A Sapphic Victory, but Pyrrhic

By Frank Bruni

BEFORE millions of television viewers, under the dewy and beneficent gaze of Oprah Winfrey, the two of them traded moony glances. They held hands. They spoke the language of sonnets and torch songs.

“It was like an arrow was shot through my heart,” one said, describing an early meeting. “I felt weak at the knees.”
“I’m going to be with her until the day I die,” responded the other. Then their wedding video was played. It showed them in white — both of these brides.

In what may have been the most public display of gushingly romantic affection between two gay or lesbian celebrities, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi professed their love in the secular chapel of Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talk show on Monday.
The moment came less than a week after voters in Maine, like those in 30 states before it, rejected same-sex marriage, and just a day before New York legislators would again postpone consideration of a bill to legalize such weddings, conceding inadequate support.

And it underscored what a fascinating example Ms. DeGeneres is setting, not to mention how tough it is to figure out precisely where Americans stand on an issue so fiercely contested that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., said last week that it would scale back social service programs if the district legalized same-sex marriage.

In the handful of states where same-sex marriage is legal, legislatures and courts — not voters — have made it so. A few polls in recent months have suggested that while a majority of Americans believe that gay couples should be able to enter into unions with some of the legal protections of marriage, a minority believe that gays and lesbians should be permitted to “marry,” per se. Same-sex marriage doesn’t fit into the kind of family that many Americans believe should be idealized; it offends many others’ deeply felt religious principles.

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