This year I have been delving a bit into politics on a state and national level. Being that I don’t really read news or have cable (aka no TV, just a “decorative television” that sits collecting dust) I started listening to NPR quite a bit. My new love of NPR started with hearing an interesting story which I think was part of “This American Life” but I’ve found myself listening any time I’m in the car, so topics vary from “Radio Lab” to “Money Matters” and, of course, the drive time news. Now, I know that I’m liberal and that NPR is to a liberal as Fox is to a conservative (preaching to the choir) but I feel they have been fair and balanced, giving updates from both major campaigns, having moderated discussions between top democrats and republicans, and doing a lot of human interest stuff on Romney such as having Mormon theologists debunk stereotypes and give a current perspective on the faith. The information I’ve been getting has led me to watch most of the presidential debates and fostered an excitement in me for voting on the national level.
What has fostered excitement for me this year at the state level is the hot-button topic of Minnesota’s proposed amendment to define marriage legally as between one man and one woman. I’m so excited about voting on this issue I got an absentee ballot from the MN Secretary of State booth at the MN State Fair back at the end of August. Though I’ve lived in Missouri for just over a year and have a steady job and a good group of friends and a community band, Minnesota is still to me my “home state.” I am VERY proud to say that I am from Minnesota, and I’d like to keep it that way.
NOW I MUST WARN YOU: I WILL BE EXPRESSING MY PERSONAL FEELINGS AND RELATING PERSONAL EXPERIENCE ON A POLITICAL ISSUE. DO NOT CONTINUE TO READ IF PERSONAL COMMENTARY FRUSTRATES YOU.
I put this boldly because I want to make clear that I’m using my blog most bloggers do, and I DO NOT claim to be an expert or a person of authority. Only on politics and religion do people suddenly have to become scholars before anyone in the conversation will even begin to think about maybe seeing it from the other person’s point of view, really listen to what they’re hearing or try to understand, let alone allow themselves to be swayed by someone’s opinion. But I will try to stay away from “studies have shown” or other such statistical bullshit. These are just some thoughts/opinions on the “Vote No” issue, and not an attempt to change anyone’s mind. Though, of course if you would like to (respectfully) discuss it, I will oblige.
Today I received a response to something I posted about “Vote No.” I’ve had heated (from my end) discussions with this person on the topic of gay marriage. I respect them and care for them and their feelings and opinions. But on no other issue do we differ more greatly than on this. This is not an attack on them. It sparked a great conversation with my friend Paul, a discussion akin to those I have from time to time with my friend Courtney where we “solve all the world’s problems.” It has now led to this post.
My feelings on vote no stem from my early exposure to gay culture. I remember being in the car with my mom going to see Gram. It was my brother and me with her and we were both in elementary school, so no older than 10 and 8, possibly younger. Our discussion that day mentioned friends of our parents Ron and Andy. She explained to us that Ron and Andy were a couple and that they had a ceremony in Hawaii. I remember being confused about how they might . . . you know . . . and also how they might have kids, but mostly I remember both of us being okay with it because my mom explained to me that there a men who like men and women who like women, and that just like Mom and Dad they loved each other very much, which is why they committed to each other.
My brother and I were brought up on drum corps which is how my parents had befriended Ron and Andy. Drum Corps is, for anyone who doesn’t know, basically like grown up marching band, and pretty diverse, especially when it comes to sexual orientation. It is a very accepting activity and people come from all walks of life, devoted to their love of performance arts and music. “Growing up Drum Corps” was a unique experience, as not all kids are allowed to participate in their parents activities, and for good reason a lot of the time. Not everyone has kids and not everyone is great with them or even likes them, so you do risk your kids being exposed to drugs, alcohol, sex, and explicit language. In a group as big as MN Brass you also have to worry about pedophiles. Which is another reason I believe my mom brought up Ron and Andy that day. During that discussion, or another one possibly as I have a terrible memory, my mom made it clear that Ron and Andy were NOT perverted. This was the early to mid-90’s and from what I’ve learned/have been told, gay culture was only just becoming more socially acceptable throughout the country. So she explained that we might be told that gay men and women like to touch children, or that we could “catch” being gay, or be “turned” gay from too much exposure. These were, she explained, hateful, disgusting lies. Sick people do sick things, but being gay was not sick, nor did it make you do sick things like molest a child. I would like to think that I understood this all then, but I know that it was merely a seed planted.
Ron and Andy were together throughout my childhood. I was, at one point, pretty close with Andy, and I know that they both loved me very much. When they split up during one of the summers I was doing Bluecoats, I was heart-broken to hear the news. They had never tried to adopt so there weren’t any kids to consider, a small consolation, and luckily it was, from what I understand, amicable. I say lucky because, unfortunately for them, Ron and Andy had no marital rights to each other. Being together for over a decade resulted in nothing more than, legally, a break up. Like they were teenagers or something. But they weren’t teenagers and this “break up” didn’t end with a swap of mix tapes and a box of worthless, sentimental trinkets getting thrown out. This was an end of an era, a dividing of lives and friends and dogs and cars and a renovated apartment that they called home.
But it was not a legal divorce. It didn’t even have the ramifications of a common-law marriage, which, I don’t know if there are legal ramifications, but if there are, they didn’t get the benefit of those either. Nothing was protected. And that’s something that just doesn’t sit well with me.
Now, the response I received earlier today said that gay marriage doesn’t address the instability of a same-sex couple, and therefore the argument for gay marriage always fall short. This instability issue is something, again, as far as I’ve learned/experienced/been told, that has been given voice many times over, within and without the gay community. I guess I wonder first, how stable can you feel when your choice of partner downgrades your citizenry, and secondly, how are heterosexual relationships any more stable? This is the closest I will come to a statistic: a good chunk of straight marriages end in divorce. And divorce isn’t the only measure of instability. Straight people cheat, lie, commit adultery, have one night stands, friends with benefits, and hookups: and that’s just the unstable factors or unstable relationship types dealing with sex. Straight couples also abuse drugs, alcohol, and smoke. Members of straight couples also abuse and molest both other adults and children. Straight people steal, exploit, are selfish and unkind. And straight people not only do this to their own family members, but are allowed to prey on those children left to foster care and adoption. In light of all of these things that straight people do in relationships of boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife, father and mother, we still feel it is a right, not a privilege, for straight people to marry and to have any amount of children they can create, without question.
So, is it really stability that is the issue? Understand, please, that I know gay people do ALL of these things as well. I am not saying that being gay makes you a saint or that homosexuals won’t commit as many of the aforementioned infractions. But how can the conclusion possibly be reached that a healthy, romantic relationship between two people is instantly more unstable when between two people of the same-sex, and further more, how do you protect that OPINION under the LAW? How can we pretend that we are thinking of stability in the home with such a minor infraction as not having both genders present in an immediate family? To me, having a partnership present to raise children would be ideal, a partnership that would be linked to network of caring friends and family of different generations and differing wisdom. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea that someone could discriminate against same-sex couples and not also discriminate against single mothers and fathers. Single parents don’t just get their title of parent stripped from them, and their families are not seen as less by law. Nor should they. The single parents within my family and people I’ve befriended and worked with know better than many the responsibilities of raising a child well. My aunt brought up my cousin with the help of my Gram, a same-sex couple in a different way. He had aunts and uncles and cousins and basketball coaches and teachers who all helped one of the most devoted mothers I’ve ever seen. My cousin was not at a disadvantage because he had two women caring for him. He would have been at a disadvantage if his mom and grandma were legally barred from being in his main caregivers and guardians because they were not a heterosexual married couple.
I have tried my best throughout this to make it clear that the reason I voted “No” on the MN amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman is because I cannot see how this is not legal discrimination. Legally, how do we define it this way? I was listening to a segment on NPR that was discussing the national hot button topic of rape induced pregnancy. I’ve never heard it more clearly put when the person who was speaking said that they respected Richard Mourdock’s personal beliefs but that it was not his personal beliefs but his policy beliefs that should be considered. They went on to say that if you cannot separate the two, which is difficult, then you have to be okay with subjecting women’s bodies to your personal views and opinions which may or may not be correct. See, when you make a law out of just personal opinion you are saying that your personal opinion is right and making all other opinions wrong. I guess my hope for the political leaders that are elected by the people of this republic is that they make laws and policies that protect the freedoms of its citizens and make those freedoms equal. If you commit a murder there are laws to punish you and protect the rest of the citizens of the nation from you because you have ended another person’s life and have stripped them of their freedom to live. In some parts of the nation legalizing gay marriage is seen as equally horrendous. But legalizing gay marriage does not hurt anyone, it does not prevent anyone’s personal freedoms. Those who oppose it based on personal beliefs can continue to oppose it in their own homes and respectfully protest it in public. A sign hanging from someone’s neck stating “GOD HATES FAGS” is not respectful, but still more protected by the first amendment right now that two same-sex people are protected to commit to one another in a legal marriage.
I can’t stress enough that I hope to have same-sex marriage be made legal the same way a straight marriage is legal. If I can marry my boyfriend and apply for a license so that this marriage is recognized by the state and by the country so that when he is ill I can be notified, and our children will be legally mine if something were to happen to him, and vice-verse, then I want my gay friends to have that same opportunity by law. No one should have to fight for their right to be with the person they love in their hour of need. No committed relationship should be given more legality and definitely not be given more benefits and freedoms than another. I am NOT saying a gay couple should be married in a place of worship if that place of worship does not recognize their right to be married, and I don’t think there are many, if any, gay couples banging down the doors of these places and demanding the faith leader marry them. I AM saying that I believe a U.S. court judge should marry them under the same laws that marry straight couples.
And if it’s the word “marriage” that you’re uptight about, then fine, get rid of it. Abolish it from legal language and create equal commitment laws. The people who hold onto the semantics of the word “marriage” as a religious word and definition can keep it, I don’t care. As someone who is agnostic at best and still unsure overall, my marriage will not be legitimate in the eyes of many faiths, but I’ll squeak by with a legal marriage because I’m a chick who happen to like dudes. If you feel like our moral code as a country cannot escape its religious foundations, in this case religious bindings, then all marriages between men and women that are not recognized first by a church should be illegal, and I don’t think that is extreme. It just makes us citizens ruled by the Pope: the 15th century called, it would like it’s domination of the church over the state back.
I think we have come so far in this young country to have ideals that explore and value our differences so much more than the founding fathers could have envisioned. I think our unique situation as a country of so many faiths and backgrounds and beliefs and non-beliefs is being made petty, disgusting, and discriminatory with such closed-minded definitions of love and family. We human beings are wonderful and terrible creatures, with so much potential for good and for evil. I vote “No” because I believe we are above this kind of discrimination. Whether or not you believe what I believe is your business and personal opinion. I hope, however, you take a moment to decide if you’re personal opinions matter enough to limit the freedoms of others.