Monday, June 8, 2009

Here's the Deal: One Gayby's Arguments on the Gay Marriage Debate

This was originally published about a month ago among my "Notes" on facebook. Since then, New Hampshire has decided to legalize gay marriage and my own home state has decided not to legalize it. Again. So even though this is *slightly* out of date, I think it makes a pretty good first blog post. So, um, here it is.

”I find hope in what eyes don’t see / I find hope in your hate for me / Have no fear when the waters rise / We can conquer this great divide.”
- Hanson, The Great Divide

I've recently been thinking a lot (as has the rest of the country) about gay marriage. I don’t need to tell you that recent legal actions in California, Iowa, Vermont, etc., as well as anti-gay rights propaganda disseminated by organizations like NOM (as well as a hilarious spoof by Colbert: video here) have brought the issue back to the forefront of public discourse. And, unfortunately, whenever everybody’s talking about something, the bigots get their say as well. Needless to say, as a gayby my hackles have been up of late.

To me, it seems very simple: All citizens of this country deserve to have the same rights.

I've been saying for quite some time that if I could just sit down with the people who oppose legally recognizing gay marriage and just talk to them, I could make them understand. And of course, this will happen. Over time, more and more people will discover that they have gay co-workers, bosses, teachers, students, family and (gasp!) friends, and that "the gays" are not so bad. In fact, they're just like us heteros.

But in the mean time, I've been working on what I would say, given the opportunity to talk to the haters out there. In fact, I frequently wonder what it would be like if I could assemble the Limbaughs, Coulters, and Santorums of the world, stand in front of them, and say: "I'm Marj. I have gay parents. No! It’s ok! Don’t be scared. I'm just going to tell you why they deserve to have the same rights that we have. Afterward, I'd be more than happy to take questions, but just shut up for a second and listen."

This is my half of that conversation:

Here's the deal. Marriage currently exists as two separate institutions. There's the religious institution, under which a faith (of the couple’s choosing) recognizes a couple's spiritual union. And then there's the legal institution, under which the government recognizes that two people operate as a unit (for legal and economic purposes). Gay people are not asking for a law that forces religions to recognize their unions: that would be unconstitutional – just like it's unconstitutional for one set of religious beliefs to dictate legal matters (see what I did there?). Gay folks are asking for a law that provides all the same rights from their government that straight couples receive. This is the problem with civil unions. They don’t provide the same rights to everyone. Remember “separate but equal”? It’s like that. For a list of rights afforded to straight, married couples that gay couples don’t receive, I encourage you to read the GAO report of 2004 (PDF here) or check out www.equalitymatters.org. Apparently, there are 1,138 of them. I have not counted them personally.

But, what about the CHILDREN? Won’t this destroy the “American Family” as we know it?

Well, first of all, there is no evidence (let me repeat that) NO EVIDENCE that children raised by gay parents suffer as a result. In fact, a study completed at Tufts University concluded that an analysis of 25 years worth of studies found no differences between the children of heterosexual parents and the children of homosexual parents “in terms of academic achievement, self esteem, or gender typical behavior. In fact, children of gay parents tend to be less aggressive, and more tolerant towards diversity.” See? It takes all kinds of families to make the world a better place. (Some of you may recognize this last bit from my ADS a couple of years ago. The research still stands.)

And ok, I’m gonna say it. That thing that gay families don’t normally say. Ready? Here goes: LGBT families are not perfect (Whew! Feels good to get that off my chest!). Sometimes, we have problems. We don’t always clean up after ourselves. We don’t always get to eat dinner together. We fight. We yell. Sometimes, there’s drug abuse, or spousal abuse, or child abuse. Sometimes, gay people make crappy parents. Sometimes, things just don’t go the way they’re supposed to. Ultimately, this is just evidence that our families are just like families with straight parents, or single parent families, or blended families, or inter-generational households, or any other type of family you could think of. These problems don’t happen in gay families because of the presence of gay people. These things happen because of the presence of humans. Further, in the more extreme cases of such problems, we need the help of governmental protection and civil rights, just like everyone else.

Personally, my parents were wonderful (all of my parents, the gay ones and the straight ones). I always had a roof over my head, food in the fridge, praise and discipline in appropriate amounts, and all the love a child can ask for. I’m currently a grad student at NIU, a teacher, and a coach. I vote. I try to make the world a better place. Some would call me a contributing member of society. I also have my faults. I’m self-centered. I’m very messy. I procrastinate. I talk too much. Sometimes, I make stupid choices. I’m not saying that because of my family my life is perfect. What I am saying is, despite the concerns that somehow my family would permanently mess me up, I’m fine. And so are the vast majority of gaybies out there. And I would like the haters to stop using us as an excuse for discrimination. It’s insulting.

So, there you have it. An explanation of why gay couples deserve the right to get married.

/Rant.

Any questions?

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