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Why the rush to same-sex marriage?


Tom Isern
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I am frankly offended that there seems to be only one, proper, orthodox opinion on gay marriage on this message board. There is a greater breadth of opinion in the real world. Why does anything that I post questioning gay marriage keep getting shuttled off to the politics forum, while anything in favor of gay marriage, no matter how vapid and thoughtless, is kept here in "the lounge"?

 

Here's a very fine summary of thoughtful and reasoned arguments from within our "community" why some might have serious questions about this "rush" to gay marriage. If there is room in "the lounge" for pro-marriage advocacy, then there should be room as well for those of us who have different opinions.

 

One of the arguments this essay makes is that those of us who oppose gay marriage will eventually be shamed into accepting it. If you don't believe that is true, just read the reactions I've been getting from people here. Shame is alive and well and it's all about supporting gay marriage and shame on anyone who doesn't. I won't be shamed into supporting it. Nor should any of us.

 

 

 

Public relations, by Julie Abraham

 

Why the rush to same-sex marriage? And who stands to benefit?

 

I grew up in a world in which girls were less valued than boys. Educating girls was understood to be a wasteful proposition--after all, they would just get married. The only women who did not marry were nuns and dutiful daughters who stayed at home to care for their aging parents. The nuns were another species; the dutiful daughters were pitied. I was pretty sure I did not want to be a nun. The prospect of staying at home forever was frankly terrifying. But I knew by the time I was ten years old that I did not want to marry.

 

It took almost another decade before I understood that women could make lives together. (News traveled slowly to isolated children in lower-middle-class Catholic circles in the colonies.) That was twenty years ago. To come out then was to escape the prospect of marriage as definitively--and who knows, perhaps with as much relief--as if one had become a nun.

 

My childhood is hardly ancient history. Different versions of the fate vivid to my ten-year-old 'self remain in place for many young girls in this country not to mention most of the rest of the world. It is impossible for me to think about marriage apart from either second-class status for women or constraint. And in fact, both second-class status for women and are integral to much of the rhetoric fueling the current campaign for same-sex marriage in the United States.

 

My memories were prompted by reading Michael Warner's recently published discussion of contemporary lesbian/gay/queer politics, The Trouble with Normal, in conjunction with the predominantly gay, largely conservative, literature. of the past decade that he engages. Warner argues--not always persuasively--that political differences within the gay community cannot be explained as a matter of Left vs. Right, separatist vs. assimilationist, pro-sex vs. anti-sex, or radical vs. pragmatic. He maintains instead that we are enmeshed in a conflict between "a politics of homosexuality" and "a politics of sex." This conflict, based on "long-simmering tensions," has taken a "newly destructive form" in the context of the Clinton era's rapid development of a national, media-based lesbian/gay/queer political presence. At the center of this conflict is the campaign for same-sex marriage.

 

There is now, Warner argues, "a widening gap in the United States between the national lesbian and gay movement" and "queers." The movement is increasingly committed to the pursuit of "lesbian and gay rights"--and an understanding of 'those rights--stripped of all sexual connotations. The chief goal of this effort is same-sex marriage. At the same time, the campaign for same-sex marriage is itself being used to consolidate "lesbians and gays" as a homosexual silent majority, the "good gays," in opposition to the "bad queers" joined under the sign of sexual shame.

 

Warner rehearses the distinction between an identity politics associated with "lesbians and gays" and a more fluid and in his view radical alternative, to be found among the queers who prefer to identify themselves in terms of their hostility to heterosexual norms. He identifies himself with the more radical queers. In practice, this queer label seems to cover a range of more specific identities: leathermen, androgynes, clones, circuit boys, dildo dykes, the transgendered, and so on. The difference he is actually identifying is between those who understand themselves to be defined by sex and those who resist such an understanding.

 

As an advocate for a politics of sex, however, Warner denies that there can be any real escape from definition by sex. Marriage may be presented as a way for lesbians and gays to neutralize the shame of sex, and so escape the stigma of homosexuality, but all that will be achieved, he believes, is a sham dignity paid for by the repression of desire. At the same time, "any politics," he claims, "that makes full social membership conditional on the proprieties of the marital form is ultimately a way to pave over the collective world that lesbians and gays have made."

 

Social membership is what is crucially at issue, and of interest, in Warner's argument. "The campaign for gay marriage," he points out, "is not so much a campaign for marriage as a campaign about the constituency and vocabulary of the gay and lesbian public." Who is to be part of this new constituency? And who represents that constituency? Do we want marriage? Who is the "we" who might want marriage? All of these questions are inextricably linked.

 

Almost all of the contributors to the national media discussion of same-sex marriage have been white, and almost all have been male. Their subject is clearly gay marriage rather than same-sex marriage. But if same-sex marriage becomes a possibility, the landscape will change irrevocably for lesbians as well as gay men. As the gay marriage rhetoric reveals, you can't have marriage without women, even if the subject is marriage between men.

 

The advocacy of gay marriage is framed by the two central arguments advanced by those opposed to it: first, that the goal of marriage is the production of children; and second, that the goal of marriage is the civilization of men. Gay marriage advocates must of course disagree with the proposition that children are the purpose of marriage. But they can claim, as they do, that gays have children--children who need married parents. They can also retain a child as a touchstone of their discussion--the gay child who needs the prospect of marriage in his future.

 

I began with reference to my own childhood because so many gay marriage arguments begin with the figure of a child. The opening scene of conservative gay journalist Bruce Bawer's A Place at the Table is, as Warner points out, hard to overlook: an innocent (white, blond, middle-class, protected) boy hovers anxiously before a Grand Central Station newsstand, poised on the verge of shame at--or corruption by--the sexually explicit images he will find in any gay publication he has the courage to pick up. As Bawer's passage indicates, the child in question is invariably male and equally invariably in pain.

 

The child in question must be a boy, and must be in pain, because anti- and pro-gay marriage advocates agree that the goal of marriage is to improve the lives of males, through the civilization--that is, the domestication--of men. As Warner notes, the subtitle of legal scholar William Eskridge's 1996 book, The Case for Same-Sex Marriage: From Sexual Liberty to Civilized Commitment, perfectly captures this assumption. The misery of the gay boy child, with nothing before him but the sexually excessive, emotionally empty, profoundly self-destructive universe gay men naturally inhabit, becomes itself an argument for gay marriage. Marriage will relieve his suffering.

 

The gay marriage advocates find themselves with something of a problem at this point, however. Heterosexual conservatives such as Hadley Arkes argue that "it is not marriage that domesticates men; it is women." Gay marriage advocates must stake their all on the institution of marriage as in and of itself domesticating: the institution of marriage itself becomes the necessary female figure in the narrative of gay marriage. And in fact the gay marriage advocates' trump card, the one they invariably flourish at this point in their discussions, is that there are already legions of homosexuals epitomizing the domestic future of same-sex marriage--long-term loving monogamous couples, free of any taint of out-of-control sexuality, and perhaps of any sexuality at all: the lesbians down the block. This invocation of lesbians--in Love Undetectable, Andrew Sullivan describes "lesbian culture" as "a monogamist's dream of political and social community"--can also be traced in the work of Bawer, Gabriel Rotello in Sexual Ecology, Michelangelo Signorile in The Life Outside and others.

 

Not only do you need women for marriage, you apparently also need gender norms. Women are only present in the gay discussions of marriage when identified with marriage. Even E.J. Graff, one of the very few lesbians with a speaking part in this drama, frames her advocacy of same-sex marriage with descriptions of herself and her partner. Graff concludes her book, What is Marriage For?, by proposing the celebration of "each individual spirit." But no-one else is discussing, individual spirits.

 

Not only do these discussions of marriage demonstrate the, femininity of lesbians, they confirm the masculinity of gay men. Lesbians marry because they are women, and therefore incapable of doing anything else. They hardly need the church or the state: they have the force of the cumulative femininity of the female couple on their side. But gay men need marriage because they are men. As Sullivan opines, "gay male society is far more persuasively explained--and understood--in terms of its gender than of its orientation. The landscape of gay life is, indeed, almost a painting in testosterone."

 

The sign of the masculinity of gay men, in this schema, is unrestrained sexuality. "Gay male society is often 'blamed' for being promiscuous," Rotello laments, "as if it were possible for a male society whose members have no sanctioned relationships and no responsibility to anyone but themselves to be otherwise." Marriage will civilize and domesticate gay men by restraining gay male sexuality. Consequently advocates of gay marriage, such as Rotello and Signorile, not only play up the pain but, in conjunction with elaborate accounts of gay male sexual excess, downplay any other elements of gay culture; all gay social or cultural institutions other than bars, bathhouses, gyms and circuit parties seem to have vanished. The gay boy child can have nothing to look forward to except sex, without marriage.

 

Many of us, though uninterested in marriage for ourselves, are susceptible to the proposition most often articulated by the national lesbian and gay organizations, that we should at least have a choice in the matter. But much of the pro-gay marriage argument is founded on a denial of choice. Lesbians/gays/queers did not choose their sexual difference, the argument goes; consequently, they don't deserve to be shut out by that difference from a social institution that they understand as fundamental to a good life in a good society.

 

Denial of choice is also central to the vision of marriage many of these people are arguing for. While there is some talk about the changes that marriage has undergone over the centuries (by Graff and Eskridge), and the changes that same-sex couples might make to the institution (by Eskridge and lawyer Nan Hunter), its most vocal advocates want gay marriage because marriage stands at the center of a system of legitimation and delegitimation, reward and punishment. They are eager to enroll their peers in such a system. Gay male sexuality must be restrained, whether because it shocks children and straight people (Bawer), produces AIDS (Rotello), produces unhappy gay men (Signorile), or simply for the greater social good (Rauch). "That marriage would provide status to those who married and implicitly penalize those who did not[ldots][is] a key point," writes Rotello in The Nation. Or, as Jonathan Rauch insists in The New Republic, "If marriage is to work it cannot be merely a 'lifestyle option.' It must be priv ileged[ldots]. It is not enough[ldots]for gay people to say we want the right to marry. If we do not use it, shame on us."

 

How are gay men--or those of us lesbians not already wedded to the altar--to be led to marriage? Through the strategic application of pain and shame. The pain and shame that first appear in this discussion as evidence of the gay boy child's need for marriage soon become evidence of his lack of choice in his sexual desires, and so his right to marriage. Finally, pain and shame will be the tools used to ensure his, and our, marriage. As Graff cheerily proposes in a letter to The Nation, "same-sex marriage may well return society's political fissure to one between monogamous and promiscuous rather than homo and het, a division far more historically familiar."

 

Just as we apparently did not have a choice about being gay and will not be offered a choice about marrying, so we will not be offered a choice about gender. In the brave new world made possible by gay marriage, as Andrew Sullivan envisions it,

 

The future for gay men and women, is one in which our gender, male or female, is neither abolished nor caricatured, but reclaimed. It is one in which being a man will always and everywhere be different from being a woman but will be compatible in every respect with loving another man, just as being a woman will always and everywhere be different from being a man but will be compatible in every respect with loving another woman.

 

(Love, Undetectable, p. 153)

 

When Sullivan goes on to insist that "gender differences[ldots]are deeper than the differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals," I have to wonder if the pain and shame of his homosexuality is somehow tied to the prospect of being unfairly forced into the company of the girls.

 

In the course of developing his arguments against gay marriage, Michael Warner recognizes and rejects the many gay marriage advocates' commitment to denial of choice. But he too embraces pain and shame along with the gay child. "Almost all children grow tip in families that think of themselves and all their members as heterosexual," he writes, "and for some children this produces a profound and nameless estrangement, a sense of inner secrets and hidden shame. No amount of adult 'acceptance' or progress in civil rights is likely to eliminate this experience of queerness for many children and adolescents." Although for Warner such pain leads not to the redemption of homosexuality in marriage, but to an identification with all potential victims of sexual shaming, I still hear distinct echoes of Sullivan lamenting "those early wounds." And the shamed queer child is still a boy. Warner's world is divided into "women and gay people," as he explains (in a gesture apparently intended as inclusive) that "Women and ga y people have been especially vulnerable to the shaming effects of isolation."

 

Because so many of the gay marriage advocates emphasize that the function of marriage will be to control gay male sexuality, Warner is able to argue plausibly that sex--or willingness to be identified with/by sex--is the faultline of contemporary lesbian/gay/queer politics. But sex is only one of the factors at issue. Sexual practices, even sexual identifications, don't make a politics. That is surely the lesson of gay conservatism. Indeed, the exclusivity of Warner's focus on sex reinforces the very narrowing of the political field that he complains of.

 

The new gay and lesbian constituency being constructed through the marriage debates is a wholly white, conventionally gendered as well as sexually circumspect crowd--each feminine woman already joined to another equally feminine woman, each masculine man eager to plight his troth to an equally manly fellow. It is dominated by adult males separated as children from the loving families--and by implication the welcoming world--around them only by their different sexual desire. There are very few women. No-one is poor. Or unashamed. Or miserable for reasons other than their sex. And people of color appear only as host communities--as in Warner's proclamation that "the queer ethos is currently thriving in urban scenes[ldots]in drag cultures, among black and Latino cultures, in club scenes and the arts."

 

None of this would be anything other than business as usual--plus shame and pain--if the most conservative of the would-be representatives of this new gay and lesbian constituency (Bawer, Sullivan and company) had not so successfully taken their show public. Their embrace of shame and pain is surely one source of that mainstream success. But they have also been so successful, in part, because the gay marriage debate has allowed them simultaneously to capitalize on and contain a broader interest in "the public" among lesbians, gays and queers.

 

There are two different versions of "the public" in Warner's analysis. The first, a media-based and -defined public, is where the new lesbian and gay constituency is being created--at the expense of the second, a queer counter-public. Gays stay home and cook dinner for their boyfriends. Their community involvement is limited to buying magazines and donating money. But queers meet in the bars and on the streets; their community involvement is simultaneously sexual and political. Many of the gay marriage advocates are explicitly antiurban; they present the city as hostile to the very possibility of gay marriage. In contrast, Warner, like other sex-positive gay commentators such as Michael Bronski in The Pleasure Principle and Samuel Delany in Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, identifies the city as a crucial site of lesbian/gay/queer cultures. "[M]ovement politics on the national scale" clearly is, as Warner observes, "now dominated by a small group of national organizations[ldots]media celebrities[ldots][a nd] big money." But he offers little middle ground between this disembodied national media-public and an urban counter-public.

 

One of the key paradoxes of life in the USA today is that lesbians, gays and queers are coming out at an unprecedented rate, but into a rapidly shrinking public space. How do you come out if there is nowhere to go? It seems that for some, the answer is, you get married. As Warner notes, "Many of the gay people who now say they want marriage[ldots]seem to want[ldots][a] form of coming our"; "when gay men and lesbians think about marriage[ldots]. [t]hey assimilate it to the model of coming out," they are "driven by expressive need."

 

The interest in visible expression Warner records echoes Sullivan, who sees the gender transgression he deplores in lesbian/gay/queer cultures--the unfeminine women, the less than masculine men, the butches and the queens--as the "products of deep and searing anxiety, of the inability to be a publicly gay man or woman except as a caricature of one gender or another." Marriage would allow gay men and lesbians to assume their proper manly and womanly roles, Sullivan implies, because marriage would give them proper access to the public realm.

 

Warner sees the conclusion to this conflation of coming out and marriage as "I'm gay! I do!' But what this pattern actually sounds like is "I do" therefore "I'm gay"--that is, definitively, publicly, gay.

 

But marriage is hardly the ideal institution through which to pursue public recognition, public space, space in the public realm. Marriage is a public declaration of a couple's withdrawal from the world. Except of course that it was not historically the couple that withdrew from the world but the wife, whose subsequent symbolic if not actual confinement to the privacy of the home both testified to and materially supported the public stability and social integration--the civilization--of her husband. (Rather as all those loving lesbian couples nesting just off-stage demonstrate the potential for civilization of otherwise errant gay men.)

 

Whose sexuality has historically been controlled by marriage? Can we forget how recent, even in the United States, were the bitter struggles for a married woman's right to her own body, to her children, to own property, to make legal decisions, and to a divorce? These are still rights being battled over in much of the world.

 

As the gay marriage debate demonstrates, even when wedding is merely under discussion, women end up second-class citizens, as subjects and as participants. Urvashi Vaid in Virtual Equality, Barbara Smith in the essays, collected in The Truth That Never Hurts, and most recently Michael Bronski, have all in the past decade argued, like Warner, against the mainstreaming of lesbian and gay politics. Bronski shares Warner's focus on sex and consequently discusses gay marriage. But neither Vaid nor Smith focus on sex or marriage at all.

 

Most of the women who do write about same-sex marriage, from Paula Ettelbrick at the end of the eighties to Claudia Card in the mid-nineties to Valerie Lehr most recently, reject marriage as a goal. In Queer Family Values, Lehr challenges the assumptions about "family" underlying much of the debate. Most of the women advocating same-sex marriage, like Nan Hunter, are committed to changing marriage rather than lesbians, gays or queers. Significantly, those women who are debating same-sex marriage speak to smaller audiences than their male peers--in alternative papers, academic journals or university press books, rather than in the major media or from the lists of mainstream publishers.

 

In this context Vermont's recent decision to institute a form of "civil union" for same-sex couples looks like a plausible compromise--a public statement, plus legal protections, but without history. And yet, as The New York Times editorialized on March 18, the day after the crucial vote was taken, "Vermonters...are leading the way toward a society that values stable gay relationships." Or, as the message was conveyed more succinctly just a day later, "backers proclaimed it a significant step toward equal rights for all committed couples." Homosexuals are not being offered full citizenship here. Rather, "gay" is being buried beneath the weight of "stable" and "relation-ship." And if you--gay, lesbian, queer, or straight--don't happen to want a coupled life, don't happen to have found the coupled life you want, or don't happen to require, if coupled, the stability a state can confer? What happened to equal rights for all?

 

Being coupled does not make me more socially valuable than my single friends and relations, nor more deserving of financial breaks, health insurance, legal protections. I still don't want to get married. And I don't want my capacity to care for those close to me further undermined because, when I could, I chose not to register with the state.

 

JULIE ABRAHAM teaches twentieth-century literature, women's studies and lesbian/gay/queer studies at Emory University. She is the author of Are Girls Necessary?: Lesbian Writing and Modern Histories (Routledge, 1996), and is working on The City of Feeling, a study of homosexualities and cities, to be published by University of Minnesota Press.

 

Books cited

 

Michael Warner. The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life. New York: The Free Press, 1999, 227 pp., $23.00 hardcover.

 

Bruce Bawer. A Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society. New York: Poseidon, 1993.

 

Michael Bronski. The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash, and the Struggle for Gay Freedom. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

 

Samuel R. Delaney. Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. New York: New York University Press, 1999.

 

William Eskridge. The Case for Same-Sex Marriage: From Sexual Liberty to Civilized Commitment. New York: The Free Press, 1996.

 

E.J. Graff. What is Marriage For? Boston: Beacon Press, 1999.

 

Valerie Lehr. Queer Family Values: Debunking the Myth of the Nuclear Family. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999.

 

Gabriel Rotello. Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men. New York: Dutton, 1997.

 

Michelangelo Signorile. Life Outside: The Signorile Report on Gay Men: Sex, Drugs, Muscles, and the Passages of Life. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.

 

Barbara Smith. The Truth that Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998.

 

Andrew Sullivan. Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex and Survival. New York: Vintage, 1999.

 

Andrew Sullivan, ed. Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con, A Reader. New York: Vintage, 1997.

 

Urvashi Vaid, Virtual Equality. The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation. New York: Doubleday, 1995.

Source Citation: Abraham, Julie. "Public relations." The Women's Review of Books. 17.8 (May 2000): p12. Literature Resources from Gale.

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I just read the whole thing (OK, I read the first line and the last) and you've really convinced me. I am leaving Derek and will spend the rest of my life as a loner, a freak, lurking in the shadows, muttering obscenities about "suburban breeders" and condemning others who want such silly and vapid things like hospital visitation rights (but I still reserve the right to buy property with my "lover" as joint tenants with rights of survivorship). :+

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Guest josephga

I dont see the point in running out the first few days or first months. id atleast wait until after november. i think it would hurt more by getting hopes up getting married then having it yanked away come november

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Rick. I don't find your specious arguments, your insults, or your arrogant and tightly closed mind funny.

 

But please, continue to call me names and mock me for not supporting your pet project. All you do is prove this author correct.

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Tom first off I must admit that after carefully reading about one half of your post I ended up skimming the rest, I simply lost interest. Much of the article strikes me as sociological gobbledygook, just exactly the type of nonsense one would expect from a University “professor” of gender studies. The reasons against same sex marriage presented are, on the whole, based upon wild supposition and made-up conclusions which in my opinion makes them irrelevant. I will admit, up front, that I have serious reservations about the financial impact of same sex marriage. I fear that these marriages will placed an additional burden on already overburdened social services (private and public pension plans, private and public medical benefit plans, Medicare, etc.).

HOWEVER, my objections, your objections, and Julie Abraham’s objections, as well as those of other, are NOT the point. The point is that we live in a nation that functions under constitutional system that guarantees equal protection AND equal rights to all of its citizens. Now I will agree that the system has, most certainly, not always worked that way BUT that doesn’t mean that therefore we should all cease trying to make it work that way. I am not remotely interested in marriage and it appears that neither are you or Julie Abraham BUT others are and they should have the right to pursue that option if they wish to do so – NOW THAT IS THE POINT,

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>id atleast wait until after november. i think it

>would hurt more by getting hopes up getting married then

>having it yanked away come november

 

If you favor same-sex marriage, the opposite may actually be the case. In Massachusetts, it's settled legal opinion that even if the state constitution was/is amended to prohibit same-sex marriage, any such marriages entered into while it was legal cannot be voided. They stand regardless.

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Tom, fully agree that this is a worthy discussion with at least two weighty sides, and that there is plenty to be wary of in the rush to conformism here. Couple of counterpoints:

 

The specter of rising pressure on all non-mainstream-hetero people to get married – contra the above analysis, won’t this development not diminish but rather enlarge the potential space for social difference? Constructions of queer identity today seem to have a harder and harder time finding any sort of social frontier on which to make a stand. In this respect, the very developments that Abraham decries would seem to contain the seeds of their own solution: resisting and rejecting pressures that originate from inside one’s own ostensible subculture is surely among the most authentic ways to defend and reclaim what she sees as most at risk.

 

Put another way, Abraham’s analysis is premised on the unstated metanarrative that subversion of existing orders must come from outside. But her argument is either uninformed or dishonest in ignoring the alternative – namely, subversion from within – despite its long history in Western proto-feminism, race equality struggle and elsewhere.

 

My greatest difference with her analysis is where she engages, or makes a feint at engaging, the fundamental questions of choice and its denial that are the heart of this debate, whichever side one takes. Notwithstanding the illuminative power of the New Historicism and several isms preceding and following, I just don’t buy the conclusion that social constructions of the type being put about by the bad boys (and girls) she cites pose a greater danger to the freedom to choose and actualize identity than do current laws, conceptions and preconceptions among mainstream society.

 

In all, these dismissals of dawning societal acceptance of same-sex marriage continue to strike me as profoundly trivializing and dilettantish reactions to an epochal evolution in civil rights.

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I did read the entire article, and had some of the same reaction as Epigonos to the academic hot air--I thought the personalized last paragraph was the most articulate part of the essay. I, too, don't want to be made to feel that marriage is the only thing that legitimizes my identity and thereby gives me special privileges in my relationships. Gays AND heterosexuals have fought a long time for the right to sexual relationships that are not officially sanctioned, and I can understood why some enlightened observers see the steamroller movement toward gay marriage as a retrogression.

 

That being said, we live in a real world in which official marriage does confer legal rights that are denied to men and women in unofficial relationships. Trying to remove those legal rights from the officially married is far harder than opening the marriage institution to those who are currently shut out. A heterosexual couple who are good friends of mine were firmly opposed ideologically to marriage, but caved in when he had serious health problems and couldn't be included in her health insurance unless they married. A committed gay couple I knew well would have married if they could, but one died last year of a massive heart attack; he had grown children and no will (stupid, I know), and his children have evicted his partner from their home, owned by the deceased, which could not have happened had they been a legal couple. Yes, lots of problems can be eliminated with proper legal planning, but most people are unaware of what they need to do or how to do it. Legal marriage provides them with the immediate protection that they can understand.

 

Then there is the psychological dimension. We all grow up in a culture that bombards us from infancy with the idea that marriage is the ultimate goal if one wants to be happy, and who does not? Studies are actually supposed to show that married people are happier and live longer than others. I suppose it's possible that married people are happier just because they don't have to deal with the pressure of being unmarried in a pro-marriage culture, but the fact remains that many unmarried people do want to be married (and often therefore jump into marriages with the wrong partner, though it rarely seems to make them more skeptical about the institution itself--most of them simply try again with someone else). We may reason with people all we like, but most people WANT marriage, not theories about gender and politics. It's hard to tell women like Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who have been together for 55 years and have been outspoken lesbian activists for most of that time, that they are traitors because they want to be legally recognized as "married," not "domestic partners" (a term which brings to my mind the image of a couple of Victorian housemaids). It does mean that those gay men and women who like being rebels against American conformity will feel even more marginalized, but they will have to realize that many of those who they felt shared their ideological position were actually involuntarily conscripted.

 

For the record, my partner and I will celebrate forty years together this summer, but we will not be getting married: I don't want him to be able to divorce me for adultery, and collect alimony.

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>Rick. I don't find your specious arguments, your insults, or

>your arrogant and tightly closed mind funny.

 

Well, that would require a sense of humor. :p

 

>But please, continue to call me names

 

Where have I done that? I'm not sure what insults and names you're referring to, but then again, my posts are "vapid and thoughtless," so what do I know? :+

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>If you favor same-sex marriage, the opposite may actually be

>the case. In Massachusetts, it's settled legal opinion that

>even if the state constitution was/is amended to prohibit

>same-sex marriage, any such marriages entered into while it

>was legal cannot be voided. They stand regardless.

 

Sorry, showing my ignorance. Did not realize the vicious intent of the CA repeal initiative not only to forbid going forward, but to void existing marriages. Big-hearted bunch out there.

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Tom,

I agree that this is an issue that is worthy of debate. Perhaps I'm missing something, but are you actually against the concept of gay marriage to such a degree that you wish it to continue to be outlawed? If so, then I must disagree with you.

 

To me the issue is simple. Should gay men and women have the right to choose to get married? To me the answer is simple as well. Yes. The cornerstone of our society is based on the concept that all men and women are created equal. That alone is sufficient justification to allow marriage as an option for everyone. Society will not die because men may marry men and women, women. Just as society did not die, but rather thrived, when miscegenation laws were finally overturned.

 

The vast majority of the other arguments that are posted here simply beg the question of whether it is a good idea to get married and that question can only be answered by the individuals exercising their choice.

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Actually, right NOW, nobody has a clue what will happen to currently legal same sex marriages if the Anti Same Sex Marriage initiative should pass in November. The only certain thing is that the matter would be tied up in the courts for years and in the end propably end up back at the California Supreme Court.

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It has been documented that the early ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH had SAME-SEX "JOINING CEREMONIES" that granted the same rights as marriage. SAME-GENDER ceremonies PRE-DATE Christianity back to the time of the DRUIDS. WHO THE HELL IS RUSHING?!?!? We are just TRYING to put things BACK to the way they are meant to be. Those against this have constipation of the SOUL and MIND.

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>WHO THE HELL IS

>RUSHING?!?!?

 

LOL Great point! And I would add that Derek and I have waited 20 years, enduring the family gatherings where our siblings' spouses are referred to as "wives" and "husbands," while we, who've been together longer than any of them, are forever just "boyfriends." We're definitely not rushing into anything, either.

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Nicely put. Gay marriage isn't for me. There doesn't seem much of a point to enter a marriage recognized by the state but not the federal government, since the benefits of marriage seem to be mostly federal: joint income taxes, avoiding inheritance taxes, immigration benefits, social security benefits, and so on. But I wouldn't criticize someone who wanted to get married. My only concern with respect to gay marriage would be if my employer withdrew domestic partner benefits because of the availability of gay marriage. Since they offer benefits to mixed-gender couples, however, I don't see that happening. The plus side of same-sex marriage is the official legitimizing of stable gay relationships. This will remove social stigmas over time.

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Guest zipperzone

>Rick. I don't find your specious arguments, your insults, or

>your arrogant and tightly closed mind funny.

 

Tom: If Rick has a "tightly closed mind" then I don't know where to begin to describe the strictures that bind yours.

 

And I suppose you would like us ot believe that YOU are NOT arrogant? Oh please......

 

I think the Abraham article is pure krap-o-la. Typical ramblings of a lesbian mind.

 

What you would have us believe is that we should not be free to choose if we want to get married or not. When did they appoint you "Dictator in Charge"

 

Just this week, Norway joined the ranks of countries where same sex marriage is legal, bringing the total to six. It will take awhile, but the domino effect will eventually cause the majority of countries to adopt the same laws. Let us hope that the US is not one of the last to get the message..... but don't hold your breath.

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Tom,

 

I had much the same reaction to the article that you posted as Epigonos and AdamSmith did... the word gobbledygook also came to my mind, and I found its analysis and conclusions to be pretty much undefendable.

 

But something you mentioned did strike me as worthy of discussion, especially judging by some of the heated reactions to your posts on the subject... your worry (fear?) that gay people may be shamed into supporting same-sex marriage (SSM), either by the rest of the GLBT community or by society as a whole.

 

I won't talk to the current situation in the US, as I am not immersed enough in the US culture to know how ordinary Americans are reacting to the possibility that SSM might be unleashed on their suspecting communities. ;) But I thought I might share some of my observations about what has been going on here in Canada (in general) and Toronto (in particular), since we seem to be a few years ahead of the US in legalizing SSM.

 

Here in Canada, SSM first made headlines in 2001, when Kevin Bourassa & Joe Varnell became the first gay men in North America to become married (to each other!) (http://www.samesexmarriage.ca/bios/). SSM eventually becaume legal across the country in July 20, 2005 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_Canada).

 

Since then, a pretty broad range of gay and lesbian couples have tied the knot (over 12,000 by October 2006). Most by far are just your normal average gay/lesbian couple (if there is such a thing!), and a few have been quite well-known (a gay federal politician (Scott Brison ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Brison) and a gay provincial politician (George Smitherman ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Smitherman) both got married last year). We have even seen a number of couples come from the US and Europe to get married, although the status of their marriages must be in question in their home countries.

 

So far, I think it is too soon to tell whether these marriages have been a result of pressure to conform to societal views that marriage is the preferred state of being. Although I do find it interesting that openly-gay career politicians have been among the first to tie the knot... were they told by their advisors that, as public figures, it was no longer acceptable for them to remain officially unhitched?

 

But for what it is worth, I really haven't heard much about any gay people being shamed/pressured/forced into supporting SSM here in Canada. In fact, the issue has mostly dropped off the radar screen, both in the gay community and in the country as a whole. Most gays and lesbians that I have spoken to about it (not that the topic comes up that much, mind you), seem to be content that SSM is an option that they can take advantage of if they wish, and are willing to leave it at that.

 

I don't see any pressure coming from society as a whole, either. In the last 6-7 years, support for SSM has increased fairly substantially (from a slight majority against to a fairly sizeable majority in support), but that hasn't seemed to translate into pressure to conform to the marriage lifestyle (at least not yet).

 

A few religious folks got their tits in a knot early on, worried that they might be forced to marry gays in their churches (which, legally, they are not required to do, although some churches have welcomed same-sex couples into their congregations with open arms), and the Reverend Fred Phelps threatened to bring his posse north of the border to damn us Canadians all to Hell (but I don't think he was let in, if I recall correctly). There was also a little blip back when Israel legalized SSM (but only if it was done outside the country in jurisdictions where it was already legal), but aside from that, nothing. Sure, polls are taken and reported on every once in a while, but on the whole, people all over the country are getting married, and no-one is paying much attention to whether they are gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

 

Based on our experience in Canada so far, then, I don't think that it is inevitable that legalizing SSM in the US will result in pressure on all LGBT people to enter into same-sex marriages. In fact, wider acceptance and incidence of SSM may have the (in my view) added benefit of broadening views towards the roles that religion and social institutions play within our societies. For example, the spiritual portion of George Smitherman's marriage to his partner was conducted by an Ojibway spiritual advisor, with the civil portion of the wedding conducted by a local Justice of the Peace.

 

SSM may even help to hasten the acceptance of GLBT people within society as a whole. Scott Brison's marriage to his partner was attended by 2 former Canadian Prime Ministers, among many other notables. Locals in the community near where the wedding took place pooh-poohed all the media attention at the event, one woman saying "I think it's silly that there's so much publicity over it. If he was straight, would there be quite so much publicity over his wedding?"

 

Canada's military has even got in on the act. In May of 2005, the first same-sex marriage in the Canadian military took place ON A MILITARY BASE (Canadian Forces Base Greenwood in Nova Scotia) and was presided over by a United Church minister.

 

So perhaps a question to you, Tom. Do you think that it is possible that your distrust of the legalization of SSM might have something to do with not wanting to be "accepted" by the mainstream community? Are you more comfortable being "on the outside looking in", a social pariah, perhaps because that is part of how you define yourself as a person and a source of your inner strength?

 

Not that there is anything wrong with being an outsider, of course. Some of the most interesting and thought-provoking thinkers of our time have been outsiders, either by choice or through circumstance, which may have allowed them to view society in ways that those immersed within it just could not.

 

So let me be clear: I'm not saying that you (or anyone else) should get married... I'm not sure if I myself would want to enter into what I believe is a flawed institution. But the legal rights (and responsibilities) conferred on both partners are of value, both to the couple and to society at large, and I believe that it should be an option for gays and lesbians just as it is for straights.

 

As long as there is no coercion involved in whether couples enter into marriage (same-sex or otherwise), I think that the benefits of allowing/encouraging same-sex couples to marry outweigh the drawbacks.

 

And with so many other HUGE problems that remain to be dealt with (global warming, child poverty, influence of multinationals over global politics (e.g. Iraq), destruction of the global middle classes, Africa, HIV/AIDS, where our energy for the future will come from, etc.), I don't think we can afford to spend too much time debating what, to my mind at least, is not that big a deal.

 

My $0.02. ;-)

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