Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stonewall to Gay Marriage

"Pride Week," or as a certain friend of mine refers to it, "the Gay High Holy Days" is now over. Emotionally it's been a little tough on me. I start out with a photo of the official flag raising at City Hall, and it ended with the very unlikely circumstance of your humble servant giving a gay historical tour of Boston's South End called "Stonewall to Gay Marriage, a Long Road Through the South End. Today, I see in the New York Times, that the final arguments in the marriage trial in California have been presented, so there is a nice arrangement of events.

Folks who knew the "Mad Genius" through his "Lucubrations" don't know that he worked at City Hall for a while, so finding myself there for the flag raising was peculiar; my head fairly buzzed with his caustic comments, not the least because I was there at the behest of my friends at "Ethos," and Boston's community of elder LGBT's (I hope I haven't left anyone out of the acronym.) It would seem that I am now officially part of that community which he didn't survive to join with me.

I marched in the Parade with Emmanuel Church, and I will confess that I marched in my first Pride Parade, bare chested with my honey of long ago, with a little more ease than I did "Coming out" as this staunch Episcopalian which I've been lately- of course I worked out a lot then, and the church is much different now; and then there was the joyfully bizarre gathering on City Hall Plaza at the completion of the parade, now filled with booths for break away Catholics complete with tonsure, leather men, drag queens, corporate sponsors, doggie gift sellers, and politicians. I have been avoiding these gatherings since "The Mad Genius" passed. I have an almost surreal feeling of watching the proceedings from somewhere beyond the grave. I say this all the time but it is starkly true- almost everyone is either 10 years younger, or 10 years older than I. Of those with whom I was even acquainted during the 80's only 2 or 3 are seen around. I keep a mental tally of men I hear of in Boston who about 60- the present number is 9. When you consider that the year of my birth, 1948, was the crest of the baby boom, that we should be the largest, not the smallest, segment of the population, the devastation of AIDS becomes apparent. As I wandered around the festivities I felt like a "stranger from a strange land."

I don't need to tell you about my walk through the South End because one of the new friends who joined us has reported on it already, and very well, here, at Diffuse5. I encourage you to explore her blog.

So on to this report in the New York Times which has graced the cyberworld this morning. As usual, I have some questions. I realize that these may be more about the report than about the arguments reported upon, which I am not about to read in transcript,there are limits to my political enthusiasm!

Here are my questions, the quotations from the NYT report are in italics:

“The marital relationship is fundamental to the existence and survival of the race,” said the defense’s leading lawyer, Charles J. Cooper. “Without the marital relationship, your honor, society would come to an end.”

This line of argument against Gay marriage has always confused me. Yes, this is the lawyer defending Prop. 8. It is as though extending marriage to Gay couples will remove it from world of straight couples, once gay people can marry there won't be any more babies. All the straight people in the world will suddenly revert to Hippies who feel it is unconscionable to bring children into the world, I guess. Or another explanation, which I feel seriously may be the case, has to do with latent homosexual feelings. this is particularly conspicuous in the case of religious leaders: making sexual relations between men OK will threaten sexual relationships between men and women (when we speak of procreation we are speaking of sex after all.) In what set of circumstances could this be true? Only if men are much more attractive sexually than women, right? So when you hear this argument, doesn't it make you wonder about the inclinations of the speaker?

At one point, Judge Walker wondered at Mr. Cooper’s logic. “Do people get married to benefit the community?” he asked. “When one enters into a marriage, you don’t say, ‘Oh boy, I’m going to benefit society!’ ”

Here, my liberal friends will have to excuse a sardonic comment. I have always thought it strange that the homophobic community would be against gay marriage rather than insistent upon it. Gay people are bad, right? And really at their worst when they are running around the streets at night, looking for sex and having fun dancing to loud music. Get them off the streets and confined to the restrictions of marriage like decent people! Let them model themselves on us and benefit society! I suppose that the danger of this line of reasoning would be that straight people would have to stay in their marriages, raise their kids responsibly, do good for the community, and work to reverse the divorce laws. Odd that these "procreation as a standard" folks are not so active in that area.....

Judge Walker also asked why the state’s domestic partnership law, which affords most of the same rights as marriage, was not “sufficient accommodation” for the rights of gay people. Mr. Olson countered that marriage was a unique institution and more significant than domestic partnerships.

“It means something completely different,” Mr. Olson said.

Arguments in the trial began in early January, and included two weeks of evidence and testimony by plaintiffs and experts on marriage, sociology and political science.

The defense offered much more limited testimony, with two witnesses arguing, among other points, that same-sex marriage damages traditional marriage as an institution and that special judicial protections are unnecessary for gay people.

I have very conflicted feeling about the issue of "Gay Marriage" verses "Domestic Partnership," but will also acknowledge that my ambivalence is self interested: had the community in Massachusetts accepted domestic partnership rather than holding out for marriage "The Mad Genius" and I would have had some protections, and I would have been able to claim his assets when he died. Because of this personal cost I have always been skeptical that the price of "Marriage" was worth the delayed protection that the fight resulted in. I am now coming to see the wisdom of it however.

The quote above contains another oddity. I must say that I am continually amazed at the obvious lack of logic in statements that are made in the media- and also in court. California was mandated by the Court to apply the marriage laws equally to all people, not only to heterosexual people. This mandate was reversed by Proposition 8, and that reversal is being defended by Mr. Cooper who is saying that it would be a special judicial protection to apply the law equally to gay people, and that that is unnecessary; that applying the law to one section of society is routine, but applying it to another is unnecessarily special!

This appeal to the myopic view of a self-centered and fearful majority is exactly what our constitution is meant to protect us from.

and finally, back to the parade!

One problem with marching is that you only get to see what is just in front and just in back of you. I did get to see, however, a couple in a pedicab carrying a sign that read "55 years together, 6 years married." Here is another of my long standing observations about the validity of gay relationships. Consider that in our society all the legal, social, financial, and religious institutions have historically reinforced, supported, even demanded heterosexual marriage, yet the divorce rate is high and examples of happiness rare. And in times past, the times this couple established themselves during, gay people in relationships have suffered legal prosecution rather than protection, were ostracized by society at large and often their families as well, received no financial advantage or religious support, yet have managed to maintain a meaningful relationship. It is rare assuredly, as rare as the fifty-fifth anniversary of a straight couple, and who can say that it is of any less value to society.


Sue said...

You made an excellent point I hadn't thought about before - one would think conservatives would be more apt to affirming same sex marriage than trying to destroy it. After all marriage is supposed to be a promise to be monogamous (theoretically) or at least be true to another person. Although then we get into the random statistics that say few married same sex couples last more than three years.
I still don't know where those stats come from!

Another interesting argument that came from the trial was when Olson brought up the point that if marriage was specifically for procreation - then why were jailed inmates allowed to get married if there was no chance to consummate the marriage?

I suppose we could argue about this all day. But I am looking forward to seeing the prop 8 documentary that's coming out soon. I think that at the very least it will give us all a lot more to write about. :)

the man from Utz said...

Another interesting statistic regarding these stable relationships: this came from DNA studies that were run intending to track disease buy testing parents and newborns, that 10 percent of infants did not have their father's DNA (Jared Diamond, "The Third Chimpanzee," and other sources)