March 04, 2004

Into The Fray

Like many bloggers I've hesitated to enter the gay marriage debate because it is a personal moral and ethical dilemma, but a wedding invitation arrived in the mail yesterday that pushed me off the fence.

No, the invitation is not to a gay wedding, it is the wedding of a lovely young woman I've known her entire life. Her mother is a childhood friend who has a twenty year relationship with her female partner. The young woman was the result of a closeted marriage that ended by mutual agreement. The father remarried and maintained a close relationship with the birth mother and the child received the best of both families.

I know some of you are thinking "So what! another tale of happy lesbians from the wacko Left coast". Well, you would be wrong because this story doesn't have a happy ending.

You see as I sat with the invite in hand the heart of this matter lept out.

The daughter can marry the partner of her choice, but her mother cannot.

This is a civil rights issue. It is not about being gay, or approval of the gay lifestyle, but is about everyone having the same rights under law.

Where we go from here I don't know, there is no easy answer, but we must grapple with the underlying issue of equal rights or we are all diminished.

UPDATE: Juliette of Baldilocks has another viewpoint to consider.

Posted by feste at March 4, 2004 09:47 AM | TrackBack

"The daughter can marry the partner of her choice, but her mother cannot."

That's simply not true. We can marry only certain categories of people. For instance, if your partner of choice is your brother, you cannot marry them. You cannot marry a person under 18 (or whatever is the age of consent). You cannot marry more than one person, even if you "choose" to do it and all parties consent and this choice makes them all happy. Choice of partner is only one criteria for marriage, but many others also apply. I submit that "opposite sex" should remain one of these criteria.

Posted by: Rusty Shackleford at March 4, 2004 09:52 AM

That there are laws that codify marriage was a given, I assume my reader's are aware of same and that this young woman was not choosing to marry her brother, father, more than one partner or the family dog.

Where do you see this issue going if the court's decide that is is not legal to prohibit gay marriage?

Posted by: feste at March 4, 2004 10:23 AM

This question of "equality" cannot be addressed until the matter of "sexual orientation" as a high level category (race, gender, religion, origin) is resolved. Even then, it is not a given, because the state has the right to discriminate on all of these when it has a compelling interest at stake. (see my blog)

To paraphrase MLK:
"will our children one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the capacity of their reproductive nature, but by the politics of their gender identity?"

Posted by: Vigilance Matters at March 4, 2004 12:36 PM

Don't we already live in such a nation? There are already gender laws aplenty.

Compelling state interests change with societial norms. The state once prohibited inter-racial marriage and adoption as well.

Your post is certainly food for thought.

Posted by: feste at March 4, 2004 03:35 PM

As is yours.

As I've said on my blog: Gay marriage ( or more likely civil unions ) will require a fight for civil rights, through the courts, and adjustments in the thinking of society on the issue.

This will take time, and not occur overnight.

The problem is that the "Gay sex is sinful" and "We're here, we're queer, get over it dear" crowds are at the forefront of the debate on their respective sides, and not the more moderate majority of Americans.

Posted by: Kiril at March 4, 2004 09:26 PM

Gay sex is no more or no less sinful than the disgusting things i do to my own wife (yes, she enjoys it). That's not the point.

Marriage is about Children, not civil rights.

Posted by: Vigilance Matters at March 5, 2004 07:50 AM

So what of the status of hetero couples who choose not to have children? Are they of less value to the community than those who do? Marriage is also about companionship and building a shared lifestyle which in turn enriches the community for those who choose to parent.

My friend and her partner do not flaunt their sexuality, in fact, you if met them socially you might not realize they are gay...neither plays to "type".

The young woman of whom I speak is no different than the children of my hetro friends.

I have friends who spent years warring and scarred their children horribly before divorcing. Hetero couples abuse, abandon and neglect children by the tens of millions, being straight doesn't make them ideal parents.

To me this a large part of the unfairness, is that all are tarred with the extreme image and actions of a small minority. Just as all Christians are portrayed as wild-eyed fundementalists is untrue and unjust.

Posted by: feste at March 5, 2004 09:43 AM

So what of the status of hetero couples who choose not to have children?

Obviously, to discriminate on THAT basis would be unfair. But marriage is EQUALLY available to all citizens, fertile or barren, straight or gay. The only requirement is that it fit the MODEL (1m+1w) the state wants to encourage. It doesn't actually have to "succeed" at it.

see for more.

Posted by: Vigilance Matters at March 5, 2004 01:41 PM

Marriage is not equally available, that is simply clever parsing of your position. By that reasoning the state doesn't have to succeed at allowing blacks or women to vote.

Posted by: feste at March 5, 2004 02:34 PM

If we as a society allow gay marriage, then on what set of principles can we ban polygamy?

Or for that matter, any other gradiation from what we have considered the standard for a few millenia.

Posted by: Rob at March 5, 2004 03:50 PM

I think John Kerry and George Bush
should get married.


Posted by: jaspar at March 5, 2004 04:50 PM

Good question Rob, I don't know, that is part of the problem....once pushed, the envelope engulfs areas not intended.

Posted by: feste at March 5, 2004 06:54 PM

Agreed, that is the most important question in this debate. The argument seems something like this:

RIGHT: Where, if not here, shall we draw the line?

LEFT: Line? What line - no, we would never cross THAT line -- is there a line? who said there has to be a line? Of course we would never cross... line?

Posted by: Vigilance Matters at March 6, 2004 06:26 AM

As you can tell by the blog my politics are a hybrid. I've been on more sides of key issues over the years than John Kerry, but the last twenty years settled into a moderate-to-conservative mindset.

I hope the issue of gay marriage is decided in our communities by people who can talk to each other and reason out where the bright line will be drawn or held. Just as we've been doing here, without rancor...exchanging ideas and reasons we hold the line at a given position.

I am constantly amazed with the flexibility of our founding ideals and documents, that is what makes this a workable form of's changes and adapts as we progress.

Otherwise gay marriage may be another line moved by the courts that divides us and I know my gay friends do not want to be another of the loony Left's poster children...they simply want to live and let live.

Posted by: feste at March 6, 2004 08:50 AM

To the reader who commented that "Marriage is about children, not civil rights." If that's true then all heterosexual couples should be required to take fertility tests prior to marriage. Those who are unable to reproduce should be denied the right to marry.

What I want for my family - my partner, myself and our son - is to have all the same rights and protections as any other family. It's called equality under the law. Either do away with the 1,000+ rights and protections granted on the basis of marital status, or allow same sex couples access to those same right and protections.

Posted by: Terrance at March 8, 2004 09:49 AM

Terrance don't be so naive. Those "1000+ rights and protections" weren't put there to make your life miserable, they were put there to make children's lives more stable.

And you're equally entitled to them as i am. Children or not. Just marry someone you COULD make children with...

Posted by: Vigilance Matters at March 8, 2004 10:59 AM

No they weren't Marty, when the majority of these laws and conventions were put into place women and children were considered property.

Martial laws were drastically changed to provide women with equal property rights when women became franchised. They are changed and/or amended daily in courts across the land.

I think we are talking apples and oranges.

Posted by: feste at March 8, 2004 12:25 PM

Fair enough, i stand corrected. Thanks for the background - a little research on goggle confirms it for the most part. Apologies to Terrance.

Mmmm, Crow Pie - tastes like chicken!

Posted by: Vigilance Matters at March 8, 2004 05:22 PM
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