WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT GAY MARRIAGE?
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Maybe I'm missing something, but when it comes to gay marriage, I don't understand the fuss.
"More than half of Americans favor a law barring gay marriage and specifying wedlock be between a man and a woman," the Associated Press reported this week.
Why? Are Americans so frustrated by not being able gang up on Jews, African-Americans, immigrants and cripples anymore that they're jumping onto this issue with both hate-laden feet?
When the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down the sodomy laws, was I alone in being shocked that they even existed in the 21st Century? Why is it anybody's business what people do in their own bedrooms? And why is it considered a homosexual law? Don't straight people do these things, too? One of the more interesting results of the decision was that jokes about anal sex suddenly became acceptable on late night television. For that, the Supremes have done an important service, equal to Bill Clinton putting oral sex on the map.
Then the Pope jumped in, condemning homosexuality, and wasn't that just a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Who asked him? And how dare he insult all the wonderful, openly gay priests like Mychal Judge, the firemen's priest who was killed at the World Trade Center?
Finally, the Episcopals, bless them, elected a homosexual bishop who is, by all accounts, a wonderful, compassionate man.
As we know, being straight doesn't automatically make you wonderful or compassionate. A case in point is our un-elected president, George W. Bush, who says he supports a ban on gay marriage. He said his lawyers are looking into ways of legalizing a ban, but in the meantime, we should be nicer to gays and lesbians.
How nice can we be while our tax dollars are being used to find ways to legislate about 3 percent of our population into permanent second-class citizenry?
Is there hope on the horizon? Is there life after Bush? "The six leading (Democratic) candidates say they oppose gay marriage but are sharply critical of efforts to legally ban it, either with a law or by amending the Constitution," the AP reported. How's that for weaseling out?
Four of the six candidates support a civil unions law instead of marriage, including former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, the only one to have actually signed one. He did it in secret, without photographers present; it was a closet signing. At a time when we could really use a bit of courageous leadership, we are getting lame politicians who have their eyes glued to the polls.
"The whole idea of marriage is bringing up children," a 64-year-old man named Jim Martin from Virginia told the AP.
Where has he been, on Mars? Most of the gays and lesbians I know are raising children by the bucketful. That's pretty much the point of gay marriage, along with the right to inherit, to make medical decisions for one's partner, and to share benefits such as health insurance and social security. And of course, the right to openly love.
Which brings me to my main point.
Marriage, as I see it, is less about how we appear in the eyes of one ephemeral god or another, and more about assuring our survival in a stark, cruel world. It's practical for two people to pool together their talents, their intelligences, their property and their strengths and weaknesses to make a life. What difference can gender make in the struggle to survive?
In my experience, legal marriage can lift even a solid working partnership to a wonderful new level. Fourteen years ago I entered into what is now called a heterosexual domestic partnership relationship; back then we just called it living together.
It worked out surprisingly well. Randy and I grew to love each other more every year. We learned about each other's strengths and weaknesses, and that taught us something about tolerance and acceptance. We learned how to fight; we also learned how to make each other laugh.
We thought we were doing well, and then, four years ago, we got married. Afterward, neither of us was prepared for the depth of tenderness, caring and love which flooded into our hearts and continues to grow today. Indeed, we never imagined that the simple act of making a legal public commitment could bring us so much joy. How can we not wish for every couple, homosexual or heterosexual, to experience the same?
There's far too much hatred, fear, anger and prejudice in this world. Instead of legislating against love - any kind of love - we should encourage it to flourish.
When Vermont was wrestling with the issue of gay marriage, I went to Montpelier to throw my two cents into the mix. At the Statehouse, the pro-gay marriage folk were wearing pink stickers and the antis were wearing white ones. I noticed that in their formal testimony, the antis were extremely angry. They thundered on and on about Rome, Babylon, incest, rape, adultery, bestiality and child molestation -- as if heterosexual people had had nothing to do with this stuff.
But as I walked through the halls, I noticed that something else was happening, something unusual. Many lesbians had brought along their children, and a lot of white-sticker ladies were cooing and cuddling over pink-sticker babies. Passionate debates were being held between people who may have never before met a gay man or woman in their lives, and people who may have never believed they could like anyone who thought homosexuality was a sin.
It was the largest consciousness-raising group in history, and it resulted in a historic compromise. Our country should follow Vermont's lead.
By the way, Randy and I didn't marry for romantic reasons. I needed his health insurance.
Therefore, I respectfully suggest to our president, the Democratic candidates and all our legislators, Republican and Democratic alike, that they stop quibbling about marriage and do something important, such as finding a way to make health care affordable for us all.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.