to keep all of those special relationships confined to the privacy of heterosexual family secrets.
Besides, Phillips says, being in a committed, monogamous relationship is somehow very, very dangerous for gay people. "All you have to do is take a survey of obituaries for six months, and you see those people who were 40 or 42 years old. They're almost always, often, in a same-sex partnership. So we're not doing them any justice by encouraging that kind of relationship."
Whoa. Following Susan Phillips' logic is way scarrier than the rapidly dissipating nightmare I had what feels like ages ago, the one in which I'm forced to dance all night to Lionel Richie.
OK, so a majority of Americans are still queasy about gay marriages. But Republicans keep bringing it up not because it's the thing average citizens worry about most. They keep bringing it up because it's a distraction from the fact that more than 500 American soldiers have died because of George Bush's lies. Because it's a distraction from the fact no working family can actually feel the economy "surging." Because it's a distraction from the fact that in the current administration, protecting the environment and saving public schools actually means decimating them. Because it's a distraction from the fact that more and more people are sick of the lying sack of money in the White House.
"This is typically standard operating procedure for the right wing in an election year," says Tim Van Zandt, the only openly gay man ever to serve in the Missouri House of Representatives, who now lives in Washington, D.C. "They spin issues in a way that creates a sense of urgency for their followers, as if they are merely attempting to accomplish what their believers have asked of them."
Emboldened by polls that show John Kerry could actually beat Bush -- polls that suggest liberals might not have to cower anymore -- high-profile Missouri Democrats could call bullshit on the Republicans' ploy and urge sensible Missourians not to be dupes.
But now I'm really dreaming.
I put in a call to May Scheve, chairwoman of the Missouri Democratic Party, to inquire about its strategy for combating the gay-marriage bluff. She never called back.