"It shows that when we try to change the natural course of things, what comes out of that is not joy or gayness.''
Later, Racer was working for a greenhouse and got to know a lot of florists. ''You'd be amazed how many people in the floral industry are
homosexuals,'' he said.
Robert Knight, the director of the Culture and Family Institute of Concerned Women for America, conceded as much. ''People feel liberated,'' he said. ''They feel like we don't have to go along with this stuff anymore, the idea that we're repressed backwater religious zealots just for wanting a decent society in which our children can thrive. It's O.K. today to say that marriage is between a man and a woman. Saying so does not make you a hater or bigot.''
''There are those extremists who say that if a gay person were on fire you would burn in hell if you spit on them to put out the fire,'' he told me. ''But we're not like that. We love the human being. It's the lifestyle we disagree with.''
''My concern is the health issue,'' said Evalena Gray, an activist in southern Maryland. ''I want to get these people away from AIDS, out of that unhealthy lifestyle.''
''The ex-gay movement is a very important part of the story.'' Racer spelled it out clearly as well. ''I've had quite a few opportunities to counsel people who were in a homosexual lifestyle,'' he said. ''They have generally found themselves in a desperate place. They know that Christ promises an abundant life, but that promise was made with some restrictions. These people have tried to find fulfillment in ways that are against God's principles. So you don't want to further the error by allowing gay marriage.
'The threat to traditional marriage will affect our society more than any other issue that's come up,'' Evalena said. ''We're just fighting with everything we have.''
''Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh'' -- and then goes on to add, ''With those 22 words, God announced the ordination of the family, long before He established the two other great human institutions, the church and the government.''
'To put it succinctly, the institution of marriage represents the very foundation of human social order. Everything of value sits on that base. Institutions, governments, religious fervor and the welfare of children are all dependent on its stability.'' Every activist on the ground I spoke with said something similar. ''Marriage was defined thousands of years ago and has served us well,'' said Rebecca Denning, a retired secretary in southern Maryland who volunteers alongside Evalena Gray. ''I think marriage is about procreation and families. And I think we're getting into something that we don't truly understand what the ramifications will be.''
''The homosexual community would have us believe that marriage is simply about loving one another,'' said Rick Bowers of Defend Maryland Marriage. ''I say it's about two human beings who are wired completely differently, one with estrogen and one with testosterone, living together in love but with the purpose of procreation. It's a lot deeper than love. So I can't see how someone could look on a same-sex marriage as marriage at all.''
Cindy Moles, a grandmother and homemaker in San Diego who is a Southern California area director for Concerned Women for America, gave me her analysis of the data from those countries: ''Look at the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage is legal. Those marriages last an average of 1.5 years, and during that time there are an average of eight outside partners. That's not a solid foundation for our country.''.......a Web site that is sponsored by Focus on the Family, cites these same figures in a Q.-and-A. section on gay marriage, but it glosses over the fact that the study on which they were based looked not at gay marriages but at gay relationships and had nothing to do with the legalization of gay marriage.
''You know the family has disappeared in those Scandinavian countries,'' Evalena Gray, the southern Maryland activist, told me.
It is the conviction of the grass-roots activists that gay marriage will open the door to other novel unions. ''I bet a dollar against a doughnut that if they get gay marriage, one day a bisexual is going to show up who says, 'I want to marry a man and a woman,''' Jim Gray, Evalena's husband, said. ''It's going to open the door to polygamy.''
Once the definition of marriage is altered, in this view, you will have this group of people declaring they want to marry that group; middle-aged men will exchange vows with children or with Doberman pinschers. As the landscape of fear fills in, the picture comes into view. It is Hieronymus Bosch's ''Garden of Earthly Delights,'' a phantasmagoria of sin and a complete breakdown of the social order. As Bryan Simonaire, Laura Clark's friend, put it: ''Once you start this, you could have a 45-year-old man wanting to marry a 9-year-old boy. That could be O.K. in 20 years. That's what you get with relative moral truth. Whereas with absolute moral truth, what was O.K. 50 years ago will still be O.K. 20 years from now.''
A few days later, the Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich, vetoed the medical-decision-making bill on the grounds that it created a new term -- ''life partner'' -- that ''could lead to the erosion of the sanctity of traditional marriage.''