I can’t figure out what gays have to do with my marriage

  I gave up fish for Lent. But then, I give up fish for Lent every year, and every year my good Christian wife rolls her eyes at me. Apparently there are no points to be made by foregoing something I had absolutely no intention of doing in the first place. I never eat fish.

I'm reminded of that in our heated national discussion about gay marriage. It has never so much as crossed my mind to have sex with another man, but I seem to be on God's good side for not acting on the homosexual impulse I've never had.

Unlike gay sex, I have tried fish. Eating fish, after all, is explicitly allowed by the Old Testament and implicitly suggested in the New. It's recommended by dietitians, chefs and cardiologists alike. It is accepted even among many who are otherwise vegetarians.

So, over the years, I've tried pan-fried trout and fresh Atlantic swordfish, those nasty baked fish sticks and elegantly seared rare tuna. I've tasted everything from halibut to shark. And if I ever get to Boston, I might even get scrod.

But it's always the same result: I don't like it. I never have. I have no idea what lesson to draw from that. It's just the way it is.

I've also known and worked with gays and lesbians. As near as I can tell, they embody about the same range of human attributes and failings as anyone else. But the fact remains that I'd live on catfish and carp before I would have sex with a man -- let alone adopt the "gay lifestyle," whatever that is. As I see it, that too is just the way it is.

Yet somehow homosexuals and their aspirations are supposed to be a threat to the "institution of marriage." I don't understand that. I don't even know what that means.

We use the word marriage to describe the affairs of Elizabeth Taylor and Madonna, what Britney Spears did as a joke and what Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee were supposedly consummating when they filmed themselves having sex. We talk about marriage as sacred and then apply the word to Dennis Rodman's drunken escapades and ceremonies performed by Elvis impersonators.

We might want to ask which parts of that "institution" are worth defending — and from whom?

That's not to say there aren't a number of potential threats to my marriage. There's my tendency to work too late, my unwillingness either to take my shoes off in the house or scrub the kitchen floor, and my inability to understand that my wife really doesn't want to hear the latest joke.

There's my proclivity for hogging the remote. There's my continued appreciation for the work of Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino when I should know that there is no reason to go beyond The Sound of Music or Sleepless in Seattle. Then there's my ineptness at multitasking.

My wife can cook breakfast, solve a work-related problem on the phone and help the kids find their socks all at the same time. If I'm cooking, that's all that's happening. But I can simultaneously follow a movie I've seen nine times, a rerun of "Law & Order" and yet another rehash of World War II on the History Channel. ("Don't we know how that came out, dear?")

There's my habit of describing cars by make instead of color, and people by body type instead of dress. And, there's my penchant for saying inappropriate things. As my wife quietly reminded me during the final game of the American League playoffs last fall, our lord and savior was unlikely to pull Red Sox pitcher Pedro Rodriquez.

See the pattern?

I don't know how the issue of gay marriage will be resolved. I hope the answer will respect both individual liberty and freedom of religion. But it seems clear that whatever happens with the "institution," my marriage is my responsibility — and has little to do with what two other people choose to do in San Francisco, in Massachusetts, in Oregon or in Durango.

The same could be said of my diet. That I don't eat fish doesn't mean I don't like seafood. I love shellfish. I like all the stuff that's high in cholesterol, expensive and biblically banned. Leviticus 11:12 says, "Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is an abomination to you."

Odd, isn't it, but nobody's ever said I'm going to hell for ordering a shrimp cocktail.

Bill Roberts is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is the editor of the editorial page of the Durango Herald in Colorado.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at betsym@hcn.org.