Thursday, November 5, 2009
About Gay Marriage
I’ve been thinking about the Maine vote repealing a law allowing gay marriage.
As some of you know, I've always been pretty moderate on this issue. I’d like to be able to get married, but the fact that I can’t doesn’t change the degree of love I share with my partner. The most important thing is still there, no matter what.
That said, I do think the government must treat gay and straight couples the same legally. The resulting arrangement doesn’t have to be called marriage. Civil unions, partnerships, whatever – that’s all fine with me. For example, I’d be happy if we worked on the federal level to eliminate the tax burden on gay couples who share health insurance, or if we mandated hospital visitation rights for gay partners. I can do without "marriage," per se.
I can respect the fact that some people believe marriage to be a religious sacrament, and they’re not ready to extend it to gay relationships. I want to be sensitive to religious differences and make room for that hesitation.
(It then becomes legitimate to ask whether government should be sanctioning an act with fundamentally religious underpinnings. Perhaps government shouldn’t “marry” people at all – perhaps that’s the role of the church, and government should recognize only partnerships, gay and straight.)
However, I think the hesitation of opponents is rooted mostly in fear. Churches and the political right have waged a battle of disinformation with the American public. They’ve told voters that if gay marriage passes, their children will be indoctrinated and society will fall apart. As absurd as it sounds, it’s been a very effective message. No matter how progressive they may feel themselves to be, few parents want their children to be gay, and they’ll take steps to prevent it if they believe they can. I think that’s what we’ve been seeing at the ballot box.
If I could tell the voters of this country one thing, it would be this: “Your children will not choose to be gay because there’s gay marriage. But if you do have a gay child, he or she may lead a happier, more secure life because marriage will be possible. Your straight kids won’t care one way or another.”
As for God, well, I think he or she would approve wholeheartedly of gay marriage. But as I said, if people aren’t willing to go there yet, I can work with that. Just don’t sock me in my pocketbook or prevent me from visiting my partner in the hospital. Recognize that my partnership is the legal equivalent of a marriage, if not identical according to your social and religious definition.
There are people who think, justifiably, that "separate but equal" is fundamentally unequal. They're right. But it's also better to move ahead incrementally than backslide because we're demanding more than people are ready to give. Eventually, we'll get there -- I have no doubt.
(Photo: Tables and chairs on Broadway in front of Macy's, Herald Square, Nov. 2009)