Posted by: mutantpoodle | October 29, 2008

The Right to Marry

write_to_marry_day_300x250Mombian is sponsoring a Write to Marry Day, which is, um, today, actually. The idea is to get multiple bloggers to weigh in on why they think everyone should have the right to marry, and, consequently, why everyone should vote No on Prop 8.

One could argue that I don’t have a stake in this fight: I am not gay, and I doubt that I will, at some future date, feel compelled to marry another man. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that my ability to marry the person of my choosing will be in any way thwarted by Prop 8.

So why do I care?

Two reasons. First, as Solomon Burke sang, none of us are free if one of us is chained. What does it mean that my rights are based on the happy accident of my sexuality? Or, put another way, rights are either universal or they aren’t rights in the first place.

But that is a fairly dry, antiseptic argument. The real reason is that gay men and women want to marry – it would make them happy to do so. (The late Senator Hubert Humphrey used to marvel that one of the founding documents of this country specifically mentioned that human beings are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights – among those rights being the pursuit of happiness.) Furthermore, notwithstanding the panicked shrieking from those who support Proposition 8, there’s absolutely no compelling reason why they shouldn’t be able to. I have been around enough gay men and women to know this for a fact: teh gay is not contagious.

Beyond that, gay folks exist. Keeping them from marrying won’t make them disappear, which is, I think, the underlying hope of many who fear gay marriage so much: if we can’t cure them (we’ll try, by golly), at least we can ignore them.

Andrew Sullivan, who is married to his partner, Aaron, makes the point this way:

One reason I favor marriage equality is that the simple public fact of gay married couples will in itself teach something about the reality of gay people and our lives – without any school or parent having to say a thing. It gives us a way to talk about gay couples for the first time in human history without talking about sex acts….

Or to put it in a way that might appeal to social conservatives: grant marriage equality and we can stop talking about homosexuality. We can start talking about love and friendship and commitment and family – for gays and straights. We can leave this horrible identity politics division behind. To give one simple example. I have never sat down with my niece and nephew, who are nine and twelve, and told them I am gay. But they were both in our wedding, along with my husband’s family’s children. They see me and Aaron for who we are – all of us, defined by all we do and are. They know we are gay but we never had to say so.

I think one of the reasons the Yes on 8 folks are so panicky is that this is probably their last shot in California. Demographic trends are working against them, precisely because more and more people know people who are gay, but for whom that fact is merely a detail, like whether they like red wine or are allergic to cats. And it is a detail without moral connotation. Heaven forbid that gay marriage become a right, and the world doesn’t come to an end.

Sullivan is right – love and friendship and commitment and family are what is important. And they have value in whatever form they take – even a marriage between two people of the same gender.

Over a year ago I wrote a post, riffing on a lengthy LA Times article about the growing acceptance of gays in high school and college athletics. At the end, I talked about my high school next door neighbor, Michael, who lived with his boyfriend Alan:

I graduated from high school in 1977, and when I was learning to drive, my mother wisely outsourced the task to our neighbor Michael, who drove a Chevy Vega panel wagon with a five speed manual transmission. Michael and his partner lived next door, and there were very few gay stereotypes that they skipped. But Michael was smart and funny, and didn’t have 15 years of baggage to sort through as he taught me to handle a car, and I learned to drive just fine.

Michael’s mother was a Seventh Day Adventist, and later on he went down to visit her in Texas and got converted. When he came back, he was still gay, but much less funny – probably because he was less comfortable in his own skin. My mom asked me at one point later on if I knew that Michael was gay, and I told her I’d figured it out. And that it really wasn’t an issue. My mother didn’t have lots of people in Minneapolis she could count on, as I recall, but Michael was one of them, and that’s what mattered.

So I will never – and I mean never – accept hate legislation aimed a gays. I am in good company now, I think. In time, I will be in a solid majority, and those who would penalize anyone for their God-given sexual preference may be loud, and they may have troglodytes representing them in Washington, DC, but they will be a dwindling minority, comforted only by their ignorance and by reinforcement from the hollow echo chamber that passes for their souls.

The notion that my home state – a part of a nation which claims that pursuing happiness is a god-given right – would put a roadblock in the way of that pursuit for some of its citizens is horrifying. By voting No on 8 this Tuesday in great numbers, we can keep the path to happiness open to all who choose to pursue it by marrying whomever they love.

UPDATE: Holy Cow! There are 423 post links at Mombian – yours truly being #308…

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