Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Buddy Got Married! Hell to the No On Prop 8

(please go to No On Prop 8 to donate or volunteer - it's crucial!)

Over the weekend, my friend Doug got married.

After 17 years of living together, and 7 years of parenthood, he tied the knot with the love of his life in a small, private ceremony.

When marriage equality was approved in California, he told me he didn't know whether or not he and his partner would get married or not, because of the real possibility of an amendment to the California constitution that would rescind that civil right. Just thinking of the ability of someone who has no business in Doug's private life being able to give or take away his right to marry makes me see red.

Who do these people think they are? How dare they?

I was driving along in the Valley the other day when I passed a park with some Yes On (H)8 picketers marching around. One sign proclaimed "Prop 8=Religious Freedom".

At least that comes right out and says it. According to these people, if you do not codify their belief system into law, even if their beliefs are unconstitutional, even on a matter which is none of their business and robs you of your civil rights without having an impact upon them in the least, you are denying their religious freedom.

Equal rights for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is an issue that is extremely important to me. I don't blog about it on a regular basis, mostly because I don't feel as a straight person that I have the right to be a 'spokesperson' for the LGBT community. But I do feel that it has to take all of us, gay and straight together, to stand up for what's right on this issue - not 'special rights' but equal rights. All I have to do is think of how I'd feel if some Nosy Parker decided that they could undo my marriage just because of their own twisted and perverted belief system and a shitload of money. It is revolting. It is disgusting. And it is wrong.

I must say that I don't get how anything that encourages stability and family values, like marriage, can possibly be anything but good for society as a whole. But, this of course is not about logic - it is about fear.

I'm so happy for Doug, and I'm glad he and his partner husband decided to 'go for the gold' even in the face of possibly losing it. I wish my friend Kenny could have had that chance to stand up in front of everyone and celebrate his love and commitment. The God of my understanding created Kenny exactly the way He wanted him to be, with a heart full of love to offer another person. I will be working for the right of all my gay and lesbian friends to be able to exercise their right to marry, which is inherent to all people, but is currently being denied by people who should have absolutely no say in the matter.

I will trot out my article "The 'Defense' Rests" again, although I've posted it several times over the past 4 years, because it sums up my feelings on this issue and my intersection with it.

The 'Defense' Rests

I received my first marriage proposal at the age of eighteen. My fiancé, a year older than I, was a real catch. A Tom Hanks look-alike, he was tall and lanky, with curly brown hair and a sweet, slightly loopy smile. Kenny was smart, funny, athletic, a gifted actor and a talented saxophone player who helped me get a full-tuition music scholarship at the community college he attended a year ahead of me. His mom had been my first piano teacher, and we had been friends ever since I was in the eighth grade. We bonded in high school, both of us being theater geeks, band nerds - not terribly popular but cool with being 'on the fringe'. Music and drama helped us both to find our own place in the spinning vortex that is high school.

Kenny was a college sophomore and I was a freshman when he proposed. We were both music majors, and both had jobs as well - I was playing keyboards in local bands at night, and he was the night manager of a convenience store. Unlike most of my other male friends, Kenny was already planning for a home and family. Hard-working and thrifty, he was putting away money for a down payment on a house. I adored him. We had so much in common - including the fact that we both liked guys.

Yep, Kenny was gay. It was not a 'lifestyle choice'; it was not a 'sexual preference', like 'preferring' tea to coffee. Believe me, Kenny did not just wake up one fine morning and say, "I think I'll alienate my family, exclude myself from the social mainstream, jeopardize my ability to choose where I live and what I do, and lay myself open to rejection, discrimination, violence, hate, and fear." Folks, I'm afraid he was born that way. Take it from someone who grew up with him.

As close as we were in high school, we never talked about it. He had a 'girlfriend', a sax player at another high school, and we both pretended that he was in love with her long enough for him to have a prom date. It wasn't until after I graduated in the late '70s and disco was king that Kenny opened up to me about being gay. He introduced me to the gay subculture in our town, and I went with him to the gay bars and the all-night discos. He would have crushes on guy after guy, always so sure that this one was 'the one', but somehow it never seemed to work out. Although finally free to 'be himself' with other people who felt the way he did, the long-term relationship and stability that he wanted so much was at odds with the hedonistic excesses of the era, and there was no social framework in place to support him.

This was where I came in. As we saw it, our getting married could solve a lot of difficulties (Your Honor, I plead the ignorance of eighteen). Kenny's mom knew me and liked me; she would be happy that Kenny would have 'social validity'; Kenny could have the home and family he wanted - well, at least the home and the appearance of a family. I could have my cake and eat it, too - a partner who would be there for me financially and emotionally without asking for sexual fidelity, who would give me a home and not care what time I came back to it!

Well, as it turned out, we didn't get married after all; there was that pesky detail of 'being in love' that we knew, as young and nutty as we were, was the real reason for getting married. As much as we loved each other as friends, there would never be a marriage in our hearts. We went our separate ways; I went on the road and he stayed in our home town, still working, still saving, still waiting and hoping for the dream to come true. We still kept in touch, and when I came home to visit my family, we'd get together and catch up on each others' lives. Kenny eventually got the home, but the life partner to share it with never came along.

After a few years, I moved to California and my visits were spaced farther and farther apart. Sometimes I saw him, sometimes I didn't, but there was always 'next time'. I got married (for real) and after the birth of my first child, I flew back home with my husband and new son, eager to introduce them to my family and friends. I couldn't catch up with Kenny; I left messages on his machine, but in the whirlwind of activity surrounding the new baby, I put Kenny on my 'next time' list.

Two weeks after I went back to California, my sister called me to tell me that Kenny had died of AIDS.

When I hear people talking about the "Defense of Marriage", it just makes me want to spit. I believe that if Kenny had been allowed to marry, if there had been a social structure in place at that time that encouraged and rewarded commitment in gay people as well as straight, that Kenny would most likely be alive today.

Just who are they 'defending' marriage from? Is there some straight woman that won't be able to find a mate because the gay boys 'got' all the good men? The arguments that the staunch 'Knights of Matrimony' throw out don't hold water to me.

Jan LaRue, a member of the Concerned Women of America ('concerned' with getting all up in other peoples' private lives!) - a lawyer, for gosh sakes - talks about why gay marriage is so very wrong...

"Granting a marriage license to homosexuals because they engage in sex is as illogical as granting a medical license to a barber because he wears a white coat or a law license to a salesman because he carries a briefcase. Real doctors, lawyers and the public would suffer as a result of licensing the unqualified and granting them rights, benefits and responsibilities as if they were qualified."



Qualified? Qualified?!?

Yes, I guess the lovely and talented Lyle Menendez is 'qualified' to get married. No doubt the devilishly handsome Scott Peterson, with his boyish charm, will be married before you know it, taking his pick of jailhouse proposals from the coterie of killer-hags that are inundating him with marriage offers. After all, he is single!

point: A child should have a mother and a father.

counterpoint: First off, I think it pretty much goes without saying that in today's society, reproduction is not the only reason to be married. I don't remember the 'Fertility Test' when my husband and I were applying for our marriage license. There are straight couples who (gasp!) choose not to have children! And how about the couples who just can't and decide to live with it? Should their licenses be revoked? What about parents who have lost a partner to divorce or death? Should their children be taken away from them?

Then, of course, what about the straight couples who have absolutely no business having children, and have them any old way? Abusive parents, neglectful parents, parents who, in their heart of hearts, don't want children but have them because of outside pressure? Am I to believe that a loving, committed gay couple would be worse for the emotional health of a kid than parents like these? Apparently so. That's right along with the "Murphy Brown" school of condemnation - those awful, selfish women who want a child so badly that they choose to have one without being married. Selfish? Most single (by choice or not) moms (and dads) I know have very little 'self' at all - they're too busy trying to raise their kids right in a two-income society. They're always at the bottom of the list. But I digress. Maybe we could force them to marry a gay man or woman. One of the opposite gender, naturally. Serve them all right.

No doubt about it, mothers and fathers are great. Optimal, even. I am not suggesting that the mom-and-pop deal is just another family model choice. It's not. It is the dominant one, and, all other things being even is the situation that our society set up to best suit a family. But all things are not always even, and just as no one in their right mind today would force a woman to stay with an abusive man 'for the sake of the children', the idea that any two heterosexuals (no matter how sick and dysfunctional) are better parent material than any two homosexuals (no matter how emotionally healthy and loving) is not an idea that I am prepared to accept. I am sure that there are bad gay parents out there. But I know there are bad straight parents, lots and lots of them, and no one is suggesting we abolish marriage for straight people because of that. I might even posit that, as a group, gay parents might have a higher percentage of good parenting because they often have to go to extraordinary lengths to have children, and in the face of strong opposition. It doesn't just 'happen', and I suspect the process would tend to weed out the less-motivated.

Gender role modeling? Maybe. But the overwhelming majority of gay people have (drum roll, please)… straight parents! What happened there with the 'gender modeling'? Good parents of any kind make sure their kids have positive models around them.

And then there's always the trump card - IMMORALITY! Who sez? God sez! Whose God? My God! Oh, my God. I'm not even going to bother to discuss the Bible quotes in Leviticus that are trotted out on a regular basis - smarter people than I have refuted the 'cherry-picking' of Levitical laws employed by those who feel that God Hates Fags. To these people, I say, "Fine. You're absolutely right. No one should force you to marry a gay person." Like any self-respecting queer would want to. Our country was founded by people who left their homeland and traveled thousands and thousands of miles to be free to worship as they pleased. And, yes, they were Christians. But the whole idea
(and a radical one it was) as expressed by our Founding Fathers, some of whom were religious and some of whom were not, was to build a country where everyone was free to worship as they pleased - not just Christian Puritans. Freedom of religion. Freedom NOT to worship if so inclined. Again, I'll leave the debating of the Constitution to my betters, but unless I'm way off the mark here, the United States of America is not a theocracy*. Isn't that exactly what we're trying to avoid setting up in that other place…what's it called again?…oh, yes - Iraq!

Well, folks, I'd better get out while the getting's good - I can see I'm heading into deep water here. But I'm still not convinced that there is any sort of justice in the fact that a mass murderer can marry and have children, if he or she chooses a partner of the opposite sex, but a law-abiding, upstanding member of society - if gay - cannot. To my mind, Your Honor, the 'Defense' doesn't have a leg to stand on.

(*note - I wrote this in 2004 - obviously that was a naïve and foolish statement.)

6 comments:

Comrade Kevin said...

My hope is that someday, there won't be ballot intiatives like this ever again.

Alicia Morgan said...

My hope, CK, is that someday anyone with ideas like that will be treated with the scorn and derision they deserve, and that Biblically-based discrimination against gays will end up on the scrap-heap along with Biblically-based justifications for slavery.

the need for a father? said...

Please see the link >

http://about-orphans.blogspot.com

and for what te fertility industry don't want you to know >

http://needing-fathers.blogspot.com

Many thanks.

Distributorcap said...

alicia
no one says it better than you......

with all that is wrong with this world - to think we have to waste a minute on this is incredible and pathetic

John Bisceglia said...

I sincerely hope PROP 8 fails miserably.

BUT - if it DOES passes, is everyone prepared to spend another ba-zillion dollars on PR and possibly wait 20-30 years to "win"
equality in CA?

AND - if it does NOT pass, which state will we focus on next so we can spend another ba-zillion dollars to purchase civil rights?

I know I am virtually alone here (except for Charles Merrill and his partner), but I think all of you are insane. Truly crazy....one step away from
writing-on-the-wall-with-your-feces crazy. Because if ALL of us truly believed we WERE equal, we would not be so patient as tax-payers and U.S. citizens. We'd simply KNOW we ARE equal, and
refuse to pay into a system that not only denies our familes civil
marriage but doesn't even
acknowledge our existence (wait for the 2010 census).

I'm 43, and I will NOT wait until I'm 73 for fair and equal treatment. It's OK for the country at large to be ignorant, bigoted, mid-guided, and
mid-informed. But that's not my fault. So until people GROW UP and show my family the same "civil" respect heterosexually-identified families are given, I owe this country and the IRS nothing.

How many times do I need to say this?

TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION AIN'T GWANNA HAPPEN!

Russ said...

Great post Alicia. We gays really, really appreciate all the support from our straight friends. I came out at the end of the 70's too; and now that equal marriage is a reality is some parts of the world (though not mine) I can't help wondering how different my life might have been if I could have lived and loved and married freely like all my straight high school friends did.

It's not that every gay person needs or wants to marry, just like not every straight person does either; but to have the choice, and more importantly the right to do so--as the CA supremes put it so nobly, the "equal respect and dignity." Would have made a huge difference.

Hell, growing up in the deep South, I never even met another gay man in person till I was 24! Nobody was "out" down here....that was just unthinkable.

It's a completely different world now for young gays in the blue states--a wonderful change, and a much greater chance at "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" than my generation had. Thanks for posting this great story about Kenny, may he rest in peace.

Russ