Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Write to Marry Day

Today is Write to Marry Day in the blogosphere and I'm proud to be a part of it. Also, please click over to this beautiful contribution from the very happily married Modern Fabulousity and check out Amanda at The Ramblings of A Hopeful Artist, truly a fellow fighter for truth, justice and the American way.

If I were writing this blog post 10 or 15 years ago it would have sounded much different - less personal, more theoretical. Back then, I hardly knew anyone who was openly gay. But times have changed. Like just about every other straight person I know, there's someone openly gay or lesbian in our lives - as a friend or acquaintance or neighbor or coworker or family member.

So even though I'm not in California and I don't know anyone who would be affected by Proposition 8, the debate is more personal now than it would have been at an earlier point in my life. When we talk about the rights of same-sex couples to marry, we're talking about my friends, people I work with, people I love and respect and admire. On their behalf, I urge you to vote "no" and protect the civil rights of every California citizen. While I've never lived in California, I've visited a couple of times and one of the things I love about the state is the incredible diversity, both in terms of its geography and its people. I've always believed that the things which unite us as Americans are so much more important than the things which we believe divide us.

As wonderful as my friends are, I'm not asking you to do this because they're nice people. I just believe that it's the right of every American to receive equal treatment under the law, to live life openly and without fear or discrimination, regardless of race, sex, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. While I don't think religion should enter into the debate, to me it's as simple as the Golden Rule.

Proposition 8 would overturn a recent state Supreme Court decision paving the way for same-sex marriage. I understand that supporters of the ballot measure say they don't have anything against gay people personally, they're just against "redefining" marriage to include gay and lesbian couples. They predict all sorts of dire consequences if the measure is defeated.

I would argue that if you look at the history of the United States, it's all about "redefinition." We've spent the last hundred years extending equal protection to people who have been historically disenfranchised, who were once thought undeserving of full citizenship solely because of the circumstances of their birth. It is time to finally extend those protections to include gay and lesbian citizens.

Two centuries ago in this country, women couldn't vote and most black people were slaves who could be bought and sold as easily as a piece of furniture. In some communities up until the middle of the 20th century, restrictive covenants kept blacks, Jews, Latinos and Asian-Americans from moving into certain neighborhoods. All of those things have changed. And, I would argue, we're a better country for it.

I live near Massachusetts and from what I can see, life there goes on as normal since same-sex marriage became legal. The only difference is, gay and lesbian citizens are more secure and better protected. And that only strengthens our society, just as the ending of legal discrimination against African-Americans did nearly 50 years ago.

If you question whether the gay-rights movement should be linked to the civil-rights movement for African-Americans, well the late Coretta Scott King spoke to that topic. Here's just one example:

“I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people.... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”

As Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said, "In five years now ... the sky has not fallen, the earth has not opened to swallow us all up, and more to the point, thousands and thousands of good people — contributing members of our society — are able to make free decisions about their personal future, and we ought to seek to affirm that every chance we can."

Finally, there was an interesting opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times a couple days ago by Jonathan Rauch on what's been missing from the public discussion over Proposition 8 - gay people. He points to a recent tv ad produced by opponents of the ballot measure that barely mentions marriage and never uses the word "gay."

Rauch says that when asked about the absence of gay couples, a senior "No on 8" official told KPIX-TV in San Francisco that "from all the knowledge that we have and research that we have, [those] are not the best images to move people." Rauch disagrees, arguing that the absence of gay people "leaves voters of good conscience to conjure in their own minds the ads that are not being aired: Ads that show how gay marriage directly affects the couples and communities that need it most."

Well, we don't hear nearly enough about ordinary, everyday Americans who happen to be gay or lesbian. Their lives and their struggles also embody family values and the American Dream. They can make the case for themselves far more eloquently than I ever could. So I want to leave you with some of their stories, in their own words:

"Taking advantage of California's recent same-sex marriage ruling we "tied the knot" in San Francisco on August 25th. A simple ceremony which took maybe 10 minutes. We told everyone and, on the 17th of October, went to stay for a couple of days with his brother and wife. They very kindly put on a small "do" in honor of our wedding and, as we were leaving on Tuesday the 21st of October 2008 I heard these words for the first time in my life: "Welcome to the family".

"I was married on Monday. In a small, private ceremony, my beloved and I stood with a few family members, looked into each other’s eyes and promised to love each other, to look out for each other’s best interests, and to care for and support each other for the rest of our days, no matter what obstacles life puts in our path. We want this marriage to last a lifetime. But we are afraid if too many Californians listen to lies and fear-mongering and vote “yes” on Proposition 8, our marriage might last only 23 days."

"California's constitutionally legalizing same-sex marriage is so exciting and important; and as we all know, so threatened by Proposition 8, which would remove that right by adding an amendment to discriminate against lesbians and gays who want to marry. Yesterday, we were able to affirm that what we want in the right to marry is all about LOVE and EQUALITY, not about re-establishing two classes of citizens."

"Two months ago, I married the man I love to the great acclaim of our families. Paul and have been married in all but name for six years. We are contributing, tax-paying and law-abiding members of our community. We live active, positive lives. We are well thought of and live in peace with our neighbors. Despite this, some people think the fact that we are both men is the only thing of importance. It invalidates our love, our commitment and especially our claim to equality before the law. Some will go so far as to call us a threat to family, children and faith. We’re not a threat to anyone or anything. Nor is our marriage. We’re just Ben and Paul. And we want to stay married."

8 comments:

Amanda said...

Thanks for giving me my morning smile.

Esther said...

Awww, thanks Amanda. I just clicked on the Write to Marry link and there are already more than 80 posts. It's great to be a part of this effort.

Jeff said...

While there are strong similarities between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement, believing that gay unions are equal to heterosexual unions and that opposition to gay marriage is equal to the discrimination of race is a misconception.

If the state legalizes gay marriage, then suddenly marriage changes from a protected belief of a small minority, to the false impression that the state (which is an extension of the people) believes that it is morally acceptable to practice homosexuality.

As individuals, law abiding homosexuals should be entitled to every inalienable right held by any heterosexual; but as couples, gay relationships no longer hold an equal stance to the synergy of a heterosexual relationship. The answer lies in procreation—the primary responsibility of a family.

The gay agenda wants to redefine marriage as simply commitment, honesty, affection, and warmth between two loving individuals. If so then it simply becomes an equal protection issue and the gay couple argues they are being discriminated against for a relationship they claim holds equal commitment and value to the heterosexual relationship. This argument breaks down because it ignores posterity and procreation. Children are what differentiate the marriage contract from all other consensual adult arrangements. The state has always had a keen interest in the bearing and rearing of children. Indeed that is why the state got in the business of registering and recognizing marriage in the first place.

The point, both legally and historically, the gay family can ONLY exist as a product of government policy and modern science, and a dependence on the natural family. It is very clear that there is no natural procreative ability between gay partners. The procreative ability between heterosexual couples is, by contrast, perfectly natural, and dates back to the start of recorded history. The natural family would continue whether the government or science became involved or not. Thus, we see that a homosexual relationship is not naturally equal to a heterosexual relationship.

The Declaration of Independence proclaims that we are endowed with unalienable rights, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". John Locke, called this "natural law". Natural law is not a creation or product of the state, but was to be protected by the state as these are the natural rights of all men inseparably connected to being human. Gays may argue that they are in the pursuit of liberty and happiness, yet there is no logical means by which they are naturally in the pursuit of life. Indeed we may argue that the gay movement, by its very nature, is a movement in pursuit of death, its own extinction, for without the intervention of the state and modern science, homosexuality results in the termination of posterity. Thus, from the perspective of both science and state we can see that the union of man and women, with their resulting children compared to the gay union are polar opposites both in origin and fruit.

What about couples who are infertile? Many married heterosexuals choose not to have children, and others cannot because of medical problems or physical handicaps. But gays fought furiously to convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from their books as a "disorder", or medical problem. The majority of the United States will now agree that homosexuality is not a medical problem or disorder. Even in perfect medical condition, a gay couple cannot procreate without the help of a third party. Therefore homosexual relationships and heterosexual relationships are inherently, and naturally, unequal. Gays should NOT shunned because of their beliefs and tendencies. Nor does this fact infringe on their God given rights. The argument is that the two relationships are very different from one another and for that reason they should be defined differently.

More here

Esther said...

Jeff,

Thanks for the comment. I know we don't agree but I appreciate the opportunity for a dialog.

I believe that it is morally acceptable to practice homosexuality, I don't see anything wrong with my gay or lesbian friends and their relationships and I believe that anti-sodomy laws were declared unconstitutional in the Supreme Court's ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.

You mention the state's keen interest in the bearing and rearing of children. I agree that all the research shows that married, stable, two-parent households are best for children. (I think this is mainly on economic grounds. Most single-parent families are headed by women, who often make less money than men.)

So if we agree that married, stable families are best for children, what about children who are being raised by gay and lesbian parents? Don't those children deserve the same protection as children being raised by heterosexual couples? Wouldn't they be better off if their parents could get married and enjoy all of the benefits and protections that marriage offers?

In all the talk about protecting marriage I never hear very much about divorce. If we were really so keen on protecting marriage, wouldn't we make it much more difficult to get divorced? Or could it be that marriage isn't always the best thing if it means children grow up in a household where there's domestic violence or abuse?

It seems to me that if we really cared about nurturing stable, two-parent families and give children the best environment possible, we'd have universal health care, affordable preschool and we'd pay people who do menial jobs in our society a living wage.

Heterosexuals are going to continue to have children, whether they're married or not, whether gay marriage stays legal or not. I don't see where the threat to heterosexual families comes from. It's not like great masses of people are suddenly going to decide to become gay. That's not the way it works. I couldn't just wake up one day and say "Today I think I'll be a lesbian."

To say that gay families can only exist as a product of government policy and modern science begs the question, "What is a family?" Are two heterosexual people without children a family? I think they are. Gay couples have been living together for centuries, in decades-long relationships, as families, without the benefit of government or science and without the protection and benefits that their married, heterosexual peers receive.

I know loving, committed, responsible gay couples and their lives and relationships are no different from heterosexual couples. They are raising children, in many cases, that heterosexual couples abandoned, that they did not want.

Jeff said...

Different Jeff here. Beautiful post, Esther.

To Jeff #1: gay couples are adopting and raising children, regardless of whether they're married, so I think you're confused about what exactly you're arguing against.

This part makes no sense: "Indeed we may argue that the gay movement, by its very nature, is a movement in pursuit of death, its own extinction, for without the intervention of the state and modern science, homosexuality results in the termination of posterity." The termination of posterity? Only if EVERYONE ON THE PLANET were homosexual. That's not the case. Only about 3-5 percent of the population is gay.

Your final paragraph is a non sequitur. You write, "What about couples who are infertile? Many married heterosexuals choose not to have children, and others cannot because of medical problems or physical handicaps." You then change the subject instead of extending your argument to its logical conclusion: infertile couples are allowed to get married, as are hetero couples who choose not to have children, as ar hetero couples who choose to adopt. Therefore, procreation isn't required in a marriage -- unless you think these heterosexual couples should not be allowed to have marriages.

Amanda said...

To Jeff #1 - I knew a gay couple in Wisconsin, two women, who had been together for a good long time (not sure of the exact number of years, but it was more than a decade). They had legally changed their last names to a combination of their two last names in order to indicate that they were together, even if they couldn't legally get married. They wanted children, so one of the women went to her doctor to get pregnant through invitro. She later gave birth to a baby girl. Two years later, the other woman also birthed a baby, and they have two daughters (as of when I last talked to them, in 2005) that they were raising up every bit the same as a regular family. Both women were fertile and gave birth to their babies. They didn't have their children through adoption. Maybe they couldn't make a baby together, but they were both still able to procreate. If you argue that the family is only for procreation, then my friend's unconventional family would be of more important, in the eyes of the law, than an infertile couple who can't produce a baby on their own, even with doctor's intervention. Such an argument is nonsense, though - neither family is better than the other. And because the reverse is nonsense (that a lesbian family is better than an infertile heterosexual family because of the ability ot bear children), that shows how nonsensicle the opposite argument would be. Marriage is not about just having kids. If it were, we wouldn't be looking for love when we found a partner. This is just another way for people to try to defend their discrimination.

Amanda said...

(forgive my typoes...)

Esther said...

Thank-you so much, good Jeff, both for the compliment and for trying to answer Jeff No. 1. Thanks to you, too, Amanda, for sharing a wonderful story about your friends and their family.

I realized later that Jeff No. 1 left the exact same comment on at least a few of the blogs that participated in Write to Marry Day. So I guess it was a robo-comment!

What angers me the most about Jeff No. 1 is his implication that my gay and lesbian friends are immoral. In fact, my friends are some of the most moral, good, generous, caring and decent people I know. There is nothing remotely immoral about them or their love for each other.

And this is not about a "belief" or a "tendency," as Jeff No. 1 said. Being gay or lesbian is simply the way they were born, just one part of who they are as human beings, like their eye color or skin color. And I would not have them be any other way. My friends are perfect just the way they are, thank-you very much!