Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What marriage means

I know some of our readers are tired of the Gay Marriage topic, but like it or not, it is central to the disagreements in the Anglican Communion: as far as I can see from my outsider's vantage point, it all boils down to whether or not TEC and the AC will recognize gay people who dare to be open, and who want a monogamous, covenanted relationship, as full members of the Church, or not. They may wave their hands about heresy and Spam, I mean Spong, but really, it's ALL about the gay folks, as the Windsor continuation group's proposed moratoria make clear. (They might as well put up a sign at each church with an arrow, pointing the gay people back into the closet.)

I find it ironic that the conservative side is apparently perfectly happy with the lies that result from the closet, the hypocrisy of those who are within it, and the hopelessness and promiscuity that result from denying gay folks the possibility of faithful relationships. How many straight people would be faithfully monogamous if marriage were illegal? Really: think about it. Denied the structures and social expectations of marriage, how many families do you think would survive? Some would, but lots wouldn't.

I also find this viewpoint breathtaking, when we are all faced by the witness of faithful lives of gay clergy, many of whom we know from our Episco-blogging, all the way up to gentle Bishop Gene Robinson. Even I can see that man's deep Christianity, but the conservatives apparently can't get past the sex of his life-partner.

Back to marriage per se. I found Virginia Postrel's description of her sister's marriage which I for one thought rather moving.
I understand why people who don't have any close gay friends or relatives think single-sex marriage is strange and disruptive. But it isn't. It's merely a way of turning de facto relationships into de jure ones. And the relationships that distinguish de jure marriage aren't so much those between spouses but those between the married couple and other people, perhaps most importantly their extended families.....
On the same theme, Andrew Sullivan writes in The Atlantic (quoted by Postrel),
I suddenly realized, it was the heterosexuals who knew what to do, who guided the gay couple and our friends into the rituals and rites of family. Ours was not, we realized, a different institution, after all, and we were not different kinds of people. In the doing of it, it was the same as my sister’s wedding and we were the same as my sister and brother-in-law. The strange, bewildering emotions of the moment, the cake and reception, the distracted children and weeping mothers, the morning’s butterflies and the night’s drunkenness: this was not a gay marriage; it was a marriage.

And our families instantly and for the first time since our early childhood became not just institutions in which we were included, but institutions that we too owned and perpetuated..... The embossed invitations and the floral bouquets and the fear of fluffing our vows: in these tiny, bonding gestures of integration, we all came to see an alienating distinction become a unifying difference.

It was a moment that shifted a sense of our own identity within our psyches and even our souls. Once this happens, the law eventually follows. In California this spring, it did.
Gay marriage is not a poor imitation of straight marriage or a marriage lite. It is the thing itself, with its challenges, rights, and above all, its responsibilities. Supporting gay marriage is actually the conservative choice, if there were any actual conservatives left.


FranIAm said...

BRAVA! What a great post. This is a topic that I personally never tire of.

As a Catholic heterosexual woman, I won't rest until there is marriage equality, so I post on this quite a bit and will continue to do so.

In fact, time permitting, maybe a link to this will come, if I can get myself together.

Keep at it IT!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Fran. My partner is also Catholic,k although I think it is becoming more difficult to remain so.


fear not said...

Catholic heterosexual here as well. But I too never tire of this topic. Until everyone - EVERYONE! - is free to enter into married life with the love of their life, I will feel that our society is diminished and impoverished in its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I simply cannot fathom why love would not be celebrated and encouraged and enshrined in a public way. It should be a civil right! For every adult.

textjunkie said...

Hey, in case anyone is interested/in Southern CA...Check it out!

Why Marriage Is Important for Everyone

September 12, 2008 at 6:30 pm

At : St Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church

18631 Chapel Lane

Huntington Beach, CA 92646

This will be an evening of people sharing their stories of love, life and commitment in a world that tried to tell them that their love was wrong. Please come and share your thoughts and experiences. We will explore the benefits of legal marriage and the burdens of not being able to define your relationship as marriage.

Pass it on. :)

Anonymous said...

Why is it that the number of faithful gay relationships is so infitesimally small -- including in places where gay marriage is already legal? --RJ

textjunkie said...

RJ asked: Why is it that the number of faithful gay relationships is so infitesimally small -- including in places where gay marriage is already legal?

I have to laugh at this. Infinitesimally small compared to what? All those incredibly successful, faithful, one-man-one-woman-one-lifetime heterosexual relationships??


Cany said...

Bravo, IT!

I too am a heterosexual Catholic (A Piskie sort) and likewise will not rest until we find TEC respecting God in acknowledging same gender marriage in the church. We heteros need to keep the pressure on. This is NOT an issue for lgbt folks only. God doesn't paint us that way, imho, and we shouldn't either.

A good friend of mine, a baptized episcopalian that has not gone to church for YEARS (she is a lesbian) has returned to the church. I kept telling her she would feel so at home at Messiah in Santa Ana--encouraging her to go and try it out--and there she is, in fact, attending. She would be welcome at my parish too (though we have absolutely ZERO lgbt programs and zero out lgbt couples but we are a welcoming parish), but she LOVES the old style Episcopal church, which Messiah certainly is.

She is bright and politically savvy and while she does not announce herself as a lesbian (several in the community do--all women, I am sure the men find it much harder here) in the community, one would have to be pretty darned blind not to know it. Everyone that works with her appreciates her talents. She is also, thankfully, very funny. She makes me laugh.

BTW, Anon, can't you manage a name... even a fake one? As to your question, why don't you just make your point?

Marriage in CA has been legal for what three months? It could be undone in another three (Prop 8). Frankly, it takes a long time to plan a wedding even in stable environments. CA is hardly stable right now.

Other states will follow MA and CA, be sure. I think the CA Prop 8 will fail, personally, but we have to remain vigilant to be sure it does.

Hostility to lgbt folks is somewhat generational. I'm 55, a progressive. Most folks I know couldn't care less whether one is lgbt or not. The younger gens are even less divisive than mine. We dreamed it, they are doing it. They are much more open and accepting of race, creed, gender and gender ID, ethnicity, etc.

God sees the big picture while we mortals are busy dividing ourselves up and pointing fingers.

IT, you might want to get your beloved in touch with folks like FranIAm etc., who are RC, and can lend an ear. She may not have to leave the RCC. Contrary to those that are jumping all over Pelosi, the RCC has a lot of diversity of opinion/action within its boundary. If they acted like GAFCON, the church probably wouldn't exist in another 100 years:) but the strong believers (faithfully stubborn in a good way!) won't give up their faith because they believe their faith can change. Gee, sound familiar?

But if she does, we sure hope she will jump to TEC. We'll leave the light on just in case:)

Anonymous said...


Well, by now, you may have noticed that I am most probably a "conservative". Sometimes I wonder if I should just throw in the towel. But here I stand. I really can't do anything else. (Uh oh. Here enters that Luther man.)


Padre Mickey said...

Gee, RJ, I don't know from where you get your information! I know gays in long-term faithful relationships and straights in long-term faithful relationships, and I know gays in less successful relationships and straights in less successful relationships.

Years ago I would hear that Gay Marriages threatened straight marriages. I've never understood that claim. The Lovely Mona and I have been married for thirty years, and the only way Gay Marriage threatens our marriage is if the Lovely Mona was to suddenly run off with a woman. I don't think that is going to happen, just as I know I'm not going to run off with another man.

It's time to be realistic and support marriage for all those in love.

Anonymous said...

Clinical geneticists know that a substantial proportion of children born to married parents have a sperm donor other than the legal father. Infidelity is just part of the human condition. Even with the best of intentions, a large percentage of people don't stick to marital exclusivity. On average, men roam more than women, but that could be in part due to greater opportunities, in part due to cultural double standards, in part due to biological factors (libido, tendency to notice other possible sex partners, etc).

The whole concept of marriage is that a public, legalized relationship requires a level of commitment, and one hopes that the community will support the couple in their commitment.


JCF said...

Ripping the cover off The Myth of Heterosexual Fidelity, NancyP? How DARE you!


Y'know, sometimes I wonder ("as I wander"): maybe someday, they'll be FULL equality, regardless sexual-orientation and gender-identity, and I'll (y'all?) will just have to get a life...

...but I don't wonder for very long, yet. ;-/

James said...

IT, I beg to differ with you; you are most assuridly NOT an outsider. You may not have signed on the dotted line yet, but you are one of us, and you can't get away from us. :)

Марко said...

This post made me think of three models of human fidelity in Scripture: Tobit 8:7 "Grant that she and I may find mercy and that we may grow old together." Ruth 1:15 "Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God." 1 Samuel 18:1,3 "When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul." There is great variety in these scriptural models of human love, commitment, and fidelity. Same-sex marriage is not an imitation of hetero mariage. Same-sex marriage (like hetero marriage) is an expression of the love of God, a sacrament. I am disappointed and nauseated to read that the Knights of Columbus have donated $1 million to attempt to defeat same-sex marriage in Calfornia. I also find it interesting that some poorly informed opponents of gay marriage actually seem to think that banning same-sex marriage would, somehow, make homosexality or same-sex marriage a crime (not just something without legal sanction). Imagine, $1 million of scarce Church funds (by a Church which has paid out billions for child sexual abuse by clergy) being dedicated to interfering in the private lives of same-sex couples! This is $1 million that could feed the poor, provide medical relief, shelter the homeless. The venality and spite of the Knights of Columbus (an organization which was founded to protect Catholic civil rights and to provide humanitarian benefit to Catholics) shocks me. In this debate, some religious people are showing their true, hateful colors.

David G. said...

It means nothing to me because no one wants me.

And probably never will!!

David said...

RJ, Your tone is not respectful and you quote supposed "facts" w/o any backup just to needle other folks.

Please re-read our commenting policies and make sure any, future posts remain civil and courteous.

If they don't, then you're outta here.

IT said...

And don't mess with David H. because he's from TEXAS.

Meanwhile, yes, NancyP, I was amazed at the figure of non-paternity in th eUS when I learned it. We had to explain to our genetics students that unexpected patterns of inheritance in the US are much more likely to represent non-paternity than interesting bits of genetics. So the fidelity dog won't hunt.

Марко, you are right. Most Catholics I know are revolted by the support of "institutional" Catholicism for this hateful amendment. (As soon as this is over, I hope that CA will make it harder to amend its Constitution! A simple majority is insane for such a critical decision).

But in Response to the Knights of COlumbus Vote for hate, "Today, Equality California is donating another $1 million to the NO on 8 campaign—making our total contribution more than $4 million."

So that's good. However,

"Unfortunately, the opposition has now made their next move. We’ve just learned that they have made a multi-million dollar television ad buy in eight media markets across California AND they are going to start weeks before most campaigns start running advertising."

So for all US citizens, help us oppose them and support Equality for all.

Keep IT"s marriage legal!


James said...

How truly sad. But then, if we examin history we will find that the KOC were against inter-racial marriage, too. So, it's just more of the same from the RC church.

The Mormons were out in force this past weekend going from door too door with voter information and talking about prop 8.

It is certainly true that nothing unites enemies like hate.

David said...

And don't mess with David H. because he's from TEXAS.

Damn straight. And y'all better smile when you say that, pardner ;)

Mike in Texas said...

Sad news on the marriage front. Civil rights icon Del Martin passed away today.

Anonymous said...

At least she was able to get married before she left!

THIS is the face of our movement. I dare anyone to justify how this image and what it represents harms any straight person's marriage.

Our condolences to PHyllis Lyon, Del's wife.


rick allen said...

"...if we examin history we will find that the KOC were against inter-racial marriage, too. So, it's just more of the same from the RC church."

I have no way of knowing what the Knights were up to in the '40's and '50's.

I do know that the mixed race couple in the California case that struck down California's prohibition of mixed-race marriage were Catholic, and advanced as one of their arguments that "since the church has no rule forbidding marriages between Negroes and Caucasians, they are entitled to receive the sacrament of matrimony." Perez v. sharp, 198 P.2d 17, 18 (Cal. 1948).

Interestingly, the Court declined to rule on a "free exercise" basis, citing polygamy cases as supporting the state's right to burden religious practice. It came down, of course, to a clear case of racial discrimination.

In the later U.S. Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, the Court noted that Virginia was one of only 16 states forbidding racial intermarriage, most, not surprisingly, in the old Confederacy.

I make the point only to respond to those who apparently believe that restrictions on racial intermarriage have a long history in Christianity. It only appears so to us because those restrictions had their origin in the pathological American management of African slavery. Race is no impediment to marriage in Blackstone or the Code Napoleon, and I would be surprised to find it earlier or elsewhere.

JCF said...

May Del rest in peace, and rise in glory...

Ann said...

sad news about Del
Their wedding photo should convince even the most hard hearted to support marriage equality

Hi from our travels!

Grandmère Mimi said...

"It is the thing itself...."

That pretty much says it all.