On same gender marriage

September 29, 2009

It’s not just that some of my best friends are gay or lesbian.  Some of my best role models for committed relationships are from same gender couples.  I don’t  know much (or anything) about their sex lives, but I’m deeply touched by how they handle growth and change, how they deal with conflicts (and of course there are conflicts), how they respond to opportunities that each partner receives — in short, all the ways in which they create whole, vital, and vibrant relationships.

Why is it so hard for many citizens to draw upon such experience, and why is so much effort being put into denying same gender couples the right to marry?  And why has same gender marriage become so controversial?

There really are two notions of marriage:

  1. The state recognizes a committed relationship between two people as being a kind of family unit, and afforts such a unit special rights regarding taxation, visitation rights in hospitals, inheritance, parental rights, and other such matters of legal or financial significance.  There should be no impediment to allowing a same gender couple the same treatment.
  2. Many religions recognize a committed relationship between two people as being a kind of covenant, and afford such relationships their blessing.  Religions that believe a homosexual relationship to be sinful obviously won’t allow that relationship covenant status — and that is their right.  I wish it were not so, but it is.

The state recongizes a religious covenant of marriage as deserving all the rights of legal marriage, and so allows that when a clergy officiates at a marriage, that marriage has legal, as well as religous, status.  (For Quakers, who might not have clergy to officiate, laws in most states recognize, “Marriage according to the good order used among Friends”, and allow the meeting clerk to sign in place of a clergy person.)

But the state also allows a civil process for marriage.  This should be open to any two people prepared to enter a marriage relatoionshp, and not restricted by being already married.  The state does not enforce any other moral requirement in allowing civil marriage, and there is no reason why two partners of the same gender should not be recognized as entitled to the same marriage rights as any of us.

There are, of course, lots of false arguments.  It may be suggested that marriage is a vehicle for raising children, and that a same gender cannot conceive on their own.  While biologically correct, there are plenty of options, including adoption, artifical insemination, and intercourse specifically for insemination.  I’m not aware of heterosexual couples being asked if they intend to have children, if they intend to have a sexual relationship, or if they do what sexual practices they expect to adopt or explore.

I’ve been told that my (heterosexual) marriage would be threatened by the acceptance of same gender marriage.  However, I’ve never understod by what mechanism this would occur.

In a society with a paucity of love, we need to nourish and support every bit that we can find.  If a couple in Maine, or anywhere, want to “tie the knot”, I hope we’ll support them wholeheartedly.

That support need not mean uncritical acceptance of their desire.  Most relgious groups have some practice to screen or counsel couples, to insure that their request for marriage comes with thorough consideration, and with good preparation.  Couples entering into a civil marriage might be advised to seek out counsel on their own.  But this is for them, in their own process.

This was originally written as an op-ed piece for the Portland Press Herald, and ran alongside an opposing article by the “conservative” columnist M.D. Harmon.

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2 Responses to “On same gender marriage”

  1. You speak my mind, Friend. The question of why this issue excites people so much is interesting. I’ve been impressed with the explanation of George Lakoff (which I wrote about here: http://www.eileenflanagan.com/blog/2008/9/1/political-mind.html) that focuses on our unconscious models of morality. He says a conservative world view has at its core the ideal of a patriarchal family where people obey certain rules. Marriage equality (the term he suggests in place of gay or same-gender marriage) threatens that world view, which frightens people just as much as an actual threat.

  2. juliette said

    Hello Friends,

    I may be able to give a little insight as to why this issue is so controversial. That it threatens a conservative world view is just one reason for those that hold that particular world view. I would like to add another, for those who find the issue to be conflicting with their own moral values, or the wisdom they have sought and gained throughout their lives.
    I believe that there is wisdom in contemplating the complex issues that present themselves…(who doesn’t?)and also contemplating the reasons why some issues are very much against our instincts. The wisdom here is understanding that there are many things intrinsic to our human nature, and knowing that many of these things go against the spirit that we have chosen to edify (many of us do make a conscious effort to deny human desires in order to gain spiritual strength and integrity). The desire to find a partner in life, someone to share incredible moments with and to love and be loved by them in return, is one of the most satisfying desires to be fulfilled. It is glorious. But in looking to the natural world, finding someone of the same sex to be intimately involved, as intimately as a marriage would concede, goes against this nature. The way a man and woman are designed, or just simply are, (if you prefer not to acknowledge a design) are naturally complimenting to each other. The way each one of us was created, requiring sperm from a man and an egg from a woman, is a testament to that design. I believe it is a perversion of the natural order of things to encourage marriage of the same sex. We all know how indescribably magnificent nature is on so many levels. Why so boldly ignore its prescription? Humans are good at wreaking havoc upon themselves and the result of havoc in this case is only to be expected. It is great to maybe have a best friend of the same sex. We don’t have to specify what the issue really is…because it is obvious. Choosing a mate that is not “fit” to be a mate, wreaks havoc. Why should we as a society condone this? Wisdom speaks so loudly. Our compassion for those who find a person that they think completes their lives, of the same sex, is great. But their choice of a mate is poor, and I claim that they either have no discernment, or refuse to listen to the discernmant that they have. It would be foolish to expect the whole of society to condone actions that do not and will not benefit that society. If two people of the same sex love each other, they should be able to visit one another in the hospital. It is a pity that these laws are so rigid.
    I am single. I know what it is like to find someone to love and be loved by. I yearn so much to be able to experience this again. I find myself enamored by certain individuals and know that if I did not have discernment, I could become seriously involved with the wrong person. Someone who is not good for me or good for my children. I would not expect anyone to condone and fight for my decision, when they know well, that it is a poor one, let alone fight for laws that would encourage others to make the same poor decision. It is difficult to stop or walk away from “falling in love” with someone. If that someone is not the right one, than I wish all the strength to do so.
    I realize that this post was not one you were looking forward to, but I recognize us all to be mature and able enough to discuss such matters. When it comes to changing laws and such, my impressionable children are affected by the books that are read to them and this is not one thing that I want them to be encouraged in. Also, my words here may have been too many, but we all know that in searching for answers, a bit of depth is required. I do not believe that the simple “conservative world view” notion addressed this issue with the sort of depth I would have hoped to see.
    Love for all, by all, is hoped for. Animosity toward individuals that seek same sex marriage is futile and destructive and not recommended. My heart goes out to those who seek a mate.

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