Personal Voices: Let's Get Married...Or Not
I'm queer, so everyone I know, and a whole lot of people I don't know, assume that I have something worthwhile to say about same-sex marriage. While they wait for me, I've been struggling to put my thoughts into something vaguely resembling coherency.
Yes, I support same-sex marriage, even though my partner and I never even considered going over the bridge to San Francisco City Hall that first weekend. Whether or not we want to get married is irrelevant. Lots of gays and lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people, even heterosexuals, don't want to get married. However, everyone should be able to make that choice for themselves.
That sounds simple, but it's not.
The conservatives and the right-wing-religious and the other homophobes have been lining up and foaming at the mouth to get the chance to shut down Gavin Newsom and to have all those marriages declared invalid and to stop the infection from spreading too much further. According to them, same-sex marriage is just one small step down the slippery slope that leads to people wanting to marry their mothers and brothers and even family pets. They have no proof of this, of course, but that apparently doesn't make it any less true.
The Democratic candidates for president are split on the issue. Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton are both openly supporting complete equality for gays and lesbians, including marriage. The front runners, John Kerry and John Edwards, are still stuck in the "separate but equal" rut of marriage for heterosexuals and civil unions for homosexuals. Unfortunately, civil unions don't convey the same benefits as civil marriage. John Kerry takes his mealy-mouthed offering one step further by opposing an amendment to the US Constitution, but supporting a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that bans same-sex marriage but allows civil unions. I'm guessing that Mr. Kerry doesn't see the problem in his approach.
George W. Bush wants to stop same-sex couples from getting married and he isn't the least bit mealy-mouthed about it. Bush wants to stop same-sex marriage badly enough that he's openly supporting an amendment to the US Constitution. Suddenly, he's got a new mission in life. Something that might just shore up his sagging popularity. War and the economy certainly aren't helping any longer. Saddam Hussein has been caught -- anyone heard anything about him since? -- and US soldiers continue to be maimed and killed in Iraq. Afghanistan's rubble has been reduced to pebbles, and people continue to die over there. Corporations continue to lay off employees, and former employees continue to lose their unemployment benefits. Let's not even talk about those tax cuts and the pensions and benefits that they need to steal out from under retirees to make them happen.
Same-sex marriage, yes, that's a real threat to the health and welfare of the US. Something that Bush and his Republican cronies can set their caps on and make a different in the lives of the average American family. To make that happen, they're willing to amend the US Constitution -- that very same US Constitution that they've already trampled all over with their jackbooted yells of Homeland Security.
The Defense of Marriage Act apparently isn't enough to protect marriage -- not with the US Constitution requiring that full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts and records and judicial proceedings of every other state. With that clause in the Constitution, DOMA might just be overturned and then where will the United States be? Overrun with married couples of all genders and combinations of genders? Apparently, that's a threat to national safety and to the stability of society.
That's got to be a relief to my married straight friends. They've spent hours and hours trying to figure out how the marriage of two people of the same gender can possibly be a threat to their own marriages. While my friends are trying to figure out that threat, I keep thinking that I should be angry at the politicians and the activists who insist that I'm somehow less worthy of being married now that I'm in a relationship with a woman, than I was when I was married to a man. I'm the same person , albeit older, wiser, and definitely happier. But I'm not angry. I'm saddened, bitter, and a little confused.
Same-sex marriages don't seem to have done a lot so far to unravel and destabilize society. Over the months since June 2003, Canada doesn't seem to be have suffered any serious social woes that can be directly blamed on the decision to allow same-sex couples to be married, neither have the Netherlands or Belgium. In the weeks since San Francisco started marrying same-sex couples, there have been many family celebrations and some copycat cases springing up in local governments across the US -- the Sandoval County clerk's office in Bernalillo, NM, the Mayor of New Paltz, NY, were followed by similar threats of civil disobedience from officials in places such as Chicago and Schenectady -- but no violence, no riots, nothing that I can interpret as a serious social threat.
Then again, I'm neither a psychic nor the governor of California. Mr. Schwarzenegger -- who more recently announced that he's not personally opposed to same-sex marriage, he just wants to enforce the current laws -- clearly sees himself as both. I guess that's why he used the royal "we" when he said in a TV interview, "All of a sudden, we see riots, we see protests, we see people clashing. The next thing we know, there is injured or there is dead people. We don't want it to get to that extent." Where was the governor when there were riots and protests and people clashing over the Iraq war? Maybe he would have stopped the war to make sure that the riots and the protests did happen. Then again, probably not. War apparently isn't as much of a threat to society as two men or two women who fall in love and want to get married and, perhaps, start a family.
Elisabeth Hurst is a member of the Bad Subjects Production Team. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.