Saturday, March 2, 2013

Why marriage laws still matter.

A few months ago, I was flattered by the responses to my piece about gay marriage.  In this piece, I shared a story about my friend and how I first became passionate about the issue.

Not to turn my nose up at compliments, but some of the feedback I got from this article left me feeling more than a little perplexed.  It seems that people thought that my friendship with someone who was gay changed my mind.  Like, if I am a republican, then clearly I'm predisposed to be 'anti-gay.'

The truth is, I hadn't thought about it one way or another. Other than my penchant for falling in love with guys that played for the other team, I didn't give sexual orientation much thought.  Oh, I know what you're thinking... maybe if I had, I could've saved myself a little heartbreak here and there... Thanks Monday's quarterback, good point.

Anyway, in that piece I wanted to share why I was passionate about the issue and why I did devote a lot of time to thinking about it, and my friend is absolutely to thank for that.  However, being a stubborn conservative, I like to think I wouldn't allow one example, and/or emotional pull to, in any way, dictate how I feel about policies or laws.  Moods can shift, tides can change... I like my coffee black and I like my policy based on logic.

In that piece, I also promised that I had, "logical, legal, and moral reasons that I believe in marriage equality."  

And what better time to express them than in this notte senza il Papa? So, here goes. 

Initially we need to get past the semantics thing.  "Marriage" vs "Civil Union."  If they were legally the exact same thing, would this problem go away? Are people fighting over rights or over vocabulary?  Because fighting over vocabulary makes me want to flick people in the head... but as of now, civil union and marriage mean legally different things so assume from here that I am talking about rights and I'll just choose to use the word 'marriage.'  (If we want to change it so that all people get "civil union licenses/civil unions" from the gov't and then if they so choose, go and get a "marriage" blessed in a church... rock on as far as I'm concerned... so long as civil unions mean the same for gay and straight.)

So, on to the argument.

First, we need to establish that government has a valid interest in legalizing marriage at all.  History seems to debate itself as to why the government got involved in this business to begin with.  There are certainly the contractual and proprietary sides of marriage that need to be regulated and would be chaotic without some sort of oversight by the state.  But, there is also the religious aspect that marriage is what God intended and thus should be the law of the land.  Even in the Bible the covenant of marriage and the women as property thing are pretty intertwined.  

So I'm going to do my best to not get muddled in religious vs. legal... and just concentrate on three reasons why marriage, in general is good for a society and therefore is good for a government to both encourage and regulate. Then, we'll analyze those arguments and see whether there is a logical difference between gay and straight partnerships to see if the government should differentiate.

1)  Marriage creates stability in communities and creates partnerships with greater buying power.  Whether it is cultural or economical, people are more likely to move, switch jobs and rent instead of buy when they are single.  77% of all homeowners are married couples (Forbes.)  In this sense it makes sense for the state to encourage and support both gay and straight marriage as it is the contractual blending of two people and most likely two incomes and not the gender that matters in this statistic and in this improvement to the economy. 

2)  Marriage creates the best environment to raise the next generation.  This will get some hairs raised, I understand, but though there are the amazing single mothers and fathers that are certainly the exception to the rule, both statistics and logic say that kids have a better chance coming from a two parent household.  Children are 82% less likely to live in poverty in a married home (US Census) which, I get, can totally become a chicken v. egg argument.  But it seems that logic would tell us that kids seeing people compromise, work together, and co-exist in a loving relationship is good for their overall well-being.  And, I understand that here, many people would say that kids are best with a "mother and a father."  And ok, I'll see you and raise you a, "kids would be best with the best mother and the best father."  Or, "kids would be best with parents that understand them perfectly and always put them first and have zero mental health issues that they will pass along." or... 

Look, I understand where you are coming from with a 'mom and dad,' thing... really, I do.  But I have three very different children and maybe they'd each do better with people different than my husband and I... How, if they are so very different, could we be the best possible parents for all three?  I know I've relied on stats for my past two examples, but in this one, we simply have not been an open society long enough to have reliable stats one way or another.  All we have is the anecdotal accounts like that of Zach Wahls in front of the Iowa legislature and personal experience to know that two good people in a loving relationship who love their kids... whether gay or straight are going to do their best to be good parents.

The other thing to think about regarding kids is that the gay couple, every time, is going to want that child. Because... they aren't getting pregnant on accident... unless I missed something in my gay reading...  and that alone is a hell of a lot more than we can say for millions or so kids per year that are born and/or conceived and not born.

3)  Marriage controls the spread of disease.  Not romantic... but true and important.  Going back to Biblical stuff... so much of the Leviticus shenanigans that gets pooh poohed is all about disease control... The restrictions on when to eat meat had to do with the fact that animals were generally killed on a certain day... (Sunday I think... so by Friday, the Sabbath, the meat would spoil.)  And not getting tattoos... can you imagine that being a sanitary practice back then?? And the not whoring around in general... let's face it, STD's abound then and now.  God, or a medicine man or someone was hip to it for sure. So staying with one sexual partner was good for the all.  Again, societally this seems a huge pro to encourage for both gay and straight. 

I said I wouldn't get muddled in religious vs. legal but to say that our marriage laws do not have a basis in religion would be to deny history itself.  The above secular reasons, though valid, can not paint the whole picture.  We would be lying if we denied the moral and ethical importance we place on marriage, which I'll touch on now. 

In trying to find a suitable mate, people are often given the advice, "you can't find love until you learn to love yourself."  This, I absolutely believe.  And yet... there is an entire population of people that we, as a society, seem to be telling to deny themselves and, "just find a mate of opposite sex and be normal."  How can we possibly expect anyone to be in any kind of positive relationship when we are telling them that they should not love themselves?  They first must change their very being... make it so that we love you... good, now just go settle down with someone with opposite genitalia please, because that is what actually matters. 

I know, I know this part is less logic, more emotion... I guess I just get wrapped up because I know that if I were gay... you would still love me, you would still think I was a hopeless romantic, you would still probably ask how I got someone to want to marry me (though I'm not sure a lesbian partner would know as much about interior design or flowers as my husband...) and I know you would root for me to get married so that I could have a partner with whom to share my life. 

But I digress.  I do understand the slippery slope issue and I'll be the first one to say that no government (regardless of my opinion) should tell a church, or an organization (like the boy scouts) or a person how to feel or act or govern itself. 

Here, I'm talking solely about law and policy.  Stable relationships with greater buying power and less sexual partners are beneficial both economically and morally for our society.  We have an obligation to encourage the next generation, regardless of their orientation, to be part a productive society instead of implying that by their very nature they are a degradation of it. 

When it comes to religion, because I know the idea can't be avoided forever, I go back, as I often do, to Matthew 22:21 "give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."  Jesus was giving us not only permission, but orders to live in a society as best we can.  And, both logic and morality seems to tell me that encouraging marriage between two consenting adults is good. 

I'm not going to tell you that Jesus is for gay marriage.  Guess what? I'm not going to tell you He's for straight marriage either since He told his disciples to leave their families and follow Him.  But He did sure seem to have a lot to say about treating other people as we'd like to be treated.   

And I, for one, am glad that I was able to celebrate joyfully finding the love of my life and knowing that we are bound legally... so that if he f*cks up.... "here go Hell come."

thanks for reading, 


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