you know, i love it when i hear someone joking that they approve of gay marriage because ‘everyone should be just as miserable as i am’. it acknowledges the inherent rightness of equality, while using humor to dispel any lingering discomfort with the concept of gay marriage, which is fairly recent, at least in this iteration of civilization. i choose to see humor as progress.
today i had many conversations in several venues, and in order to make my point and get my facts straight, i did a lot of research, and i learned many things. in case this helps, here are some rational, fact-based responses if you are ever up against these misconceptions:
MYTH: marriage is a religious concept and has always been between a man and a woman.
FACT: marriage predates recorded history, but the earliest known traditions in Greco-Roman times were intended to define who got the dowry, who inherited what, and who was the boss of who. and yes, there were same-sex unions. they followed more or less the same patterns, with one partner (the male, in a male/female marriage) would be older, and the younger partner (usually the woman) would be passed from the control of father, to that of the spouse.
so, marriage then, as now, was a very similar and mostly practical arrangement. it was about property rights, social position, defining the shift from being your parents’ child to forming your own family, and how many goats that was gonna cost one of your dads. and of course commitment and love. and if not for love, at least for some sort of strategic alliance. religion got involved much later on and acted like it invented the concept, but no.
MYTH: civil unions are just as good as marriage.
FACT: only a handful of states offer civil unions. many who do, specifically refuse to recognize the civil unions of other states. civil unions do not convey the same rights to pensions and security benefits and do not establish “kinship”, which marriage does. marriage creates familial relation between unrelated people, and this kinship is recognized across state and international borders. why can’t we extend this to civil unions? well, that it would have to be enacted at the federal level, which violates state’s rights – and states still decide who marries. it would certainly be a daunting legal challenge, and it would still carry the ‘separate but equal’ stigma.
MYTH: the majority in California has spoken, and they have rejected gay marriage
FACT: there are serious constitutional issues surrounding the passage of Proposition 8. it was put on the ballot as an amendment, rather than a revision, to the constitution. by law, an amendment is a simple change to one section of the constitution, while a revision is a more complex and far-reaching change, sometimes to multiple sections at once. even though Proposition 8 only added 14 words to one section, it revokes the rights of a “suspect class”, which is a legally recognized minority. by law, matters pertaining to suspect classes must fall under the “strictest scrutiny”, and (as the lawyers are now arguing), this makes Prop 8 a revision, which would need a 2/3 vote in the House and then a majority of citizen votes.
a little history: in 2000, the voters approved a ban on gay marriage. the Supreme Court overturned this ban (after ruling that gays are a suspect class), and that the ban unconstitutionally discriminated against them under section 7(b), which states, “A citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens.” this is why proposition 8 was placed on the ballot as an amendment. they couldn’t pass an unconstitutional law, so they changed the constitution. and there’s a good chance they did that in an unconstitutional fashion.
MYTH: without Proposition 8, churches would be forced to marry gays, or face sanctions
FACT: the state’s role in marriage is very limited: they issue the license which is necessary to create a legal and binding contract out of a ceremony of the couple’s choice. they also enforce the legal provisions to the contract, and decide who gets the house, the kids, and the goats, should the parties decide they want out of the contract. it’s this contract that same-sex couples are denied the right to, there’s nothing sacred about it. there is no stipulation that requires that the contract be blessed by a religious institution – yes it’s true, atheists are allowed to marry. the couple can choose to be married by a judge, a magistrate, a ‘marriage commissioner’, or of course a member of the clergy. some California counties even have a “deputy for a day” program that allows non-clergy friends and relatives to officiate at a wedding. your pet psychic could be ordained by the Universal Life Church and marry you while channeling your dearly departed cat. tom cruise could marry you on his yacht, where he achieves the highest possible operating thetan level. the possibilities are endless. the sacredness, or lack thereof, is up to the individuals involved.
the bottom line is, no church could be forced to perform a gay marriage. that would be unconstitutional.
ok, that’s enough for now. there will be more, oh yes.
a wise woman once advised me that to get a message across, it is necessary to repeat it again and again until people hear it in their sleep. so here it is: “A citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens.”