On gay marriage

Peggy and I disagree about gay marriage. That and capital punishment (she favors it) might be the only two political issues about which we do disagree--not that we talk about politics much. I was ambivalent about gay marriage for years, but when I finally figured out where I stood, it wasn’t on the side of passive acceptance but of enthusiastic support. I have come to regard complete equality for homosexuals to be a Civil Rights issue that is the moral equivalent of racial and gender equality, which means that I consider the denial of marriage to homosexuals to be as unreasonable as the denial of food to black people at a North Carolina lunch counter.

Peggy says that to allow gay marriage would be to change the definition of marriage and thus to take us into unchartered waters. In response, I ask, “Why keep a thing the way it already is simply because it already is that way? Were previous generations somehow better qualified to make judgments in this area than we? I do realize that there’s more involved here than consistency, there is the tradition that goes with that consistency. After all, we’re not talking about five years of doing something a particular way; we’re talking about thousands of years. Yet, it’s not like people spent all those thousands of years purposefully choosing heterosexual marriage. It’s simply that, for whatever reason, marriage started out that way, and people didn’t give serious thought to changing it. They probably didn’t give any thought to changing it unless they were gay, and maybe not then, what with gays having enough to do just to avoid being stoned, beheaded, or burned alive, at least in the Jewish, Christian, and Moslem worlds.

Even today, I would guess that most people in this country who oppose gay marriage do so because they belong to one of these religions. One thing you can say about religion is that its mainstream is never deterred from kicking and screaming its way into doing something new simply because the new way makes sense, gives equal rights to more people, or represents greater sensitivity and compassion. By definition, there is no radical religious mainstream, which means that religion will always and forever be among the last segments of society to change, at least for the good. As to changing for the bad, the mainstream churches in Germany certainly embraced Hitler quickly enough, and, of course, there was the Inquisition, but I stray.

I love tradition too, but tradition can be a bad thing, and either way it often takes decades or centuries to change it. I’ve already seen marriage change over the decades of my life, and no one voted for the change either. When I was a boy, only lowlifes and an occasional actor got divorced. In the small town South where I grew up, divorce was a stigma that could ruin your career and would definitely hurt your social standing (my parents were both divorced, my mother once and my father four times.) It was a blame game with two losers—one of whom just didn’t lose as badly as the other. Despite the fact that my parents were both divorced, I used to hear my mother lower her voice when she said that such-and-such was a divorced man or, worse yet, a divorced woman. Is easy divorce an improvement? I doubt it, but it’s certainly a change in tradition.

Peggy would support a marriage equivalence law under which gay people would have equal rights to married people, but without using the word marriage. My problem with this is that I wouldn’t consider equality under a different designation to be equality. It would simply strike me as an agreement by which nobody got what they wanted. Obviously, gay people wouldn’t, but then the supporters of such a law wouldn’t either because they would have to live with the fact that they had weakened marriage by, in effect, dividing it into two categories, and they would also have to live with the fact that homosexuals would interpret the law to mean that their heterosexual brothers and sisters didn’t consider them good enough to use the same word to describe the same relationship. In other words, marriage equivalence would serve as a purity law. It wouldn’t have worked with interracial relationships, and it won’t work any better with homosexual ones. 

Ironically, in my view, Peggy and I were in a group marriage for two years, so I asked her how she could support group marriage but not support homosexual marriage when her reasons for opposing the latter could also be applied to the former. She said that she never took our group marriage as seriously as she took her marriage to me because the one was legal and the other wasn’t. I interpreted this to mean that she would probably oppose group marriage being made legal for the same reasons that she opposes homosexual marriage, but I didn’t ask because there are two subjects that Peggy hates, religion and politics, so when I question her about them, I keep my questions brief. On this occasion, I even promised to not respond to her answer.

As to why she hates these subjects, Peggy has no opinion about most issues because she either doesn’t care enough or feel empowered enough to think about most issues. It is also true for Peggy that her opinions of right and wrong are arrived at intuitively, and she isn’t prone to either examine them or try to win anyone over to them. This means that Peggy will probably be the last person you will see marching for or against anything (although she was instrumental in getting a smoking ban enacted at her hospital). She has only voted two or three times in her life, and the astounding thing about her voting at all was that she only did so because she wanted to see marijuana legalized in the late ‘80s. Peggy had never even used marijuana, but she knew a lot of people who did, and she could see that the penalties were out of proportion to whatever harm the drug did, so she went down and got herself registered to vote. With that little bit of wind behind her, she voted another time or two before she de-registered in order to reduce her odds of being called for jury duty.

Peggy has an unbending sense of fairness, and sometimes, in my view though certainly not in hers, this leads her to be compassionate and sometimes it just makes her seem rigid. As she sees it, sudden change in regard to marriage doesn’t seem fair to what marriage has “always been.” To me, everyday that America denies full equality to gay people is another day that those of us who are alive a few years from now—or, at worst, a few decades—will look back upon as shameful in the same way we look back upon slavery, Jim Crow, child labor, Manifest Destiny, public hangings, WWII detainment camps, denying suffrage to women, and most of our wars, as shameful.

I see equality for gays as not only of importance to the gay community but to the entire country. I see it as an act of caring, an act of saying that, yes, you are our equal; you should be treated just as we are treated; we embrace you; we welcome you, after all these years, to full-fledged citizenship. I want to be a part of a country that wants such inclusiveness because whether we grant—or deny—legal equality to gay people, heterosexual America won’t be saying anything about who gay people are, but a lot about who they are. 

I also see equality as important for the entire nation in that, despite nonbelievers like Peggy who oppose gay marriage, I have every thought that most of its opponents base their beliefs about marriage on religious grounds, so it comes down to whether we want our values regarding the rights of modern human beings to come from the Bronze Age texts that were written by Middle Eastern tribesmen who embraced what amounted to a Jewish Sharia law. Their laws often seem so unjust and their punishments so cruel by 21st American standards that even most Christians oppose them. Why then throw out so much of what they believed—including their acceptance of polygamous marriage—yet retain their bigotry toward homosexuals?


CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Well said Snow!

I wish so many of those against gay marriage would realize how many rights are given to the legally married and denied to gay people in identical situations. I've always said it's about the rights.

Deb said...

Thank you ..........

Elephant's Child said...

Loud, fist-pumping agreement from here. Sadly gay marriage isn't likely to get approved anytime soon here either which, in a largely secular country, peeves me more than I can say. It seems to me that a noisy religious minority has hijacked (again) our politicians. Hiss and spit. And this is a subject where I will happily march. Have marched, and will again.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've never completely understood either side of the argument. I can't, for example, quite understand why some gay people feel so strongly about having something officially called "marriage" as opposed to a civil contract, although I don't mind if they do certainly. I also can't understand why any heterosexual would give a crap whether two consenting adults who also happen to be gay got "married" or not. Too me, it "should be" the biggest non issue of our time.

bluzdude said...

Every advancement in the history of civilization was, at one time or another, a step into uncharted waters. Eventually, everything becomes "charted." In this case, why withhold rights from an entire subset of people just because it's always been that way?

We're either a country of theoretical equals, or we're not. We don't get to be "America, Home of the Free," while stripping rights from people for the sole basis of the way they were born.

PhilipH said...

I'm a married man, 100% heterosexual. The thought of two males having some sort of 'intercourse' turns my stomach, so I very seldom think about it.
But because it does not actually interfere with MY life I honestly don't care if 'gays' get spliced in a church, on a yacht or anywhere else. Just don't ask me to be 'best man' at their betrothal! I just couldn't do it!
If two lesbians were to ask me then I might actually consider this. Female gays don't bother me one iota. It's just that I cannot feel the same about two men having sex.
The main bugbear, imo, is the way the 'law' gives married people privileges in tax and other things. Why is this? Keep marriage and other unions out of politics entirely.
What's scared me today was when I heard a report on the BBC radio "Today" programme about a new American TV drama called The Bible. It's apparently hugely successful in the USA, and that is scary! One of the actors, a Moroccan bloke, plays Satan. There is now much brou-ha-ha in American saying that Satan is OBAMA. How bloody stupid are you Yanks? (Not you, Snowy, you're one of the 20% minority re belief in this biblical crap).
Gawd 'elp us, one and all (as Tiny Tim didn't say, but should have!)

Myrna R. said...

You write so well. Of course I especially like it when I so totally agree with you. Thanks for voicing this.

Snowbrush said...

"Thank you .........."

Thank you, Deb. I was so delighted to write something that brings you joy for a change, although I do realize that you agree with some of what I have to say even on the subject of religion.

I didn't anticipate much disagreement about this post because I figured that those who do disagree aren't likely to say so, and, so far, that appears to be the case. I was no doubt inspired to write it when I did because it's a major news item here in the US where the Supreme Court is hearing arguments regarding it. Meanwhile, public acceptance of gay marriage is growing rapidly with 51% now in favor of it. I've been astounded by how rapidly public perception has shifted.

"The thought of two males having some sort of 'intercourse' turns my stomach"

Yes, it held me back in coming out for gay marriage. One thing that helped me, though, in deciding how I felt was that the national media here have interviewed a great many longterm homosexual couples who talked about their relationships and their societal/legal difficulties, and once you put a human face to a problem like this, you're halfway to a resolution. And it's also true that my revulsion over men having anal sex disappears if one of the men is replaced by a woman, so it became clear to me that it wouldn't be right for me to deny other people marriage based upon my personal feelings over what is a turn-on versus what is a gross-out.

"I can't, for example, quite understand why some gay people feel so strongly about having something officially called "marriage" as opposed to a civil contract"

And at a time when heterosexuals aren't marrying as much. I think the point is that you can't have full equality under another name. Even if every last legal reason for marriage was eliminated, the only reason I can think of for defining it as a heterosexual institution is that homosexuals are in some way seen as less-than and therefore unworthy to be married. Once you see them as truly equal, then your basis for denying them marriage disappears.

Strayer said...

I want gays to be treated the same too, allowed to marry. Seems to be so backwards, stupid and controlling when people claim homosexuality is a choice. I see it happen with some animals, even watched dumbfounded as four cat brothers took turns on each other in an Albany trailer park. It's part of freedom, too. To live and let live and not try to control one another, because of various beliefs we hold.

I understand Peggy's worry about redefining an age old word. But I'm not averse to redefinement.

klahanie said...

Greeting Snowbrush,

My apologies for not visiting you blog of recent.

You have written, a thoughtful, articulate and rather lengthy posting. Much to ponder. However, I shall use brevity in my reply to your posting to which I heartily agree with.

I'm personally all for gay marriage with the complete same rights as a heterosexual couple. As an added thought, I see somebody for who they are as a person and not their sexual preference.

Be well, my friend. Thank you for this posting.

In kindness and goodwill,


Kerry said...

"I’ve already seen marriage change over the decades of my life, and no one voted for the change either." That's a good point. I like that.

Gay marriage doesn't bother me; I don't get how it's a threat to anything but tradition. There are so many much-worse problems the world should grapple with; I wish this could be agreed-upon & laid to rest.

Snowbrush said...

Gosh, all this agreement. I'm not used it.

I just added a little to a sentence about Peggy, so I'm going to put it here for those who have already read the post:

"This means that Peggy will probably be the last person you will see marching for or against anything (although she was instrumental in getting a smoking ban enacted at her hospital)."

It was important that I added this so as not to give an inaccurate impression of Peggy, because she certainly has it in her to take action when something gets her dander up. I'll never forget the war she once waged with Burger King (this was long, long ago in another life in another land, as it were) because an item on their menu was listed as being a cent cheaper than the price at which it was being charged.

Lorraina said...

In my sly observations of many marriages it seems to me that lot's of heterosexual couples hardly know each other, many are like opposites and most don't get along in all situations yet they grin and bare it and stay together sometimes suffering every inch of the way. Meanwhile the homosexual couples are finishing each others sentences, know exactly what the other one is thinking at all times, they have the same taste and beliefs in just about everything and there's no need to compromise because they both want the same thing. However,it's those gay couples who split and move on and so easily find another perfect partner again very quickly and are soon set up in another perfect looking life together and the scenerio is repeated time and time again. Meanwhile the heterosexuals grow further apart but still stick together like as if they have the perfect marriage or at least they're willing to wait until it happens. Go figure.

Joe Pereira said...

I'm in full agreement with you ,Snow. And as you rightly say “Why keep a thing the way it is simply because it already is that way?
Innequality is wrong and therefore must be abolished - as are other forms of prejudism and the revenge killings carried out by some governments under the unjust guise of Capital Punishment.

All Consuming said...

I'm sure you already know I'm with you entirely here. I went to a beautiful civil ceremony the other weekend where two of my oldest friends became mrs and mrs. There was hardly a dry eye in the house, they've been together for over 25 years, and only now have felt able to stand up to one of their mothers who goes beyond thinking it is wrong for gay folks to marry, she wades well into a complete bigoted bitch status. It's ridiculous to deny people the right to marry the person they love. I don't dwell upon their sex life anymore than they do mine I'm sure.Perhaps some who find the thought of men having sex together so abhorrent but women doing it together ok might bear in mind the existence of strap-ons for a moment. That still wouldn't be anywhere near as uncomfortable (no pun intended hahaha - sorry) I'm guessing. It's an interesting one, opinions sculpted somewhat by the media and religeon so far as how male genetalia is portrayed and thought of in this wee world of ours. Great post hon, you just get better in my eyes you know *smiles. X

possum said...

I actually have an uninterrupted morning – NO PEOPLE – and am celebrating by reading your posts. It seems these last 2 posts really go together so well… I had a couple of lesbian friends about 30 years ago who decided adoption was the way to make “things legal” for them. The idea of marriage was just too preposterous back then and they lived in serious Bible belt territory. So, they went out of state to a cousin’s place, cousin was a lawyer, her daddy the judge, and the older woman adopted the younger. In time this proved to be of great benefit as the older one got cancer. As the “daughter” the younger was allowed familial rights that would not have been there otherwise. Of course, power of attorney was needed anyway, but it was an arrangement that worked for them.
I don’t have any strong feelings about the concept of marriage, I can see the limited interpretation of a male and female union to produce offspring, but marriage is so much more than that under the law. And when religion and the law get messed up in people’s sex lives – but here I need to qualify that with ‘consenting adults’…
Then, too along comes the question of adoption of children. I have found however that kids adjust much better to being adopted by gay couples then by being adopted into a family of a different race… far less hostility as they grow into their later teens. Will the human race ever get things worked out?
I, too, have lost friends when they are unable to lure me into their church and get me “saved.” I have spent much of my life searching for “answers” and have found being a Buddhist of sorts gives me Peace. Do no harm is a good rule to live by. Christians seldom know Buddhists are for the most part atheistic, so they don’t get quite as upset and hell bent on saving my butt. But is a friend truly a friend when they feel the need to change you into what they think they believe you should believe?

Vagabonde said...

I think your post is brilliantly written and I agree with you totally. What really surprised me, as an immigrant from Europe (now naturalized citizen) is that the people here keep saying how free they are, how much freer than any other country, but then go ahead and refuse to give the same freedom to a segment of their own citizens. I understand that most people here are Christians or afraid to say anything against Christians because of politics, but when I became a citizen I had to read the Constitution and other documents. How can you declare that there are equal rights for everyone in this country then deny rights to some people because of their sexual preference? To me this is un-American according to the Constitution.
I read how kids of gay parents on army bases don’t have the same rights as kids of other parents- how can the US military have different sets of rules for US citizens serving their country? When they are in enemy territory, do they ask their servicemen and women what are their sexual preferences before telling them to get into a Jeep? I just don’t understand it at all. I could understand it from an obscure 3rd country where most people are illiterate but in a first world country, the most powerful country? How can that be? How can people here be against such equal rights and not feel full of shame?


Thanks Snow!! Very touching!!

If I may,
you and Philip, don't think of us having sex, though Philip said he only "seldom" thought about it.
Why "seldom"? And I promise I won't think of you guys having sex with your respective wives. Deal?!?
The thought doesn't appeal any more to me than you guys in my case.

Something you said about Peggy:
"As she sees it, sudden change in regard to marriage doesn’t seem fair to what marriage has “always been.”

Sudden change?
We've been battling this issue for over 20 years. We won, here, in Canada., as in many other countries, and our society has not collapsed. It's just business as usual, for everyone!!

What marriage has always been.
Choosing your mate, marrying "for love" in general is relatively recent in Mankind's History. It wasn't that long that women were used (almost like cattle, in some places) in some fixed marriages to unite two families and secure a position within their society at the time, either to find power and/or money. So, while some would like to forget these kinds of details and think that things as they are currently were always that way, they would be mistaken.

Things evolve, one way or the other, and once again, it brings the question: perpetuating a second-class status for some of its citizens, or a society choosing to embrace all in true fairness and equality.

I find it surprising for a country believed to be one of the strongest and boldest in the world, to be so reactionary. Given your history, I would have expected better.

Why? Why are you so afraid of what WE do in the dark? We don't care what YOU do!! It's NONE of OUR business!!!