Gay marriage

The latest chapter in the fight over gay marriage begins this week with the effort to get California Proposition 8 shot down in federal court. The proposition to restrict marriage to heterosexual unions in California passed in 2008 and it’s already survived a challenge in state court. The federal challenge, I assume, could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and have repercussions for the many laws, banning same-sex marriages, that have been passed in states all around the country.

For the record, I agree with Barack Obama and the runner-up in the Miss USA pageant that marriage has been and should remain a union between a woman and a man.

My view on this subject has always made me a little uncomfortable because most of the people I associate with seem to disagree with me. We’ve become a nation in which people of different political persuasions have very little to do with each other. (Read Bill Bishop’s book “The Big Sort” to learn more about this) We work in different jobs. We live in different neighborhoods and run in different social circles. My tribe is liberal/academic. So my opinion on gay marriage has made me feel like an enemy sympathizer in the American culture war.

It may be cliché but it’s no exaggeration to say marriage is one of the pillars of our civilization. Yes, it has changed over the years but it has always been a joining of female to male and I have yet to hear a good enough reason to change that. There is a fundamental difference between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples (the ability to have children together, in case anyone was wondering) and I believe the law can take that into account.  

The debate over gay marriage has raised an issue of human rights and I’m glad it has. It has made me realize that everyone, gay or straight, must be able to choose a life partner… someone who supports you, loves you, and speaks for you in serious or dire situations. I think reasonable people agree that all committed partnerships should enjoy government support and recognition. But we disagree on whether partnerships among same-sex couples should be called a marriage or a civil union.

Courts have disagreed on this matter as well. I can’t know how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the question, though I could hazard a guess. What’s very clear is that the majority of American voters, from California to Maine, aren’t ready for gay marriage.

Will they ever be? It’s possible and it may even be likely. Polls show that young people are much more open to the idea. But to say gay marriage in America is inevitable is a bold statement to make in the face of more than 30 state votes on the question, every one of which concluded that marriage should remain a heterosexual union. Personally, I don’t think we can accept gay marriage until we conclude that having children is incidental, not fundamental, to marriage.

Some folks seem to think that all people who oppose gay marriage are homophobic. That’s like saying that anyone who criticizes the state of Israel is anti-Semitic. There are good people on both sides of this debate, and I hope we can keep the discussion civilized until all the people have voted and all the courts have ruled. I’m looking forward to some resolution of this issue, but we’ve got a ways to go.

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3 Comments on “Gay marriage”

  1. Jim Fudge Says:

    Tom, I tend to be ambivalent about the desire of gay and lesbian couples to marry even though I know that my dear friend, Jerral, holds to a strong case that everyone has the right to be included, whether one is a heterosexual or if one is gay. So, it seems to me that all of us must agree to disagree on this matter. It is a passionate subject either way and can divide friendships.

  2. Jerral Miles Says:

    Your point of view on preserving marriage as the exclusive privilege of men who wish to marry woman and women who wish to marry men might make some sense if we weren’t saddled with the burden of a constitution which guarantees equal rights for all citizens. Some other rights for privileged groups of citizens thought to be “pillars of OUR civilization,” have been ruled unconstitutional, and eventually the Supreme Court will acknowledge and rule that keeping marriage as an exclusive right of heterosexual couples violates the Constitution. There was a time when the exclusive rights of white male property owners were thought to be more important than the rights of people who happened not to belong to that class. White male property owners considered their special privileges to be a fundamental pillar of THEIR civilization. Long after the Supreme Court cleared up that matter and gave the right to vote, for example to women and others outside the privileged class, many in OUR civilization thought it was an assault on civilization to allow a black man to marry a white woman or a white man to marry a black man. That too was eventually acknowledged by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional, and now we have as President a man who is the son of a black man and white woman.

    And your point that there is a fundamental difference between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples is also strangely naive for someone whose “tribe is liberal/academic.” If, as you argue, procreation is the point of marriage, senior citizens and otherwise infertile couples should not be allowed to marry. If we take your approach to marriage, perhaps we should give heterosexual couples who marry a certain period of time in which to produce offspring. If they fail to produce children, they might be allowed to continue as domestic partners; but surely they should not continue to use the word marriage to describe their union.

    Homes built around marriage of one person with another person, with or without children, is a stabilizing factor in society; and union and commitment between same gender couples doesn’t destabilize opposite gender marriages in any neighborhoods that I have observed or have heard described. Allowing same gender couples to cohabit and to call themselves domestic partners but forbidding them the use of the term marriage to describe their union seems to me to be juvenile at best and perhaps simply dumb.

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