Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Commitment of Marriage

USA Today has a story describing a new, bipartisan movement towards marriage equality that stresses commitment rather than benefits:
A group of high-profile Democrats and Republicans who back legalizing gay marriage are calling on advocates to shift the focus on the issue from an argument about equal rights to promoting the value of commitment.….

Advocates have long made the case that legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians is a matter of equality, but those who frame the issue that way might be reinforcing a belief among many Americans in the middle on the issue that gays and lesbians want to marry for different reasons than straight couples, according to polling ....
I think this is a smart move.

There is a small slice of the population in the middle that is the swing vote on equality. Prior to Prop8, they were pretty friendly, until the opposition ran their campaign telling lies about teaching children gay sex. The moveable middle panicked, and Prop8 passed. I don't think they really realized what harm they did, because they figured gay couples had domestic partnerships, not realizing that they aren't the same, are not recognized the same, and are treated as inferior.  (BP and I never got a DP,  because, well, it's not marriage!)

Right now, thanks to DOMA (the mis-named Defense of Marriage Act), BP and I do not obtain any of the numerous federal benefits of marriage. We actually accrue significant disadvantage, such as having to do taxes twice, because the state recognizes us but the fed does not. We aren't on each other's medical plans, because that would be treated as a directly taxable benefit that would cost more than it saves. We have to pay an attorney to set up trusts and so forth, since because of DOMA, we are legally strangers on the street when it comes to inheritance and so on.

So what DOES marriage net us,since doesn't net us any of the typical benefits?

Oh, wow. It's everything. 

Every morning I wake up and feel blessed that I am united in marriage with my beloved. That we have made the permanent, joyful commitment to one another, in joy and pain, in sickness and health, till death us do part. I may not yet get any of the legal benefits of marriage, but I wouldn't change for the world the FACT of being married, of looking at that ring on my finger and knowing what it represents. 

In her recent blogpost, Susan Russell describes values that make up a marriage:
values that transcend the gender and sexual orientation of the couple. Values like fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and love -- the values that we in the Episcopal Church have held up as the standards we hold for relationships blessed by our church.
Yup, that's what the values of marriage are. Legal benefits? Sure, we'd like them in all fairness, but they aren't anything next to the experience of standing before friends and family and publicly vowing to uphold those values. I wouldn't exchange for the world the experience of being married, which I blogged for you 3 years ago.

BP reminded me recently that it wasn't till the summer after Prop8 passed when the CA Supreme Court decided that our marriage would NOT be annulled. Can you imagine what that felt like?  The sword of Damocles had nothing on it!

So virtually on the blogs, and in real life, we advocate for marriage. And person by person, we explain all of this. For example, this last weekend we were at a birthday party for a friend, and met a charming older gentleman. "How do you know R.?" he asked, and we explained that we had met R and his partner at church. As we are wont to do, we exclaimed over the welcome we have felt in the Episcopal church, and as the conversation moved on we mentioned that we were married, and that our marriage had been blessed there.

Turns out the charming older gentleman was a retired Roman Catholic priest. He was friendly (as I suspect many priests really are), and admitted to a certain fascination with us. You see, he's not from California, and had not met a legally married gay couple before. He quizzed us, gently, on our marriage and our blessing and we responded much as I have here. This clearly delighted the gentleman, and we enjoyed chatting (and dancing!) with him during the evening. And he will take his experience of us back to his unfriendly state, and be able to witness in turn as to what married gay couples are really like.

Making a Commitment.

Living those Values.

That's why we are married. That's the right every couple should have. And that's why I make that witness.


Ann said...

Keep on telling your story and we will too.

JCF said...

God bless you and BP in your witness, IT [You may translate that to "THANK YOU!" ;-)]

wv, "sendus". When God called for witnesses to SSM, you and BP answered...? *LOL*

Murdoch Matthew said...

This proposal comes from the Third Way, the newest incarnation of the old corporatist Democratic Leadership Council. They are the Lieberman Democrats, Republicans in Democratic drag, working to put Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in private, for-profit, hands. Maybe they mean well here, but the gay community already has moved to stress Family as the reason for marriage -- legal support for relationships. We're not individuals doing nasty things in private -- we're full participants in society deserving the protections and respect given to others.

Pictures of our families make that point better than concepts like "commitment." Couples can and do break up despite vows. Commitment grows over the years. Lesbian and gay couples want the social support that straight couples get.

Is there a hidden agenda in this Third Way argument? Dunno, but they are not our friends politically or economically.

A commenter on the TowleRoad blog chimes in:

NO! NO! NO! This is exactly the kind of b.s. that lost us the Prop 8 campaign in California. When we allowed centrist message framers to overtake the campaign and run ridiculous heartwarming ads with nothing but straight people in them, saying, "I believe in fairness. My daughter loves her partner," we LOST the campaign. We needed to see two gay parents in an ad telling the story of how their child was denied rights A, B, C and so on because of anti-marriage equality laws. We needed to see someone like Charlene Strong telling the story of how her partner nearly died alone in an emergency room because of the bigotry of hospital staff. Voters need to understand the real stakes that are at hand, not some Martha Stewart polishing of the message to make it palatable for bigots who aren't going to vote for us anyway. --MrRoboto |

IT said...

Murdoch I think it's a both--and. These guys say the Fairness/benefits argument is polling worse. Anything we do to help people see us as just, well, people, is going to help.

I've certainly seen that antis argue that the gays can't make commitments, and are just in it for the benefits.

The commenters at Towleroad seems to think that it's obvious that people who want to get married are valuing commitment. But that's NOT obvious to the opposition or the muddled middle.

But no argument from me about the awful ads from our side in Prop8, ads which showed no gay people. The sad thing is, the exact same thing happened in Maine.

The current strategy is not working.

dr.primrose said...

The Church of England Newspaper has published an article calling U.K. gay rights groups the "Gaystapo" -- "the gay Wehrmacht is on its long march through the institutions and has already occupied the Sudetenland social uplands of the Home Office, the educational establishment, the politically-correct police, and the Guardianista management of the BBC." The column has been reproduced on the author's website, which you can read here.

According a Guardian article, the newspaper has defended publishing the article on the ground that "the author has pertinent views.'" (H/T to Thinking Anglicans)

This is by far the most disgusting article I've ever read in a "mainstream" religious publication.

The article concludes with the question and answer in Isaiah 6 -- "Whom will I call?" "Here am I. Send me." And what is a "Christian" supposed to do after accepting the call against the Gaystopo? Invade their headquarters like at Normandy? Fire bomb them like as Dresden?

Erp said...

I'm not sure the Church of England Newspaper counts as a "mainstream" religious publication (it is not an official publication of the Church of England).

dr.primrose said...

Yesterday, four gay-rights groups - Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU Foundation of Northern California, and Equality California - filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit in the case seeking to overturn the federal district court decision holding that Prop. 8 was unconsitutional on the grounds that the judge was a gay man in a same sex-relationship.

This is the summary of their argument (the word "recusal" is the legal term for when a judge is disqualified because of a conflict in interest):

"The motion to vacate the judgment that was filed by Defendant-Intervenors-Appellants (referred to herein as “Proponents”) follows in an ugly history of attempts to disqualify federal judges on the basis of their personal characteristics. At bottom, Proponents contend that a judge in a long-term relationship with a person of the same sex—that is, a gay judge—could not approach the case with the same unbiased judgment Proponents believe a heterosexual judge would bring to bear. The notion that a gay judge could not fairly preside over this case is incorrect and offensive, and, if accepted by the courts, would be damaging to the credibility of the judiciary itself. This Court should reject any such notion, just as previous federal courts have rejected efforts to disqualify judges based on race, national origin, and sex.

"Amici submit this brief to address three reasons why Proponents’ motion and this appeal have no merit. First, rulings on broad constitutional questions routinely affect large portions of the public, and the fact that judges may be affected by those rulings as members of the public does not warrant their recusal. Second, Proponents’ arguments rest on speculation that Judge Walker had an interest in marrying his partner, but such speculative matters do not constitute a basis for recusal. Third, any rule that would require the disqualification of judges in same-sex relationships would amount to a rule requiring the disqualification of lesbian and gay judges—a result neither required by the recusal statute nor tolerated by the Constitution. For all these reasons and for the reasons explained by Plaintiffs, amici urge this Court to affirm the decision below."

You can read the full brief here.

Chelliah Laity said...

Commitment and family values should not be the privilege of heteros only. Keep telling your tale.