Please weigh in, agree or disagree, thoughtfully and respectfully. Ferocity and passion are encouraged; disrespect is not. Thank you for reading, and seeing this as a conversation rather than a monologue.

June 29, 2010

On Marriage Equality

I wrote this on the New Mexican's web site in a discussion responding to the article about NM Dems including marriage equality in their platform. (I go by a pseudonym on some blogs.) This is in response to Mary Lou, who said, in part

How are you not treated equal? [. . .] Why do you gay and lesbians think you're owed something different. Marriage for last time is between a man and woman. get it through that thick skull of yours. (sic throughout)

Hi, Mary Lou. You can call me Ann. You may not believe it, since we disagree, but I am not your enemy.
Gays and lesbians are not looking for the benefits of marriage while they are single. They are looking for the right to marry because they, too, value the recognition of commitment that marriage brings. They want the right to visit their spouse in the hospital, just as you would want to be visited. They want to adopt a child, just as other childless couples do, and be recognized as that child's true, if not biological, parents. They want to say "This is my wife/husband; this person is so dear that I have committed myself to him or her for the rest of our lives," instead of introducing them as "my partner," with the implied question of, "for how long?"
I understand that marriage, for your whole life and that of your ancestors, has been only between a man and a woman. But I ask you, what is most important in a marriage: the gender of the spouses, or their love and commitment?
The state recognized common law marriages before (not so much now). There was no ritual, just a recognition that, because they had lived together for years, they were the same as married. It's not the ritual that's essential, but the commitment. Granted, to date, each of those marriages has been between a man and a woman. Stay with me.
Define family. In some places, family is one man with multiple wives; in others, the reverse. That was even true here, with the early Mormons. Before, if your mother had you out of wedlock, you were a "bastard." You were considered illegitimate. Today, the child born or conceived out of wedlock gets the full rights, privileges and courtesy of being a member of the family - and of the community. Multiracial families were once considered unnatural. Only the most base bigots have trouble with what was once called "mixed" marriages now.
Definitions change. They sometimes change by getting rid of non-essential elements. Marriage requires no church. Families no longer consist of members of a single tribe – religious, racial, or ethnic.
We've seen marriages fail. They weren't missing a pair of opposing genders. Being straight doesn't mean your marriage will work. (Neither does being gay.) The marriages failed for some other reason. Something else was missing. I would argue that it is THAT, whatever THAT is, that is essential to marriage. Love with staying power; the ability to mingle your roots and branches so, after a long while, you seem to be one tree. (Thanks to de Bernieres' Corelli's Mandolin for the metaphor.)
By all means, protect marriage. Make sure your married friends have all the support they need. But by saying that marriage is about the spouses' gender, opponents of gay marriage are, in fact, demeaning the institution of marriage by defining it by one of its incidental, though common, characteristics, rather than by what is essential to it. Saying that marriage is about gender is as deficient a definition as saying that it is about race or religion, or saying that a child can be illegitimate.
Yes, marriage has always been between a man and a woman. But that is not what is most important in a marriage. It never was. Go to any book on marriage that predates this current debate. You will see that, while the male-and-female part is taken for granted, every marriage manual is always about how to make the relationship work. It's about love.
Do we really have so much love in the world that we can afford to outlaw it when it appears?
Sorry (to all) for going on so long, but the passion with which you have made your points seemed to warrant a thorough response, from the ground up, as it were.



  1. And the fact is, same-sex attraction transcends both time and nature: It is found throughout the animal world (yes, I know, you're going to say "so we should be like the animals??" to which I reply, whatever) and down through history, through the millenia, not just since the 1950's. But you don't want to think or verify that, do you?


    Mo Rage
    the blog

  2. Your point, Ann/John, is the most powerful I've heard. You address the heart of the matter by defining what is essential to marriage: "Love with staying power; the ability to mingle your roots and branches so, after a long while, you seem to be one tree." And by pointing out the argument that marriage is about the spouses' gender, in fact,(is) demeaning the institution of marriage."



Because I Need to Know If McAndrew Is Full Of It