Yesterday, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved gay marriage in the State of Minnesota. It’s not officially legal yet, as the Senate still has to vote on the measure on Monday. However, the Senate is considered a slam dunk. The House was the real obstacle. So…as of August 1st, Ruanita and I are able to get married.
It all happened rather quickly and quite unexpectedly. I supposed when a wall crumbles, it does so in one fell swoop and not one brick at a time. So right now, in this moment, we are seeing history unfolding. And what is a woman to do in the face of unyielding historical freedoms?
Well, plan a wedding, of course!
At least, that’s my thought on the matter. I immediately began trolling Pinterest for wedding ideas. I immediately began googling venues in Minneapolis. I immediately envisioned my two young sons in suspenders and coral bowties. I immediately planned a shopping trip with my daughter to pick out her “fancy” Disney-worthy flower girl dress. I wanted to cheer. And cry. And shout.
Ruanita, however, had a different response to the vote to legalize gay marriage. It went a little something like this:
“Oh, that’s nice.”
Seriously. That’s nice?
Within an hour of gaining (not technically until Monday, but pretty much decided yesterday) the right to marry the woman I love, I found myself incredibly pissed off at her. Like grit my teeth, mumble under my breath, give her the cold shoulder, totally passive aggressive, leave-her-sitting-alone-in-the-living-room-while-I-went-up-to-bed PISSED!
I was irrational. Borderline full-blown bitchy. In other words, I was a Bridezilla in the making.
The truth is that Ruanita’s reaction to the vote is just as valid as mine. We’ve been together for 15 1/2 years. In all that time, we’ve considered ourselves married in every sense of the word. We have a mortgage, two cars, three children, and a dog. We had a small, low-key commitment ceremony fifteen years ago. As far as we’ve been concerned—primarily, I think, because we didn’t see another option anytime in the near future—that was our wedding and we are a married couple. An old married couple with fifteen years of wrenching marital experience under our belts. We are far from blushing brides.
It’s a totally valid and reasonable way to look at this historic vote. We will no doubt get married, but Ruanita doesn’t see a reason to make a big deal out of it. I mean, we just bought a new car. Why put money into a wedding that will change absolutely nothing? Ruanita would be thrilled to get married in our back yard with only our three children and our dog in attendance. And we would be legally married. That’s the ultimate goal, right? Who needs all the hype and hoopla?
But the thing is—and I am a little embarrassed to admit this—I kind of need it. At least, I kind of want it. I come from a large family, as many of you know. I have 11 aunts and uncles and 25 first cousins on my mom’s side. I was also in a sorority in college, so I have more “sisters” than I can count on all of the fingers and toes in my family. I have sat through wedding after wedding after wedding. I have bought gifts galore. I have thrown rice and danced the funky chicken and drank more champagne than I care to admit toasting happy couples. And all the while, I wondered, Why not me? When will it be my turn? When will everyone toast to my happiness?
That day has come. Or at least it seemed so yesterday when the vote was announced. I know that I may have gone overboard pushing my sudden “wedding agenda” on Ruanita. I am sure it seemed come completely out of left field. And really, who can afford a wedding? Certainly not us. And certainly not when the argument could be made that we had our day in the sun fifteen years ago.
But legal matters. As much as we’ve said for fifteen years that it doesn’t matter and that we are just as married as everyone else, we’re not. Not a single one of my twenty-five cousins danced at my wedding. One aunt and two uncles were there, and that was it. I am not faulting them. I am just saying that fifteen years ago, a commitment ceremony was mostly unheard of. No one knew what it meant. No one understood what it was.
But a marriage? A wedding? We all know what those words mean. We all know what it means to be a wife. To be a married couple. I want to celebrate with my family and friends.
I want to be Ruanita’s wife.
So I guess we have some negotiating to do. I have no idea what our eventual wedding will look like. Perhaps it will be a Justice of the Peace in our back yard. I don’t know. I just know that I want what all the rest of you take for granted. I want to marry the woman I love.
And I want to dance at my wedding.
By Amy Wise
I am a BIG believer in equal rights for all. I haven’t written anything about the gay marriage debate on my blog because this blog is all about interracial marriage. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I have to write about gay marriage, because this blog is about LOVE!
So here’s the thing…in light of the fact that the heterosexual divorce rate is 50%+, maybe, instead of working so hard to stop gay marriages, we should work a little harder on our marriages so we stay married. Yes?
I respect everyone’s right to believe what they believe. However, I don’t respect those beliefs when they turn from believing to hating. Gay people don’t go around bullying or bashing heterosexuals because they are straight. So…I’d say we have work to do in our houses before we start judging other houses.
Then there is religion and gay marriage. For the love of God, please don’t bring God into this. God loves everyone and I can guarantee he doesn’t approve of judging or hating. That is not Christian behavior, that is bad behavior.
If someone doesn’t believe in gay marriage, cool. Don’t be in one. If someone doesn’t believe in interracial marriage. Cool. Don’t be in that either. Just don’t take away someone else’s right to love because of differing beliefs. Wish them well, walk away, and move on.
Not long ago an AMAZING couple went all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for their marriage. They paved the way for interracial marriage to become legal. The Lovings (yes, that is their last name) never gave up and because of them my husband and I are allowed to live in love today. To see the gay marriage debate at the Supreme Court truly gives me chills. I get it. To my core. Another fight for love.
Let’s stop making this sooooo difficult! In the end it’s about being able to love the one with whom our heart loves.
Marriage is LOVE. ALL marriage. And yes, it IS that simple!
By Trey Darnell
Air travel is stressful, emotional, and exhausting -and that’s just when traveling alone. Add a child, diaper bag, stroller, car seat, and blanky and you begin to question humanity, Dora the Explorer, and why you ever left the house. We are on our journey to grow our family through adoption, so the answer is no, I do not have real parental experience with what I am about to write, but I have seen it countless times as a commercial airline pilot. Like George Washington, I will not tell a lie. I giggle, laugh, and sometimes shake my head in disbelief watching the massive amount of child-related stuff moving down an airplane aisle and through the airport.
Traveling through many airports during a week, I think I have seen it all and very little of it makes sense. Airports are no longer the enjoyable environments of the 1970s and 1980s. They now resemble overcrowded ant colonies. Don’t forget that obnoxiously loud siren on the oversized golf carts and people movers. Stressed, tired, and uncomfortable describes most passengers. Frankly, there are too many people and not enough space in the airport itself, let alone on an airplane. Add a couple Finding Nemo roller bags being tugged upside down and you have hassle for the parents rather than short-lived enjoyment for the children. Most of the time you see the parent carrying the child and the Nemo roller bag while trying to pull their own carry-on bag and attempt this fast-walk-occasional-jog to make their connection. Exhausting!
Stress brought on by traveling with children is manageable…with planning and preparation. Customers will often know the departure date, location, as well as destination and length of stay before shopping for airfare. Most Americans are looking to book the cheapest flight possible. From my experience, this is not the greatest way to book air travel, especially when traveling with a child. Cheaper fares usually have less desirable options like longer ground time, smaller planes, and multiple connections.
Airlines will create a flight schedule to allow customers the least amount of connections with the shortest amount of ground time. Customers searching for travel reservations can look at the total time spent from the departure point until arriving at the destination. This includes time spent waiting for a connection. This flight might only be a couple of dollars more than that extremely low airfare that has two connections with a 3-hour layover in each city. When traveling with children, you should always choose the shortest amount of time from departure to destination. This is worth $10-$25 more per ticket. Most of the time it is only a few dollars.
Example – This is a search for one-way air travel on Delta Airlines for June 1, 2013 from New York City to Dallas-Fort Worth. Less than two months until departure isn’t the ideal time for price shopping.
The first flight option departs New York’s LaGuardia at 8:10am and arrives at 11:15am in Dallas. Total travel time is four hours and five minutes. This would be the ideal flight choice for traveling with a child. The second option departs New York’s La Guardia at 7:59am and arrives in Dallas at 12:39pm. This flight segment makes a stop in ATL and the total travel time is one hour and 35 minutes longer than the first choice. The connection, additional time, and stress only saved $16.10. Sounds like a no-brainer.
Most major airlines consider a car seat and stroller as not part of the standard baggage allowance. This means you can check the stroller or car seat to your destination via curbside check-in or at a ticket counter for no additional fee. If you are travelling with less than two children and have short connection times, checking the stroller to your destination is a good idea. There is an additional option to gate check the stroller at no extra charge. This allows access of the stroller until you board the airplane. The downside to this option: you wait for the stroller after completion of the flight. This can take an additional 10-15 minutes after getting off the airplane. Waiting for the stroller is not ideal when your connection flight has started boarding in a different terminal.
Parents often like to bring a child’s car seat to use on-board the aircraft. The car seat needs to have FAA approval and a FAA placard on the car seat for use.
FAA APPROVED IN ACCORDANCE WITH 14 CFR 21.805 (d) APPROVED FOR AIRCRAFT USE ONLY
The FAA does not approve most of the car seats that parents try using on-board the plane and you can click the above placard to see if your car seat is approved. In the case that your car seat is not FAA approved, it will be gate checked. This usually results in a very upset parent. Once you deplane, you would be required to wait for the car seat. If it isn’t FAA approved, check it to your destination at no additional charge via the ticket counter or curbside check-in.
I think I could go on for days about tips for the beginner and frequent traveler on how to make their travel experience easier. If you have any questions, please share in the comments section below. My experience includes traveling alone as a child to being a pilot for a commercial airline. I have seen just about everything that happens during the emotional day(s) in the airports. If your children would like to stop by and see the cockpit just ask the Flight Attendant and they will let them poke their heads in and take a look around. Dads, you don’t necessarily need to have a child to get a peek inside the flight deck; just ask.
I encourage every parent to visit babiestravellite.com.
You can also visit our adoption page at mattandtreyadopt.com
By The Next Family
Conservative Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who has voted against gay marriage in the past, has had a “change of heart” about the issue of marriage equality.
Why? Because his own son Will, age 21, is gay.
Portman tells CNN, “I am announcing today a change of heart….for me personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do…to get married, to have the joy and stability of marriage that I’ve had for over 26 years. I want all three of my kids to have it, including my son, who is gay.”
Portman’s name was tossed around frequently during the 2012 election, having been on the short list as one of Mitt Romney’s possible vice presidential candidates. The Senator says he told Romney “everything” during the vetting process, including that he had a gay son. He does not believe that this was a deal-breaker for Romney.
The Republican Senator was never completely outspoken on gay marriage, but he did consistently vote against it, by supporting not only DOMA and a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, but also a bill prohibiting gay couples in DC from adopting children.
When asked why it took having a gay son, rather than simply caring about the rights of his own constituents, to change his mind, Portman answered frankly, “Well…I’ve had a change of heart based on a personal experience…the budget committee, finance committee…(those) have always been my primary focus…now it’s different…having spent a lot of time thinking about it….this is where I am for reasons that are consistent with my political philosophy including family values… families are a building block of society.”
Portman also feels that, because the Supreme Court is weighing its decisions on gay marriage, now is the best to time to make his newfound support of gay marriage clear.
The Senator describes the moment two years ago when his son came out to his wife and him and his reaction as “loving”, although admitting he had no idea his son was gay.
The CNN reporter who interviewed Portman said the Senator is usually “press savvy” but was nervous during the interview, and struck her simply as “a dad wanting to do right by his son.”
Bravo, Rob Portman. You might take a little criticism for not coming around until you had a personal reason to do so, but The Next Family applauds you for looking into your heart and doing the right thing. And it’s nice to see a conservative politician who finally understands the true meaning of “family values”.
American Apparel, the vertically integrated clothing manufacturer based in downtown Los Angeles, is launching an initiative to support gay marriage in France. At the request of its French employees who have been eagerly following the country’s efforts to legalize gay marriage, American Apparel will be giving away 10,000 Legalize Gay shirts in its stores and on the streets of Paris.
Despite support from French President Francois Hollande, progress towards the full legalization of gay marriage has faced tough opposition from religious and political groups. Recently, conservative organizations have sponsored petitions against gay marriage and proposed various exemptions in an effort to undermine potential bills. Though polls currently show that a majority supports the passing of gay marriage laws, these numbers have declined in light of strenuous campaigning from opposing groups.
The company’s “GAY OK” t-shirts have appeared in countless venues in support of gay rights, from pride marches to collaborations with Human Rights Campaign. As a company, American Apparel has been very public in its support of the legalization of Gay Marriage in the United States and is now taking an international stand.
“In America the foundation of our civil rights are written as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – in France it is liberty, equality, fraternity. Our company believes that those creeds by our founding fathers join us in an obligation to fight for freedom and fairness. Both the French and American people have a shared tradition of the pursuit of justice and we are proud to use our company’s resources and give our support to this important fight,” said Dov Charney, founder and CEO of American Apparel.
To date the company has given away nearly 100,000 Legalize Gay shirts since beginning its campaign in 2008 to fight Prop 8, the controversial gay marriage ban in California.
As of October 31, 2012, American Apparel had approximately 10,000 employees and operated 251 retail stores in 20 countries, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and China. American Apparel also operates a global e-commerce site that serves over 60 countries worldwide at here. In addition, American Apparel operates a leading wholesale business that supplies high quality T-shirts and other casual wear to distributors and screen printers.
Source: American Apparel
This post originally published on The Seattle Lesbian
By: Shannon Ralph
Reason #10: Shared values.
Like most married couples—or at least most successfully married couples—Ruanita and I have shared values. We have shared beliefs and goals. We have a similar way of looking at the world. A shared world view that we hope to impart to our children. We are moving in the same direction.
There are many people who want you to believe that my family does not have the same values as yours. That “traditional family values” exclude gay and lesbian families. I do not surround myself with these people. I do not let these people into my life and into the lives of my children. They’ve never sat down at my kitchen table and chatted with me. They do not know me. Or Ruanita. Or our children. So how, really, can they speak to our values?
Below is a spattering of the things that Ruanita and I value. The traits we try to incorporate into our marriage and into the lives of our family. The values we want our children to embrace. Some are great overarching ideals and some just simple things we love and cherish: (You may just find some of these eerily similar to your own value system.)
Respect for ourselves and one another. Honesty. Family. Belonging to something larger than ourselves. Sunny days. Exploration. Flexibility. Pony tails. Generosity. Empathy. A good belly laugh. Curiosity. Mexican food. The peace and quiet of a city covered in new snow. Patience. Communication. Backyard swings. Responsibility. Education. Afternoon naps. Humor. The smell of coffee in the morning. Contribution. Tradition. Creativity. Forgiveness. Barbecues. Gratitude. A job well done. Focus. Time spent together. Date nights. Bacon. Individuality. Integrity. Book stores. Perseverance. The completely unconditional nature of a dog’s love. Compassion. Silliness. Singing loudly in the car. Tolerance. The diversity that everyone brings to the table. Rainy days. Attentiveness. Kisses on the forehead. Spunk. Resilience. Cuddles. The power of words. Awe. College basketball. Commitment. Living in the moment. Connection. Christmas morning together. Wonder. Directness. Enthusiasm. Intelligence. Sunday morning newspapers. Wit. Openness. Silence. Partnership. Fresh garden vegetables. Reason. Positivity. Cornbread. Friendship. Thick, warm socks. Second chances. Selflessness. Colored pencils. Thankfulness. Sincerity. Quilts. Trustworthiness. Warmth.
Having shared values is one more way that my marriage is just like your marriage.
By: Danny Thomas
when I was in high school there was a group of people…
I’m pretty sure it was a school sanctioned or even created group…
They were called Natural Helpers. I’m not sure where the name came from,
but the idea was that these were peer counselors…
these were people who were endorsed by the school as
having the ability to counsel those in need, those who had gone astray,
fellow students who were struggling with demons… internal or external.
The idea of this club was great. On paper it seems like a perfect idea…
If a kid is in a bad situation with an adult, it might be pretty tough to trust another grown-up; create a visible group of kids for that kid to go to… it’s a slam dunk.
And in some ways it was a great tool, I think there were probably a lot of people that were helped by Natural Helpers, naturally.
In some ways, it ended up just being another exclusive clique…
This group of kids had things sorted…
They had GPA’s above a 3.0…
They were almost all active and involved in a variety of extra-curricular activities.
But, for those of us who were not Natural Helpers…
Especially those of us who thought we might be qualified…
It was yet another way that we were outsiders… others.
How backwards, what a sad and unforeseen outcome…
(if any of my old I.H.S. Natural Helper class mates are reading this – I am not holding a grudge… It wasn’t your fault.)
This is why I am a straight ally.
I’m a middle class, straight, white male… in America…
I’ve got it good.
But, I have known, in one way after another in my life, what it is like to be an “other”
but never in such a way as ingrained and over-arching as my sexual preference or gender identity.
I am a straight ally because I was born with the ability to empathize, and through my experiences of being outside “the norm”, that empathy has grown to a considerable compassion for people struggling with identity. And also for people who have a strong sense of themselves, but are struggling for recognition from society at large.
I am a straight ally because I have known and felt in my heart from an early age, early – that this struggle, the struggle for GLBQT acceptance is important, that, for some reason, I feel an amity with this group of outsiders… that in so many ways I am myself, queer.
I am a straight ally because I want my children to feel they and those they love have a place in this world.
My wife and I joke that we are both 49% gay – she loves The Indigo Girls and all the Lillith Fair music (I call it that to annoy her). I love dance, and musical theatre and Barbra Streisand, She maintains the car and mows the lawn, I cook and clean and arrange flowers… I have a crush on Johnny Depp, and she would kick me out of bed in a minute if Meryl Streep walked through the door. We challenge gender stereotypes… there must be some definition of the word queer that those characteristics qualify us for… I am a straight ally because I am 49% queer. I am a straight ally because I believe sexual identity, gender identity and sexual preference are things that happen on a continuum… that these things are not always black and white.
Here in Minnesota we just spoke out for equality and voted down a referendum that would’ve amended our state constitution. The amendment would have codified a policy of hate and bigotry… it was a move to shut down dialogue about equality for the GLBQT community. Thank Heavens it failed. I am pleased and proud.
I am a straight ally because I believe diversity and dialogue are not only good and fun, but also quintessential to a strong society and in particular a well functioning democracy.
By: Shannon Ralph
We’ve changed one another.
In ways small and large, Ruanita and I have changed since our union first began fifteen years ago. In some ways, we changed on our own. We evolved as we grew older and have become more comfortable in our own skin. Not to sound too Oprah-esque, but we have become more of our “true selves.” More the people we were meant to be.
In other ways, however, we definitely had a hand in changing one another. We have grown in ways that I am certain would never have happened had we not met. Had we not decided to spend our lives together. We have evolved into different people than the two searching and unfulfilled souls who became pen pals fifteen years ago.
Some of these changes were fairly insignificant. Way back then, Ruanita did not like Chinese food. Now she cannot get enough of it, due in no small part to my love of all Asian foods. I never liked to cook. Now, by default, I am the family cook. And I am slowly developing an appreciation for it. Ruanita hated country music. Somehow along the way, I converted her. She now enjoys a twangy ballad about dogs and beer and cheating wives as much as I do. Ruanita turned me into a hotel snob. Before she came along, I considered the Motel 6 a perfectly fine establishment for a night away. Now I do not do “motels” at all. And I will not stay in a hotel that does not include a minibar and complimentary champagne and plush bath robes as part of the package. These were minor changes, but changes nonetheless.
In other ways, we intensely changed the course of one another’s lives. Fifteen years ago, Ruanita thought she would live out her entire life in Owensboro, Kentucky. She had no reason to leave. She had no desire to leave. Today she is 750 miles away in Minneapolis—a place she had to look up on a map when she first met me—because she followed me home one day. She left everything she ever knew and loved because I lived in Minneapolis and refused to move back to Kentucky. Fifteen years ago, Ruanita wasn’t entirely sure she wanted children. And if she did, she only wanted one. Today, she is the proud parent of three crazy kids. And she is loving every minute of it. Those three children have become her entire world. I made her a Minnesotan. And I made her a mom. Two things she never saw coming, but two things that have worked out pretty damn well.
Ruanita changed me in ways less logistical and more profound. If I had not met Ruanita, I am not entirely sure that I would have had the strength to come out as a lesbian and live my truth. I was always sort of timid. A little shy. I did not want to be different. I was not at all a boat-rocker. I followed the rules. I was a good little Catholic girl. Ruanita, on the other hand, was always completely and unapologetically true to who she was. That brashness made me feel strong by association. Simply being near her made me feel like I could take on the world. That I could stand up for what was right and true because I knew she had my back. I have known for fifteen years that I have her unconditional support. Whatever I want to do. Whatever I want to be. She supports me completely. She is my strength. In many ways, she made me the person I am today. And there is no way that I can ever properly express my gratitude for the beautiful changes she has brought into my life.
We’ve both changed for the better as a result of binding our lives together. We’ve grown and evolved as a result of our marriage. We’ve become better people together than we ever could have been alone.
This is one more way that my marriage is just like your marriage.
By: Shannon Ralph
Reason #13: She sees me.
I have a huge zit on my chin today. I don’t know where it came from or why it suddenly popped up on my forty-year-old face. It’s probably related to stress. Or the crap I’ve been eating lately. Or the fact that I’ve fallen in bed so exhausted every night since Ruanita has gone back to working evenings that I don’t always have the strength to wash my face first. Whatever the reason for its sudden appearance, it is ugly. It is quite hideous. I wish I could have worked from home today to shield this monstrosity from the world, but unfortunately, I needed to go into the office.
In addition to the zit on my face, I also made the rather dire mistake recently of coloring my hair at home. See, I have these persistent gray hairs that simply do not want to hold color. I can spend a fortune at the salon coloring my hair and three days later a silver stripe magically appears at my temple. It’s really annoying. As a result, in the interest of saving money, I decided to color my hair at home. After forty years on this Earth, you would think I would understand that this is a bad idea. Coloring one’s hair at home is always a bad idea. I spent a good fifteen minutes standing in the hair color aisle at Target selecting the perfect color. I settled on “Medium Chestnut Brown.” Little did I know that “Medium Chestnut Brown” was actually Clairol code for “Fifteen-Year-Old Goth Girl.” Or at least one shade shy of reddish-black gothic grotesqueness.
So here I sit. Fifty pounds heavier than I was two years ago. With a zit large enough to have its own atmosphere growing from my chin. Looking like some sort of freak with my nice slacks, 1990s-era brown paisley shirt (did I mention that I’ve gained 50 pounds, which has shrunken my wardrobe considerably, as I refuse to buy clothing in the size that I now require?), and hair that is 25 years too young for me. It is not my finest day.
You would think that Ruanita would look at me and recoil in fear. You would think that she would say, “Girl, get a hold of yourself!” Or at the very minimum go into some sort of wailing, self-flagellating mourning period over her partner’s complete disregard for her appearance. But she has done none of these things. She even kissed me goodbye this morning. She told me she loves me. She hugged me. She said she would miss me today.
What in the hell!?
Oh yea…we’re married. That’s what spouses do. They see past the zits. They see past the paisley. They see past the extra pounds and the hair color that is not found in nature. Ruanita doesn’t see any of these things.
She sees the woman she loves. The woman she committed her life to. The woman who makes her smile and holds her hand. The woman who cooks her homemade potato soup on cold, rainy days. The woman who takes her daughter to Girl Scouts and kisses her sons’ boo-boos. The woman who is fiercely committed to her family and would do absolutely anything for her inner circle.
In short, she sees me.
Seeing one another is one more way that my marriage is just like your marriage.
By Andrew Sullivan
-Andrew Sullivan’s landmark 1989 essay making a conservative case for gay marriage, reprinted in full-
In 1989, most Americans had never even heard of gay marriage, and certainly couldn’t conceive that it would one day be legalized by popular vote. That year, Andrew Sullivan wrote a landmark essay for the New Republic, “Here Comes the Groom: A (Conservative) Case for Gay Marriage.” Sullivan’s essay is one of the most important magazine articles of recent decades. His argument, which he went on to elaborate in his books Virtually Normal and Same-Sex Marriage and in later essays, is that marriage for gays would “foster social cohesion, emotional security, and economic prudence.” Sullivan’s conservative case would eventually become the intellectual and moral foundation of the campaigns to legalize gay marriage. Sullivan gave Slate permission to reprint his New Republic essay in full.
Last month in New York, a court ruled that a gay lover had the right to stay in his deceased partner’s rent-control apartment because the lover qualified as a member of the deceased’s family. The ruling deftly annoyed almost everybody. Conservatives saw judicial activism in favor of gay rent control: three reasons to be appalled. Chastened liberals (such as the New York Times editorial page), while endorsing the recognition of gay relationships, also worried about the abuse of already stretched entitlements that the ruling threatened. What neither side quite contemplated is that they both might be right, and that the way to tackle the issue of unconventional relationships in conventional society is to try something both more radical and more conservative than putting courts in the business of deciding what is and is not a family. That alternative is the legalization of civil gay marriage.
The New York rent-control case did not go anywhere near that far, which is the problem. The rent-control regulations merely stipulated that a “family” member had the right to remain in the apartment. The judge ruled that to all intents and purposes a gay lover is part of his lover’s family, inasmuch as a “family” merely means an interwoven social life, emotional commitment, and some level of financial interdependence.
It’s principle now well established around the country. Several cities have “domestic partnership” laws, which allow relationships that do not fit into the category of heterosexual marriage to be registered with the city and qualify for benefits that up till now have been reserved for straight married couples. San Francisco, Berkeley, Madison, and Los Angeles all have legislation, as does the politically correct Washington, D.C., suburb, Takoma Park. In these cities, a variety of interpersonal arrangements qualify for health insurance, bereavement leave, insurance, annuity and pension rights, housing rights (such as rent-control apartments), adoption and inheritance rights. Eventually, accordng to gay lobby groups, the aim is to include federal income tax and veterans’ benefits as well. A recent case even involved the right to use a family member’s accumulated frequent-flier points. Gays are not the only beneficiaries; heterosexual “live-togethers” also qualify.
There’s an argument, of course, that the current legal advantages extended to married people unfairly discriminate against people who’ve shaped their lives in less conventional arrangements. But it doesn’t take a genius to see that enshrining in the law a vague principle like “domestic partnership” is an invitation to qualify at little personal cost for a vast array of entitlements otherwise kept crudely under control.
To be sure, potential DPs have to prove financial interdependence, shared living arrangements, and a commitment to mutual caring. But they don’t need to have a sexual relationship or even closely mirror old-style marriage. In principle, an elderly woman and her live-in nurse could qualify. A couple of uneuphemistically confirmed bachelors could be DPs. So could two close college students, a pair of seminarians, or a couple of frat buddies. Left as it is, the concept of domestic partnership could open a Pandora’s box of litigation and subjective judicial decision-making about who qualifies. You either are or are not married; it’s not a complex question. Whether you are in a “domestic partnership” is not so clear.
More important, the concept of domestic partnership chips away at the prestige of traditional relationships and undermines the priority we give them. This priority is not necessarily a product of heterosexism. Consider heterosexual couples. Society has good reason to extend legal advantages to heterosexuals who choose the formal sanction of marriage over simply living together. They make a deeper commitment to one another and to society; in exchange, society extends certain benefits to them. Marriage provides an anchor, if an arbitrary and weak one, in the chaos of sex and relationships to which we are all prone. It provides a mechanism for emotional stability, economic security, and the healthy rearing of the next generation. We rig the law in its favor not because we disparage all forms of relationship other than the nuclear family, but because we recognize that not to promote marriage would be to ask too much of human virtue. In the context of the weakened family’s effect upon the poor, it might also invite social disintegration. One of the worst products of the New Right’s “family values” campaign is that its extremism and hatred of diversity has disguised this more measured and more convincing case for the importance of the marital bond.
The concept of domestic partnership ignores these concerns, indeed directly attacks them. This is a pity, since one of its most important objectives–providing some civil recognition for gay relationships–is a noble cause and one completely compatible with the defense of the family. But the way to go about it is not to undermine straight marriage; it is to legalize old-style marriage for gays.
The gay movement has ducked this issue primarily out of fear of division. Much of the gay leadership clings to notions of gay life as essentially outsider, anti-bourgeois, radical. Marriage, for them, is co-optation into straight society. For the Stonewall generation, it is hard to see how this vision of conflict will ever fundamentally change. But for many other gays–my guess, a majority–while they don’t deny the importance of rebellion 20 years ago and are grateful for what was done, there’s now the sense of a new opportunity. A need to rebel has quietly ceded to a desire to belong. To be gay and to be bourgeois no longer seems such an absurd proposition. Certainly since AIDS, to be gay and to be responsible has become a necessity.
Gay marriage squares several circles at the heart of the domestic partnership debate. Unlike domestic partnership, it allows for recognition of gay relationships, while casting no aspersions on traditional marriage. It merely asks that gays be allowed to join in. Unlike domestic partnership, it doesn’t open up avenues for heterosexuals to get benefits without the responsibilities of marriage, or a nightmare of definitional litigation. And unlike domestic partnership, it harnesses to an already established social convention the yearnings for stability and acceptance among a fast-maturing gay community.
Gay marriage also places more responsibilities upon gays; it says for the first time that gay relationships are not better or worse than straight relationships, and that the same is expected of them. And it’s clear and dignified. There’s a legal benefit to a clear, common symbol of commitment. There’s also a personal benefit. One of the ironies of domestic partnership is that it’s not only more complicated than marriage, it’s more demanding, requiring an elaborate statement of intent to qualify. It amounts to a substantial invasion of privacy. Why, after all, should gays be required to prove commitment before they get married in a way we would never dream of asking of straights?
Legalizing gay marriage would offer homosexuals the same deal society now offers heterosexuals: general social approval and specific legal advantages in exchange for a deeper and harder-to-extract-yourself-from commitment to another human being. Like straight marriage, it would foster social cohesion, emotional security, and economic prudence. Since there’s no reason gays should not be allowed to adopt or be foster parents, it could also help nurture children. And its introduction would not be some sort of radical break with social custom. As it has become more acceptable for gay people to acknowledge their loves publicly, more and more have committed themselves to one another for life in full view of their families and their friends. A law institutionalizing gay marriage would merely reinforce a healthy social trend. It would also, in the wake of AIDS, qualify as a genuine public health measure. Those conservatives who deplore promiscuity among some homosexuals should be among the first to support it. Burke could have written a powerful case for it.
The argument that gay marriage would subtly undermine the unique legitimacy of straight marriage is based upon a fallacy. For heterosexuals, straight marriage would remain the most significant–and only legal social bond. Gay marriage could only delegitimize straight marriage if it were a real alternative to it, and this is clearly not true. To put it bluntly, there’s precious little evidence that straights could be persuaded by any law to have sex with–let alone marry–someone of their own sex. The only possible effect of this sort would be to persuade gay men and women who force themselves into heterosexual marriage (often at appalling cost to themselves and their families) to find a focus for their family instincts in a more personally positive environment. But this is clearly a plus, not a minus: gay marriage could both avoid a lot of tortured families and create the possibility for many happier ones. It is not, in short, a denial of family values. It’s an extension of them.
Of course, some would claim that any legal recognition of homosexuality is a de facto attack upon heterosexuality. But even the most hardened conservatives recognize that gays are a permanent minority and aren’t likely to go away. Since persecution is not an option in a civilized society, why not coax gays into traditional values rather than rail incoherently against them?
There’s a less elaborate argument for gay marriage: it’s good for gays. It provides role models for young gay people who, after the exhilaration of coming out, can easily lapse into short-term relationships and insecurity with no tangible goal in sight. My own guess is that most gays would embrace such a goal with as much (if not more) commitment as straights. Even in our society as it is, many lesbian relationships are virtual textbook cases of monogamous commitment. Legal gay marriage could also help bridge the gulf often found between gays and their parents. It could bring the essence of gay life–a gay couple–into the heart of the traditional straight family in a way the family can most understand and the gay offspring can most easily acknowledge. It could do as much to heal the gay-straight rift as any amount of gay rights legislation.
If these arguments sound socially conservative, that’s no accident. It’s one of the richest ironies of our society’s blind spot toward gays that essentially conservative social goals should have the appearance of being so radical. But gay marriage is not a radical step. It avoids the mess of domestic partnership; it is humane; it is conservative in the best sense of the word. It’s also about relationships. Given that gay relationships will always exist, what possible social goal is advanced by framing the law to encourage those relationships to be unfaithful, undeveloped, and insecure?
Originally posted on Slate.com