One big issue around the country this week has been the U.S. Supreme Court taking up the issue of marriage equality. I’m assuming that my fellow Offenders join me in supporting the right of gay couples to marry. Throughout my adult life, I’ve been fortunate to have had both straight and gay friends. As we all got older, most found partners and began pairing up for the long term. Except those who were gay couldn’t get married, which always struck me as unfair.
The issue really hit home for me, however, about seven or eight years ago. The partner of a good friend suddenly suffered a heart attack and went into the hospital. Even though they’d been together ten years at that point, my friend didn’t have any legal standing to visit his partner, nor would he be able to make medical decisions should this become necessary. Thankfully, President Obama mandated in 2010 that the partners of gay patients were entitled to equal rights of visitation and medical consultation, but this example really made me conscious of the many ways — small and large — that the inability of gay couples to marry relegated them to second-class citizenship.
Was there a particular moment or incident in your experience that brought home the issue of marriage equality for you?
ALFREDO: A few months ago I received the following e-mail from Iris H., the twelve year old daughter of dear friends of ours who live in Boise, Idaho (parents are hetero):
Hi, I am doing a research paper in my Language Arts class. Our class is looking at stereotypes. My research question is, “What are people’s attitudes today on the subject of gay marriage and how have they changed?”
She had some specific subquestions – you’ll be able to guess at them from my comments below – but the heart of it, for me, was taking my knee jerk liberal reaction – of course gay people should have the right to be as happy or miserable as straights! – and trying to describe it coherently to a kid from a very red state. Here’s the short version of my reply:
Personally, I see marriage as a public declaration of two people’s love for one another, and their intention to spend the rest of their lives together, regardless of their gender.
I was raised Catholic, but I think many religions, not just Catholicism, boil down to this: accepting others as they are, and the “Golden Rule”: treat others as you would have them treat you. From that, I believe most great religious thinkers would encourage the acceptance of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.
I don’t believe homosexuality is a choice, I believe it is a biological trait you’re born with, like having brown eyes or white skin. So, to me, there’s no room to condemn it.
There are all kinds of family units that can prosper or fail: single parent households; grandparents raising the kids; adopted children, the traditional nuclear family, etc. Sexuality isn’t the difference maker, parental love and devotion are.
DAVID: There is so much negativity of same sex marriage as I was growing up young. As lemmings do I just followed that mind set and never questioned it because the most obvious question was… “How can they have babies? Of course they can’t get married!”
Many years later that question is still the same… “Is there equality for gays that want to be married?” After all the teachings while I was in Sunday school… after all the smerky jokes and making fun of the situation… and after all the realization of my gay friends and family members that are gay who want to be married without prejudice… It comes down to this… love.
Let them love and declare love by marriage. Seems simple enough.
QUENTIN: You know my position. I think America is behind. My home country Canada passed gay marriage federally in 2003. When I was in Taipei that year for the Taipei International Film Festival, the Canadian government there hosted me and invited me to celebrate Canada Day by having me give a speech to high level academics and politicians in Kaohsiung. The Canadian consulate told me to make sure to mention that Canada would be passing gay marriage federally by the year’s end. I was totally touched. What a cool country, eh?
ROGER: If anything, the gay marriage issue always brings to light the two Americas in which we live and the two dominant factors that tend to divide our 2 Americas: religion and politics. The original ideal of America was a place where people of all walks of life could come, be free, and be accepted. And the purest form of religion would be one of unconditional acceptance and love. How, over the many years, the founding principles of politics and religion in America has been bent, reinterpreted, and injected with subjective fear and exclusion is a simultaneously fascinating and disappointing phenomenon. If anything, the many people who support no marriage for gay couples is a study in hypocrisy. For many of those individuals, if you just slide back the hands of time, were equally excluded for their ethnicity, their spiritual beliefs, etc. Yet they came to America at a time where “their kind” was accepted.
So to exclude others when you, yourself, was once alienated, discriminated, and excluded is just a purely selfish act. It’s dumbfounding and hypocritical to exclude others from home, happiness, and love. To deny anyone of these core, wonderful things is just wrong. And if one’s politics and religion teach differently, perhaps a quick look back into history will reveal that such discrimination disguised as truth was modified from its original intent.
JEROME: I’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint the exact moment when this consciously clicked with me. I was fortunate enough to be in – at the very least – a neutral environment about all this and assumed everyone had the same set of rights as everyone else.
Attending Catholic school started making me more aware of that other, incomprehensible stance, leaving the otherwise rule-abiding me to entertain the more inquisitive parts of my personality. Why are these books telling me that Jesus loved everyone and then presenting these weird caveats?
And then the rest is my history.
PHILIP: I don’t see what the big deal is so this has always been a non-issue but as I’ve blogged before–if you’re a homophobe, wouldn’t you want gays to get married? Wouldn’t you want them to have the same opportunity to be as miserable and unhappy as straight people?