Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mawwiage

This summer I counted, and no exaggeration, I am an unmarried person who has been to 73 weddings since I was 4 years old, most I have attended since I was 23. I have signed two ketubas and one marriage certificate. I have been in the bridal party of seven of the weddings. I would say, and this is a guess, of the 73 weddings I have cried at 50 of them. Even though I am still single, I still love weddings - even if it sometimes causes me to temporarily and melodramatically dwell sadly on my lack of relationship success. However, this self wallowing is eventually overcome by acknowledging the optimistic beauty of two people who commit to join together through the bonds of love to journey through life as a team ready to encounter whatever emerges, be it the good or the bad.

I know this notion of marriage is idealistic, especially when about one in two marriages end in divorce. But isn’t this continued idealism central to the American spirit that “anything and everything is possible?” It is not this pursuit of the American dream that has made our country, albeit flawed, so great? Think of the basketball player shooting free throws repeatedly outside during the middle of winter to perfect his shot; the immigrant who opens a restaurant with a menu full of food from his native country hoping to provide a better life for his family; the artist who lives in poverty trying to get discovered to someday make a living; the researcher who works with tiny cells hoping to find a cure for cancer. All of these people pursue their goals because they are driven by the idealism that is their right, as an American, to strive for happiness.

This foundation is based on the 17th century philosopher John Locke’s writings that: “Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect freedom, and an uncontrolled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature, equally with any other man, or number of men in the world, hath by nature a power, not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men.” (source: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1690locke-sel.html)

This notion of liberty is taken further in the U.S. Declaration of Independence that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Source: http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/index.htm

The next logical question is, “what defines happiness?” Happiness is anything that does not infringe on the natural rights of others. Just because it might make you happy to kill two people, doesn’t mean that it is your natural right to do so because of the harm it inflicts on the two people and their families.

If, as Americans we believe in this idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then laws such as Proposition 8 in California must be repealed or declared unconstitutional and gay marriage should be federally legalized so that all marriages are recognized in every state in the country.

Last week, I spoke with a middle aged woman from California who couldn’t disagree with me more. “I have friends who are gay. I’ve sent them gifts for their commitment ceremonies. I wish them all the love in the world. But you will never convince me differently, marriage is between a man and a woman and that’s final.”

And you know what, she has a right to her opinion. In a way, I know where she’s coming from. I don’t entirely understand homosexuality, but I entirely understand very little when it comes down to it. I have no idea why I’m a heterosexual and why others are homosexual. I cannot relate to the two guys at Whole Foods holding hands choosing which soda to buy. But should opinion or ignorance or lack of understanding alone be the basis of legislation or should the constitutional foundations of our democracy serve as the guideline? She may think that marriage is between a man and a woman, just like there have been people throughout history who have thought that voting was a right only to be held by white men, that blacks and whites should not be able to marry and that Jews should not be welcomed in certain neighborhoods. Eugenics, racism, Nazism, are all based on opinions, but they are opinions that violate the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” that we, as Americans, hold sacred, more sacred than any one line from the Hebrew Bible.

If members of the GLBT community believe that marriage will provide them with happiness, then why should they not be allowed to marry? If liberty means equality under the law, then why shouldn’t GLBTs be allowed to obtain the full rights accorded nationwide by marriage? If two members of the same sex want to join together through the bonds of love to journey through life as a team ready to encounter whatever emerges be it the good or the bad, why as fellow Americans, as heterosexual Americans, not wish them all the best.

And if it so happens that my 74th wedding is a gay one, just let me know if it’s casual, semi formal or formal, so I know what dress to wear (or buy), where you are registered, and please invite me with a date if there’s not a lot of single people attending, because it sucks to sit through a wedding alone while everyone is dancing. And please. Make sure your wedding planner does not put me at the kid’s table. I know they are single too, but come on!

Coverage from the LA Times

Mawwiage clip

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

@ken

I was brought up in CA schools and we never learned about marriage. Maybe future students will when they read about this marriage fight in their history books.

The government applies certain limits to allow society to function. Hence not allowing a brother and sister to marry or marrying of/to minors. These limits are what societal standards dictate. Slowly these standards will change will allow gay marriage, and our laws will change, it is only a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

If gay marriage is permitted at the federal level (assuming that the states have no right to legislate the issue differently than a federal mandate), then what criteria are there for entering into a domestic partnership? Exploring this question, the idea of any type of domestic partnership as a basis for "spousal" benefits falls apart. So, anyone willing to align themselves via some commitment contract becomes eligible to be a default beneficiary of an estate, receive family health care coverage, co-sign on legal ownership documents, receive social security benefits from a departed partner, etc. Terrible movie, but think "Chuck and Larry" as a reasonable scenario without the need to pretend to have an intimate relationship. This issue is financial and legal, not about the sanctity of an institution. I would suggest that a federal mandate to allow same-sex unions would have a major impact on our employer-based health care system as well as on some governmental programs. To be honest, I don't know if that impact is positive or negative, but it should be clearly stated as it impacts all domestic partnerships, heterosexual and homosexual.

Anonymous said...

The proponents of gay marriage are not seeking civil liberty. They are seeking societal acceptance. They want their relationships to be elevated to the status of marriage to obtain defacto approval of their sexual orientation. This is their true goal.

The majority in this country are unwilling to accept what they perceive to be a dilution of their marriage commitments. This stalemate will result in only one viable political solution - that marriage will no longer be a legally recognized institution/entity. This will have serious repercussions as many laws are designed around this legal entity (insurance benefits, social security, inheritance, etc.).

In the end, the majority will have a cherished institution destroyed by those seeking it, and those seeking it will find they gained nothing but the ill-will of those whose approval they sought.

adam mclane said...

I really dig this commentary as well... especially the references. When was the last time you saw that on a blog?

I'm guessing that I'm the only evangelical posting here. As a Californian... I really don't know many young evangelicals who voted "Yes" on 8. It seems the consensus is that this is a justice issue. For me, the saddest thing is that some folks in the GLBT community blame evangelicals for the proposals loss.

I think tides are turning. Outside of the major metros CA is pretty conservative... a couple more years and it'll go through.

JCB said...

@ken:

It's misleading at best (though understandable, because of the mainstream press) to suggest that black people "made the difference" in the vote on Prop 8. Or that the difference was from the new voters brought to the polls by Obama in general, for that matter. Check out FiveThirtyEight's statistical analysis of the issue: http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/11/prop-8-myths.html. Money quote: "Now, it's true that if new voters had voted against Prop 8 at the same rates that they voted for Obama, the measure probably would have failed. But that does not mean that the new voters were harmful on balance -- they were helpful on balance. If California's electorate had been the same as it was in 2004, Prop 8 would have passed by a wider margin."

Turning to the rest of your comment:

Same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue -- as long as marriage is a civil institution that confers civil benefits, access to it will be a civil rights issue. To consider your analogy, I think Mr. and Mrs. Loving in 1967 Virginia (see: Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1) would be surprised to learn that the civil rights movement hit a wall after lunch counters and schools. Your arguments against same-sex marriage are tired. This whole pipefitting complentarity thing; the dismissal of happiness as an interest; the comparisons to incest and pedophilia. It's cold. And it rings less true to more people with each passing year -- as evidenced by the shrinking poll numbers in California (not shrunken enough yet, sadly, but soon...) and the opinions of the younger generations nation-wide.

Oh, and the fear for the children. The "what about the kids" argument. The idea that same-sex marriage would have been taught in schools had Prop 8 not passed is an interesting new tactical argument brought forth by the "Yes on 8" crowd. But it's silly, of course. For any number of reasons. But in the end, it's silly because you've already lost the kids, Ken. They haven't been learning about same-sex marriage in school -- they still think it's right.

That majority you cling to that thinks civil unions is enough -- it's getting smaller every year.

herman said...

This whole California horse and pony show was about pushing a gay agenda onto an unwilling population. California gays still have more civil rights than you can shake a stick at. The one thing they can't do is convince people that marriage is other than a heterosexual union. If they do succeed, marriage will lose value, and the gay agenda will continue its march towards forced indoctrination, etc.

JCB said...

@ken:

Just a few comments...

(1) I trust you'll understand my preference of reliable statistical data over your gut instinct about what made a difference in the Prop 8 vote.

(2) In California, it's actually exactly as easy to repeal a constitutional amendment passed by the initiative process as it is to pass it in the first place. The difficult part is raising the money to gather the signatures to put the initiative on the ballot. Though it of course wouldn't have been necessary without Prop 8's passage, the ability to more easily gather that (and similarly needed) money here in California (and elsewhere) is--in my opinion--the one positive result of the vote.

(3) I didn't say you were clinging to civil unions. Without knowing you, I couldn't even be sure what that would mean in your case. What I said was that you were clinging to a fragile majority that is, for the moment, content with civil unions (as opposed to marriage).

(4) Again, I trust you'll understand if I don't consider the "legal analysis" of right-wing Christian radicals to be dispositive. For the record, the "analysis" offered by the AFA (and you) is rife with nonsense. It circularly assumes its conclusion about the nature of marriage, and then leaps along the way back to that conclusion. And its discussion of anti-miscegenation laws as a comparison to anti-same-sex marriage laws is similarly confused: Anti-same-sex marriage laws don't keep gay people from marrying, in just the same way that anti-miscegenation laws didn't keep black or white people from marrying. Gay people can currently marry people of the opposite sex, just like black people of old could marry black people. Neither is or was kept from marriage as such. One group was kept from inter-marriage, while the other is being kept from intra-marriage. I challenge you (and the AFA) to find a legally significant difference in that distinction. (And no, that remedying the latter would "redefine" marriage where remedying the former did not is not sufficient -- that's just revisionist history.) The rest of the AFA "analysis" is simply your old biological pipefittings argument in another form. As I suggested in my earlier comment, suffice it to say that--AFA and their/your cohorts aside--both the courts and the public are increasingly less willing to allow their pipes and fittings to guide their legal and moral views.

Peace, JCB

Ken Salkover said...

JCB (like the Japanese credit card?),
Here's a gay blogger who specifically blames black people:
http://www.bilerico.com/2008/11/race_sexuality_and_proposition_8.php
I headed over to 538.com and noted that he blames old people, and thinks they're going to die off, and that this will go through easily in a few years. Two problems with that theory, and your concurrence thereto: 1. You are asking Californians to change their minds on a measure they've voted on twice: once in 2000, and once this year. 2. We're still talking about repealing a constitutional amendment, and if that's as easy as adding one, I would be very surprised. It couldn't be. Then amendments would carry no weight whatsoever. Another note: the shameful way some anti-Prop 8 voters have protested and lashed out at religious institutions has repulsed independent voters. Prop 8 would probably go through 60-40 if the vote were today. And as anti-Prop 8 advocates noted on Eric Zorn's blog (Change of Subject at chicagotribune.com), many people who are friends and relatives of gays really did vote "Yes on 8." I expect that to continue.
I'm frankly tired of your analogy of sexual organs to pipefitting. Is PVC next? It's insulting. Please stop. When mentioning the differences between men and women, I never brought up sexual organs. An argument could be made (not convincingly IMHO) that gay male anal sex is equivalent to vaginal intercourse. So I didn't mention sexual organs. It's peripheral to my argument. As for what the future holds, we'll see. Gay marriage went 0-3 this year. I'm betting on continued losses for the movement, and you think the straight majority will eventually roll over through the power of younger voters and allow gays to marry. Two caveats: angry protests are counterproductive; and failing to target the growing minority communities in California and nationwide will cost the movement. Fortunately, no one listens to me, and the movement will continue its destructive behavior and continue to fail.

JCB said...

@ken:

(1) Your implication that a blogger's analysis might convince me simply because that blogger is gay is silly at best, and deeply offensive at worst. Bilerico is a fine blog and community, but 538 has quickly become during this election season one of (if not the) preeminent political/statistical websites around.

(2) That said (and I'm not sure how to be less blunt about this), you're simply wrong on your interpretation of the blog post you suggested I look at. That blogger doesn't "specially blame[] black people" as you claim. Quite the contrary: "Some of [20 other demographic] groups supported Prop 8 far more than African Americans did, which makes me wonder why we're focused so much on race instead of any of these factors. In terms of predictive value, religion, political ideology, and being married with children tell us much more about how someone voted on Prop 8 than race does." Indeed, one of the blogger's 3 conclusions is that "breaking the statistics just along racial lines is an overly simplistic way to look at the results."

(3) As to the California initiative process, I tend to agree with you that it's surprising. But color you surprised: if a constitutional amendment is passed by the initiative process, it can be repealed in exactly the same way. I'm not sure what you mean by amendments therefore carrying "no weight whatsoever" -- the laws against auto theft could be changed at any time, but I'm not going to go out and steal cars on the theory that those laws therefore carry no weight.

(4) I do indeed ask that Californians change their minds on something they've voted on twice (though in different forms). More specifically, I ask that more Californians change their minds. I say that because from 2000 to 2008, the numbers went from 61%-38% to 52%-48%. With actual numbers behind me, I expect that trend to continue.

(5) There have indeed been a small number of unfortunate and shameful incidents perpetrated over the last two weeks in the name of "No on 8." And I agree that those incidents are counter-productive. But peaceful protests are not. And religious institutions can and should be protested (like other institutions) for their complicity in unacceptable discrimination (particularly the LDS church in this case, which gave many millions of dollars and volunteer hours to the "Yes on 8" campaign).

(6) As to my pipefittings comments, you're of course correct that you never explicitly mentioned sexual organs. You wrote: "Marriage means a man joining with a woman--someone completely different from him. They complement each other. Same-sex couples cannot do that." I inferred from that you were referring to a perceived physical complementarity (an inference reinforced when the excerpt you quoted from the AFA referred to unalterable "biology"). You apparently intended something less offensive to marriage, but far more deeply offensive to gay people. My apologies for the misunderstanding.

(7) I find your reference to "the straight majority" insulting -- as though this vote broke anywhere close to the straight-gay percentage lines.

(8) Finally, I (obviously) think you're wrong that the movement will continue to fail, but I'm happy to agree that it is indeed fortunate that no one listens to you.

Peace, JCB