Wednesday, June 18, 2008

California's Newlyweds

For some reason or no reason at all, we haven't been focusing much attention on the topic of marriage equality. But this week gay and lesbian Californians got the right to marry, and lots and lots of them have been taking advantage of the opportunity.

The L.A. Times:
After all the angst and hoopla, the first full day of same-sex marriage in California on Tuesday turned out to be almost placid, if you discounted the whoops of celebration or the courthouse crushes of brides and brides, and grooms and grooms.

The weight of history, the sense that this was a signal moment in the decades-long battle for gay rights, was lightened by joy and relief as couples -- some of whom had waited decades to marry -- took their vows amid smiling friends, proud relatives and beaming government officials.

Aside from a few low-key demonstrations, opponents of same-sex marriage largely stayed away from the celebratory scenes being played out at county buildings statewide, concluding that acrimony would probably detract from their November ballot measure to change the state Constitution to outlaw the practice.

Behind the scenes, though, the seeds of what could be an epic political battle were being sown.

For hundreds of gay and lesbian couples, Tuesday was a day that intertwined the personal and the political.

Chelsea Thompson, 24 of Anaheim and Bonni Millon, 24, of Long Beach arrived at the Los Angeles County clerk's office in Norwalk at 10 p.m. Monday to save their place in line.

"It's a monumental day," Millon said shortly before the clerk's office opened Tuesday morning. "We're changing history and we wanted to be a part of that and support the other people." Gay marriages begin with a day of hope and hoopla

To me, this "controversy" is a perfect example of the kind of divisive issue that has tied our country in knots in recent years. The issue is ... what again? The issue is that a majority of people are heterosexual, they can't imagine loving someone of their own sex, and so they don't think it should be allowed. There's no other sense in opposing it.

Does anybody deny that gay people can love one another? That gay couples can stay together for a lifetime? That gay couples can raise children and love them and have them grow up to be good, respectable adults? There's really no doubt about any of this.

And there really is no case that allowing gay people to marry will somehow affect the strength of anybody else's marriage. It seems to me that the simplest step of logic proves that there is no causal relationship at all between one couple's marriage and the stability of another couple's. And the "institution of marriage" -- so it changes, opposite-sex couples will continue to fall in love and marry, start families and fight over the remote, gay people marrying doesn't change any of that. There's no threat to the institution of marriage.

There are those who think it's not a real marriage because gay couples can't reproduce without outside help. But I doubt those same people would believe that individuals who are sterile for some reason -- say a war veteran who has been injured and can't produce sperm or ova -- shouldn't marry, or older people, say widows and widowers who are unable to have children, or don't want to. That's not much of a reason to stop people who want to marry from doing it. The stability of a family seems like reason enough, the commitment and the responsibilities and the privileges of the promise of a lifetime together, you don't have to have kids to have a marriage.

I think the bottom line is that it's just hard for people to imagine a life different from our own. We expect people to be like ourselves, and when they aren't there is some tendency to judge them negatively. And this egocentric tendency forms a kind of cornerstone for the belief system that has in recent years been called "conservatism:" it's the identity politics of the majority.

Most of us realize, at some level, that we do tend to favor our personal point of view, and we correct for that. It takes some effort to grant someone the benefit of the doubt, but we do that, we realize that our own personal world is not The World.

Californians will be voting on the legality of same-sex marriage in November. I used to live there, I know there are a lot of conservative and small-minded people there, besides the stereotypical hippies and cosmic New Age space-cases. Besides LA and San Francisco there is a huge inner valley of small towns, farmland, oilfields, it is an oversimplification to think of California as a Blue State just because of a couple of coastal cities. The vote could go either way, but I think that a few months with these marriages being recognized by law will make it easier for people to accept the reasonableness of marriage equality. California will not likely we wiped out by acts of God before November, life will not change for most people in any noticeable way as our society evolves, as the arc continues to bend toward justice.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not Anon
I heard Peter Sprigg speak on this- don't know how my TV got tuned to the Showernut channel. He said that allowing same sex couples to marry says that the marriage between a man and woman is nothing special. well, if that is the way Peter feels about his marriage, that is sad. I have been married 25 years this year(thanks, an espresso machine would be a nice gift) and my marriage is not lessened by allowing any two people who love each other to marry.

June 18, 2008 1:27 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

As Tom Toles pointed out today, it's not the institution of marriage that is threatened, it is the institution of cake.

June 18, 2008 4:55 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...

One among many vignettes: On Sunday, my wife, our two sons, and our older son's partner helped with our synagogue's table at the Capital Pride Festival. At the end of the day, I was returning to our car with some of the materials we had brought, cutting behind an apartment building and walking through a beautiful garden. At the end of the garden, there was a stage where a gay men's trio was singing, "Going to the chapel, and we're/Gonna get married/Going to the Chapel/Of Love." As I walked closer, reflecting on a wonderful Father's Day with my children and the children of too many fathers who had walked away from their children's love and listening to the sweet words and music of the song, I felt the warmth of the moment. Who could oppose such happiness?

June 18, 2008 5:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

“And there really is no case that allowing gay people to marry will somehow affect the strength of anybody else's marriage.”

Ah, but they try. The official Web site for the California Marriage Protection Act - Protect Marriage, lists some essays by Focus on the Family’s Glenn Stanton. In one of them he says:

"How Your Same-sex Family Will Harm My Family

If this were just about your family, there would be no real danger. But same-sex “marriage” advocates are not seeking marriage for you alone, but rather demanding me — and all of us — to radically change our understanding of family. And that will do great damage."

The "danger" of course, being in the fact that they, and their children, would have to *think* about it.

He continues: "Your same-sex family will teach my little boys and girls that husband/wife and mother/father are merely optional for the family and therefore, meaningless."

As opposed to divorce, which doesn’t affect children in any way. Try it now:

"Your divorce will teach my little boys and girls that husband/wife and mother/father are merely optional for the family and therefore, meaningless."

June 18, 2008 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG...I am sure we can expect an avalanche of garment rending, hair pulling, the vapors, gnashing of teeth, usual bible-thumping, and what have you from the various "Anonymi" (or is it really only one?) when he/she reads this entry. We are going to be assaulted with every dire prediction you could ever think of: "it's the end of civilazion", "proof that the end days are upon us", "God will surely punish ALL of us (even the folks in Lima, Peru - no doubt) for this horrendous situation","the sacred institution of marriage will never recover from this sick, evil attack", "further proof that the Homosexual Agenda is being carried out systematically", and piles and piles more of this bile and horse excrement! I can't wait for the moans and groans so that I can give a good, heartfelt Bronx cheer to "Anonymous"

June 18, 2008 6:35 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

“No No! They’re still living the gay lifestyle, it’s just promiscuity with the same person. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, happy thoughts…”

June 18, 2008 10:39 PM  
Blogger Zoe Brain said...

Here's a post from a guy I used to know, dated 2003:


There's been a lot in the media about "Gay Marriage" recently. Though not much in the Australian Media, just reactions to the Pope's "ex cathedra" encyclical.

Now I'm a Homophobe. I'm against Homosexuality.

I think it should be discouraged - though not eradicated. Some, maybe most, have no choice, it's the way they are, the way their Brain is wired up. If they're Gay by choice, well, it's their life, not mine. To Eradicate Homosexuality would be to engage in Genocide - a bit like curing a freckle on the cheek (which some find attractive, others not) by decapitation.

But.... discouraging Homosexuality is decidedly Not a Problem. Society does discourage Homosexuality, in a thousand and more ways. Even in Australia, which (from what I've read) is vastly more tolerant of Gays than the US. Note I use the word "tolerant" rather than "accepting" or "approving". It's an abnormal lifestyle, but abnormal most emphatically is not "wrong". I'm abnormal by Australian standards inasmuch as I have exactly zero interest in "Footie" of any description, and find Sports in general to be far less interesting than, say, the lifecycles of Clams, or the difference in suspensions between a UK Class 42 and Class 43 Diesel-Hydraulic locomotive. Most Australians tolerate my peculiarity, while not approving of my deviant behaviour. I'm abnormal, and proud of it. "It takes all kinds" as they say. I have no wish to be psychologically "cured" of my abnormality, even though that would have certain social advantages. And it's nowhere near as important to me as their Sexual orientation is to most people, Gays or Straights.

I think Homosexuality should be discouraged. But Society doesn't just discourage Homosexuality, it persecutes it. That's wrong. It's not just wrong, it's very, very wrong indeed.

Yes, things are far better than they were even 10 years ago, and vastly better than 20 years ago. But we've got a long way to go.

As Robert Louis Stevenson said,

If we take matrimony at it's lowest, we regard it as a sort of friendship recognised by the police.

And therein lies the rub. Marriage is a state recognised by the Law. If your partner is sick or incapacitated, being Married to them gives you certain rights - such as to see them in Intensive Care, and even to make decisions as to whether "Heroic Measures" should be continued if they're on life support and unlikely to recover. It gives rights of inheritance. It gives property rights in case the partnership is dissolved in divorce.

To deny the right of a Man to see his dying Husband, to deny a Woman the right to inherit her Wife's possessions after 30 years together, that's just inhuman.

I can't say that I'd like my 2-year-old Son to come to me in twelve or twenty years time and say "Dad, here's my Boyfriend." But I'd want to meet his partner anyway, and far rather have him in a gay relationship that makes him happy than a straight one which is a misery. If my wife and I turn up our toes in an untimely way, I'd far rather he be adopted by a caring and responsible Gay couple than even a slightly less caring straight one.

The trouble is, that Gays are at the mercy of people like me. We vote, and we vote for people who say they'll do things the way we want them to. I keep on trying to imagine if Homosexuality was the norm, and Straights like myself were at the legislative mercy of the Gay majority, and the thought fills me with dread. How must it feel for them, here and now? Especially when some seemingly-sane person like myself reveals his ugly little prejudice?

There's overwhelming evidence for greater, more equal rights for Gays. Some remarkable injustices have been committed within living memory. Consider the one man most responsible for the defeat of Nazism, Alan Turing. Despite his accomplishments, he was persecuted after the war, tried and convicted in Courts for the abominable crime of Buggery. He was sentenced to a course of hormonal treatments. He committed suicide soon after.

Enough. More than Enough. Let's show some common decency and humanity and make the law non-discriminatory when it comes to marriage. There's plenty more discrimination in other areas, far too much of it in fact. As for Churches - let them follow their own dogma, or conscience, or both. This isn't a religious question, it's a matter of law, justice, and common humanity.

As for my homophobia? Well, my Gay friends tolerate it. Which is rather decent of them, and rather more than I have a right to ask.


After a short illness in 2005, this guy is no longer with us. At the end, it was a blessed release for him. But his words, and his call for humanity despite homophobia, live on.

June 19, 2008 10:38 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Who wrote that, Zoe?


June 20, 2008 6:24 AM  
Blogger Zoe Brain said...

A guy called Alan. Used to write for one of the first group blogs, Command Team or something like that.

June 21, 2008 9:16 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Thanks, Zoe, I hope he has passed on to a better life.


June 21, 2008 11:09 AM  

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