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COMMENTARY: The fable of Brian Brown or the great marriage non sequitur

(Note, 11 Nov 2012: On November 7, the nation’s evolving attitude toward same-sex marriage was demonstrated at the polls in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, where voters supported the right to marry. And the reaction from Brian Brown, Executive Director of the National Organization for Marriage? We are not defeated. We are not defeated. We are not–. … And, so, my thanks to Brian for providing much of the dialogue and a significant amount of the narrative for the following fable, from the last four year’s of NOM emails, media releases and website content.)


By the end of 2012, the voters had made clear the dedication to civil rights for all people, and every court in the land had ruled that California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Leaders of the anti-same-sex marriage lobby were crushed by the decision. They wailed at the thought of marriage for any other purpose but procreation. But as time passed, they saw that traditional marriages were not, after all, diminished by same-sex marriages. Realizing their error, they all trotted off to happier pursuits. All but one, that is. Brian Brown, ill-equipped for mainstream employment, struggled to redefine NOM’s mission, to reframe his marriage message, a message that would support a new cause and his continued cash flow. And so, one day, he was found doggedly pursuing his new mission along the streets of Fallbrook the Friendly Village. …


It was a blustery Wednesday afternoon when, in a burst of unprecedented rejection, Brian Brown, president of NOM, struck down the request of a senior citizen who was seeking assistance to cross Elder Street in Fallbrook, California. Instead, he blocked her path and argued against her pursuit — until he spied a group of people coming their way, a Boy Scout at the lead. Brown swiveled, stooped, and pretended to be intrigued by a pocket gopher hole at the edge of the yard behind them.

“I only asked him for an arm to lean on, to get across the street,” said Rose Kaminski to the chubby Eagle Scout who had come to her rescue.

The petite octogenarian wore a mint-green polyester pantsuit and sneaks, the balls of her Peds, a perfectly matching hue. She knew she looked just lovely. “It’s a special day for me, so I’m trying to look my best. But my, oh my, that young man nearly jumped out of his skin when I asked for his help. I told him I had to pick up my marriage license, oy! The little nebbish, I guess he’s not used to folks being friendly. Between us, Bubele — shush, now, you didn’t hear this from me — he favors the Pillsbury Dough Boy, don’t you know.” She chuckled as she tucked a Macy’s shopping bag under one green arm and with the other hand clasped the Eagle Scout’s elbow. The poor boychick, she noticed, was devastated by pronounced acne. A little chicken soup, maybe? she wondered, as together they toddled across the street.

Meanwhile, pedestrians waylaid by Brown’s boorish behavior gave witness to the growing crowd that his unthinkable behavior did in fact happen, as wrong and outrageous as it was: an openly Christian man, throwing a little old lady’s harmless request into a dustbin like so many pieces of dirty paper, declaring that his imperial will should trump her plea for help. Although, as the people chatted among themselves, no one was quite sure what that will was.

“Why would he do it?” they murmured to one another. “How could he?” And then, “Brian, Brian!” they said to him. “You must explain yourself, Brian!”

Brian considered turning tail and running like hell to his “Autumn for Marriage 2012: One Man, One Woman of Child-Bearing Age” tour bus, but he took so long to consider his exit that he was surrounded before he could push his quads into a standing position. And the group was rapidly expanding, thanks to the residents of the Shady Oaks Rest Home: They had hit the street for their daily power walk and, sharing a predilection for sucking up local gossip, they wanted in on whatever was happening.

Brian eyed the fomenting mass, whispered a prayer, pushed himself up, and said, “I’ll take your questions now.”

“How could you refuse such a benign request, Brian?” asked Cecil Adams, an adjunct professor of philosophy at Palomar Community College; although at the moment, he was moonlighting as a skateboarding pizza delivery person, a pragmatic move he would soon abandon with a modicum of nostalgia as school funding was secured and spring enrollment would increase at the school. “All that sweet old gal wanted was a hand down the curb, Brian. And on her special day! Where’s your soul? Don’t you aspire to a higher plane? What gives, man?”

Brian put his right hand to his heart, NOM’s polling having indicated that 67 percent of respondents interpreted the gesture as strongly positive.

“Now, let me just preface this with my absolute assurance that I bear no ill will toward senior citizens,” Brian intoned. “I harbor no prejudice in my heart. I have senior citizens who are friends and family! Nonetheless, that woman is headed to meet her partner at Town Hall to apply for a marriage license, and that jeopardizes the definition of marriage across this great nation of ours. Senior-citizen marriage is threatening to strip millions of Americans of our core definition of marriage — of our right to traditional marriage!”

“Oh, yeah?” the philosophic pizza person asked as he passed out slices to the restless crowd. “How so?”

“Senior-citizen marriage is unnatural. It’s unfruitful. It will undermine the institution of marriage as we’ve known it for millennia. That’s why I’m — we’re — on this bus tour — to make it clear that the people of this country will not be silenced by a narrow margin of voters, and that activist judges who try to defend senior-citizen marriage do not have the right to impose their views on the people of this country. We need to make it clear to the Supreme Court and we need to make it clear to the out-of-control Congress. Senior-citizen marriage conflicts with marriage’s central purpose — of procreation!”

A sense of unease went through the retirees, although more than a few couples took advantage of the pressing throng to cop a feel or two.

“Well, yep, she looked a bit old to have a bun in the oven.” Cecil twirled an empty pizza box on one finger and the seniors politely applauded. “But you haven’t answered my question: How is senior-citizen marriage threatening to strip millions of Americans of our right to traditional marriage? That smacks of a non sequitur, man.”

“Advocates for senior-citizen marriages are threatening the definition of marriage as we know it.” Brian began to worry that with no advance work done for his visit, he did not have a welcoming audience, but he gamely struggled onward. “The sheer audacity of senior citizens, wanting to redefine marriage for everyone else, as though it’s their civil right to do so! The sheer ego mania of it is startling to the core, the ah, the very definition of marriage that is the basis of our nation, the procreational purpose that marriage is intended for, one husband, one wife, ah — procreating. You know what I mean.”

“Brian, are you speaking in tongues, man? You’re not making one iota of sense, dude.” Cecil sucked some pizza sauce from the COEXIST tie his former wife had given him for Co-parents Day.

“But, but our polling indicates that 79 percent of respondents have a very strong positive reaction to statements about protecting their right to traditional marriage, so I’m supposed to say it whenever I get a chance — because you, too, have the right to traditional marriage and your right deserves to be protected from special interests who are trying to redefine it.”

“You take direction well, Brian. Gotta give you credit where credit is due, man. But I’m divorced, and you know senior-citizen marriages don’t hurt anyone else’s. How can you justify all this effort to oppose a problem that doesn’t exist? How can you try to stop seniors from being married? Come on now, guy! They might be a little shriveled, and there is that oldster talcum powder smell, but they’re still human beings. Don’t they deserve the same rights as the rest of us?”

“Yeah, that!” the crowd chimed in.

Brian eyed the riled folks and his sweat glands gushed. “We’re not trying to ban senior-citizen unions, but we are against redefining marriage. And those people have civil unions at their disposal. Traditional marriage is the exclusive right of a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation. It’s what’s best for children, for families, for the nation!” He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and stopped the salty flow at his chin. “It is an abomination to redefine marriage as anything else. It’s just wrong. Very wrong. And we will fight back! And we will win! Because senior citizens don’t have the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us. And, and they are too old for, you know, they’re just too old for procreation!” He scrunched his eyes shut and made some guttural noises that were a bit more than the group could politely handle.

The assembly drew a collective gasp and stepped back from Brian — that he was imagining them in flagrante was grossing them out.

“Damn voyeur!” they shook their fingers at Brown. “Punk ass chump!” snarled one particularly procreative gentleman.

“Brian, Brian, Brian!” Cecil said. “Get your mind out of the gutter! Don’t you pay attention to the stats? We are an aging population. Don’t mess with the dominant demographic’s sexuality! The Baby Boomers, man — they might be cruising into their golden years, but they’re still having plenty of nookie.”

Brian shuddered. “Eeuwwww! It’s unthinkable — senior citizens — the death knell of traditional marriage — how can they? — marriage is for pro– procreation! — unthinkable — but when I do think — Sweet, Baby Jesus! — Grams and Granny going at — you know — God almighty, it’s — gyuhhcchhh!”

A low rumble burbled from the depths of the agitated throng, and Cecil, an intuitive philosopher, leapt back from its center just as the people swarmed Brian, who disappeared amid blazing knock-off purses, rolled newspapers and well-aimed Shady Oaks water bottles.

Cecil thought about stepping back into the fray to intervene, but decided to let natural law run its course. Besides, he had to get back to Pizza Hut and explain the disappearance of four extra-larges.

As he skated out of sight, the mob thinned, and Rose returned with a hefty man on her arm. “Did we miss something?” she asked the stragglers.

“Not much,” said Rod “The Rod” Robertson, a retired professional wrestler and occasional birthday party clown. “We just took care of some pipsqueak senior citizenphobe.”

“That nebbish who wouldn’t help me across the street? I told you about him, Bruno. His poor mother, what a disappointment he must’ve been, what a heartache.” She patted her fiancé’s arm. “Not like my Bruno.”

“Yes, Sweetie.” Bruno gave her a reciprocal pat.

“You look just lovely today, Rose,” The Rod said, silently mourning Bruno’s success.

“Thank you, Rod,” Rose squeezed his arm. “Aren’t you a mensch. See you at lunch!” She waved as she and Bruno strolled up the walk to Shady Oaks, arm in arm. “Well, it takes all kinds, don’t you know, but between us, Bubele — shush, now, you didn’t hear this from me — that young man favors the Pillsbury Dough Boy.”

“Yes, Sweetie, I’d wager he does.” Bruno had heard the story twice before, but he knew how to make an old gal feel good. He gave her a love pinch and said, “Rosie, would you like to take a little nap before the wedding, Sweetie?”



Kit-Bacon Gressitt's commentary and political fiction can be read on her blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing and is republished by SDGLN, The Ocean Beach Rag, San Diego Free Press and The Progressive Post. She formerly worked for the North County Times. She is also host of Fallbrook's monthly Writers Read open mic and can be reached at kbgressitt@gmail.com.