A fortnight ago I celebrated Father's day with, appropriately, my 9-year-old daughter. We were in Denver to visit some of the city's museums, zoos and other cultural venues, on a schedule designed to keep a 9-year-old entertained, and her father thoroughly exhausted.

In the course of these events, we became accidental witnesses to the spectacle of Denver's “PrideFest,” a celebration of gay and transsexual lifestyles. In response to her inevitable questions, I provided my daughter with the usual speech about showing compassion and forbearance toward those with whom we disagree, even if the disagreement is a fundamentally moral one. It is between them and God, I told her, and as long as they are not affecting us, what they do is little concern of ours.

This answer seemed satisfactory until, not much later, new questions arose surrounding obscene acts being performed on statues of revered holy figures outside a church not dissimilar from the cathedral in which we had attended services earlier that morning; obnoxious displays of attire that can only be described as pornographic, and other acts of public lewdness that were witnessed as we traversed between our hotel and the day's destinations.

One can sympathize with the quite defensible call to “keep the government out of the bedroom.” But is it so much to ask to keep the bedroom out of Colfax Avenue?

New York state, a week later, passed a bill authorizing same sex “marriage.” Several issues orbit around this question.

Why, for starters, is the gay rights movement, and other left-wing groups, so intent on securing the title of “marriage,” rather than simply accepting a less restrictive civil union legal contract for tax and inheritance benefits?

Much like Denver's PrideFest, the aim is to challenge the conventional orders and institutions (and the traditions, morals and public virtues they represent), long established by western civilization, that stand as bulwarks against the remodeling of society into the egalitarian utopia of their dreams. This, too, is the reason for their contempt for other traditional social and political conventions; the quest to remove classical education from the schools; the backlash against teaching the primacy of western civilization on college campuses; a fanatical interpretation of the establishment clause, which objects to any mention of God or Christianity in the public square; the ongoing disregard for the constitution as written and intended; the constant assault on private property rights. All these, along with the traditional family as created through marriage of complementary sexes, are entrenched social obstacles to the liberal vision of the perfect, engineered society. It was no accident that PrideFest was observed on that most paternalistic of holidays, Father's Day.

The gay rights lobby is hailing the development as a “victory for civil rights.” It has become something of a political habit of the left over the last 50 years to label any desired cause a “civil right,” and thus automatically grant it a degree of insulation from criticism. The effect has been to create situations where individuals and groups are forced, by law, to not only recognize and condone, but in certain cases abet in, activities which they consider wrong, even immoral, at a very fundamental level.

There is also a question of latent federalism involved; laws regarding marriage ought to be, like health care, education, and most others, properly state issues. But the increasing willingness of the judiciary to preempt decisions by individual states has all but nullified that, and raises the question, again, of whether a Constitutional Amendment is in order to reestablish state authority over the issue, and protect states from forced compliance with of the decisions of other states.

Another issue is one of government power — the Orwellian ability of a government to arbitrarily redefine an ancient, extra-governmental institution such as marriage, suggests an omnipotence which ought to cause an uneasy shudder in all who value liberty. It is one thing for an individual or group to redefine wine, for instance, as “any fruit-based drink”, or “tax” as “donation,” or “freedom” as “slavery”; it is quite another for the government, through force of law, to do so.

By all means, let us, as a society, have this discussion. But let us be honest as to what the debate is really all about. While we are at it, let's also recognize that there are those who do not wish to limit the rights of gay Americans, yet still wish to preserve the institution of marriage as one reserved by nature and society as being between a man and woman; and that those positions are not mutually exclusive.

Kelly Sloan is the Western Slope director for Americans For Prosperity Colorado. His column, “The Right Word” appears fortnightly in the Grand Junction Free Press.