Mr. President, I Am Glad You Called

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Mr. Stein is an associate professor of history at York University in Toronto, the author of City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia (University of Chicago Press, 2000), and the editor-in-chief of The Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America (Scribner's Sons, 2003).

My good friend George W. gets up early in the morning, so I should not have been surprised when the telephone rang at six a.m. "I've been thinking about announcing a cabinet shakeup before my second term and want to get some advice from my favorite historian. Who could help me mobilize my base?"

It just so happens that I had spent years clipping newspaper articles in anticipation of the day I would be asked this question. Now was my chance.

"Mr. President," I declared. "I have just the person for Heterosexual Health and Human Spousal Services. Her name is Vickie Avants, and in 2000 she caused quite a stir in a state you need to win, New Mexico. According to the New York Times and the Albuquerque Journal, Mrs. Avants arranged for Richard Pitcher, one of her several ex-husbands, to be charged with violating New Mexico's statute against unlawful cohabitation. Charges were filed against Pitcher's fiance, too. Seems that Mrs. Avants had once cohabited with Mr. Pitcher herself (before they got married), but after she became a born-again Christian she decided that she did not want her daughter exposed to a 'nonfamily environment.'"

"Now there's a woman who believes in good old-fashioned marriage," George replied. "Good for her. She's the perfect person to lead my new marriage promotion programs. I don't understand why it's so difficult for people to understand that we want gay people to stop marrying and straight people to stop living together. Shouldn't be so hard to keep that straight."

As George chuckled at his own pun, I continued: "And you should give her two assistants. According to the same Times article, a state legislative committee chairman in Arizona helped convince that state to keep its 80-year-old cohabitation law by calling the statute a bulwark against the 'decaying fabric of society.' Let's get him. Meanwhile, in 2003, also according to the Times, North Dakota state senator John Andrist helped convince his state legislature to keep its law prohibiting a man and woman from living together 'openly and notoriously.' Andrist was quoted as saying that the law 'stands as a reminder that there is right and there is wrong.'"

"Or a right and a left, as we like to say in Texas," George joked.

"What about someone for Attorney Gender?"

Here I had just the person. "I know Laura reads the papers for you, Mr. President, but did she tell you about the article in the Charlotte Observer in 2001 about North Carolina federal judge Carl Horn? Get this: Horn's been invoking a state law banning fornication in cases involving straight defendants who acknowledge they're living with their girlfriends or boyfriends. Horn keeps saying that he will not release a criminal defendant on bail knowing that he or she will break the law. So he tells defendants who are cohabiting that they won't be freed on bond until they agree to get married, move out of the house or have their partner leave. One lawyer complained that this had been happening to his clients five to ten times a year and in about half of the cases the clients agreed to get married immediately. In one instance, the boyfriend of a female defendant raised his hand in court and told the judge that he had been planning to ask his girlfriend to marry him on her birthday. Instead, the judge asked the defendant if she would marry the man and the two were then married several weeks later. According to the Observer, since 1993, dozens of defendants in this situation had gotten married."

"Laura and I just love a good wedding. Not one of those San Francisco types, but a good old-fashioned wedding with a judge who upholds all of the law. And maybe this Horn can help with the proposed constitutional amendment banning sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

" "I have one more suggestion, Mr. President. You might want someone over at the Clean Commerce Department who knows the difference between making money and making whoopie. Last month I read an article in the Times that says that Joanne Webb, a sales representative of Passion Parties, a sex toy company that uses 'Tupperware-style marketing,' was arrested in Johnson County, Texas, for violating a state law that prohibits the sale of obscene devices, defined as materials 'designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.' This is a married, forty-three year-old woman with three children! You should find out who the prosecutor was and put him (or her) in the cabinet."

"I knew I could count on you," the president declared. "This is going to be an election about values, and if we can win the votes of everyone who agrees with strict laws against adultery, cohabitation, divorce, fornication, homosexuality, and obscenity, we may see the biggest electoral realignment in history."

"You have that right, Mr. President. With your type of campaign, everyone will understand the difference between right and wrong."



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Kimberly Ann Henry - 11/16/2005

Hi. I am Kimberly Henry (the Fiance mentioned in the article). I am not sure how my experience made it's way into your article, but I just wanted to say I think your article was great!!!!