"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
LET US WED. It rests on equality, liberty, and even society.
Let us wed...That idea remains shocking to many people. So far, only four countries--Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, and Spain--have given full legal status to same-sex unions. (And South Africa's is in the process of legislating same sex marriage). The sight of homosexual men and women having wedding days just like those enjoyed for centuries by heterosexuals is unsettling, just as, for some people, is the sight of us holding hands or kissing.
The case for allowing gays to marry begins with equality, pure and simple. Why should one set of loving, consenting adults be denied a right that other such adults have and which, if exercised, will do no damage to anyone else? Not just because they have always lacked that right in the past, for sure: until the 1969, in some American states it was illegal for African-American adults to marry white ones, but precious few would defend that ban now on grounds that it was "traditional".
Another argument is rooted in semantics: marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and so cannot be extended to same-sex couples. They may live together and love one another, but cannot, by this argument, be "married". But that is to dodge the real question-why not?-and to obscure the real nature of marriage, which is a binding commitment, at once legal, social and personal, between two people to take on special obligations to one another. If homosexuals want to make such marital commitments to one another, and to society, then why should we be prevented from doing so while other adults, equivalent in all other ways, are allowed to do so?
Civil unions are not enough!
The case against same sex marriage, according to the religious right, is that this would damage an important social institution. Yet, the reverse is surely true. Gays want to marry precisely because we see marriage as important: we want the symbolism that marriage brings, the extra sense of obligation and commitment, as well as the social recognition. Allowing gays to marry would, if anything, add to social stability, for it would increase the number of couples that take on real, rather than simply passing, commitments. The weakening of marriage has been heterosexuals' doing, not gays', for it is their infidelity, divorce rates and single-parent families that have wrought social damage.
But marriage is about children, say some: to which the answer is, often, but not always, (we allow infertile couples to marry) and permitting gay marriage would not alter that. Or it is a religious act, say others: to which the answer is, yes, you may believe that, but if so it is no business of the state to impose a religious status. Besides, some religious denominations are performing marriages already. Indeed, in America the constitution expressly bans the involvement of the state in religious matters, so it would be especially outrageous if the constitution were now to be used for religious ends-as some proponents of the constitutional amendment in America, banning gay marriage would pretend to do.
The importance of marriage for society's general health and stability also explains why the commonly mooted alternative to gay marriage-a so-called civil union-is not enough. Yet, those civil unions would be both wrong in principle and damaging for society. Marriage, as it is commonly viewed in society, is more than just a legal contract. Moreover, to establish something short of real marriage for some adults would tend to undermine the notion for all. Why shouldn't everyone, in time, downgrade to civil unions? Now that really would threaten a fundamental institution of civilization.
Part 2 More Thoughts on Marriage
My cousin twice removed, Elba, phoned a week ago gushing about the upcoming wedding of her daughter Myrna. I immediately was carried away in her excitement and requested to know all the details. Myrna is a junior at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights. She has known Ernie, her fiance, for the last 8 months. They are devout Catholics, so the only form of birth control they were taught was abstinence. Needless to say, they could not abstain. Myrna is three months pregnant and they are planning a September 28 wedding. I was quite sympathetic, told her to pray for the best, and offered her the number to the closest Planned Parenthood Clinic. She was offended and hung up.
Funny thing about being Catholic - against all odds, they will marry--I give them five years tops.
Elba called three days ago with more news. The wedding will be at St James Catholic Church in Chicago Heights followed by a reception at the Chicago Heights Country Club. After hearing for the next ten minutes how busy Elba and her husband Berto are with the preparations and how they had to take a second mortgage to pay for the whole thing. I congratulated her and told her that that was why my partner Bill and I were very happy with our two dogs.
Elba had more news yesterday. She had reservations about the whole thing when she found out that Ernie's mother is a lesbian who lives with her partner of 30 years. But they must be doing well, because Ernie surprised her little Myrna with a huge rock from Tiffany's. That and the fact that the lesbians wanted to help pay for the wedding convinced Berto that this would be a good match. I congratulated them and ask where are they registered: "Macy's, the New Marshall Fields of Chicago."
Let me tell you something--I'm sick and tired of hearing about Myrna's wedding, the reception, her gown, and all the other stuff. Bill and I don't want to go, but we don't want to offend her, or her lesbian mothers. I have given thousands of dollars in gifts over the last 30 years to friends, co-workers, and family to celebrate heterosexual marriage. Yet, where are these people to support us in same gender marriage?
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