I Am For Those Things
The State of Maine is near and dear to my heart. My mother’s family is from there, and I have spent more time there than in any state except the state of my birth and the one I live in now (with New Hampshire a close second. I have a tremendous affection for Northern New England).
Marriage equality is also near and dear to my heart. Not because marriage is a panacea for anything or even the most important right, but because the glaring inequality is a continuing and blatant symbol of exclusion and second-class citizenship. We do not extend civil rights to some of our people because it would offend the religious and social mores of the majority: that may be the way the Puritans did things in their theocratic monocultures* but it is not the system we codified in the Bill of Rights, where the First Amendment has an establishment clause that prohibits the state from taking a side in religious disputes and a free exercise clause that provides that my mother’s Unitarian church should be able to marry who it believes it should without the fear or favor of the State.**
All of Northern New England is there.*** They have marriage equality by legislation. Bigots in Maine are trying to reverse it at the polls. The excellent polling-and-quantitative-poli-sci blog Fivethirtyeight (were we not all glued to it last year about this time? Nate hasn’t quit) is
all over the story.
Nate, who is firmly on the pro-equality side of this, got an email to marriage equality opponents, and he summarized the talking points like this:
1. The new law won’t make gay marriage equal to straight marriage. Instead, it will create a new kind of marriage in which gay people and straight people are equal.
2. Although we may not have proven any connection between gay marriage and public education, our opponents haven’t disproven the connection, and it’s their fault that the subject came up.
3. If gay marriage is upheld, then marriage will exist solely to make people happy.
Tactics aside, my first reaction to this was, “Yes, I am for that.”
Will marriage equality make marriage gayer, change it from an institution with a lot of barriage about gender roles to a more intentional and custom-crafted union between two people who go through the comedies and tragedies of life together? I sure hope so.
Will school children learn that queer people and straight people are equal, that same sex marriages and opposite sex marriage are equal? That’s what we teach in my house. I hope some day that will be what they teach in my kids’ school.
Will marriage equality mean that marriage is only to make people happy? Wow, if ever there were better proof of the continuing influence of Puritanism! My marriage exists solely to make people happy. My spouse and I are raising children together. Our union is an expression of our commitment to do that as a team, to help and support each other. We share our incomes and our spending, we take our vacations together. We live in a house and make a home together, and we work on the house together and we decorate it together. We cook some of our meals together, and we eat as many as we can together, either just the two of us, or us and our kids. We do these things because it makes us happy. Because we are happier doing these things with each other than with anyone else.
I am for that. I am for that being available to everyone.
So if that’s what marriage equality is for, why are some people against it? Nate has it right:
The fact is that the overwhelming majority of people who dislike gay marriage do so for one of two reasons: either their religion has a taboo against homosexuality, or they find the practice gross.
*(lifting Russell Shorto’s terminology from Island at the Center of the World, which I recommend).
**There are constitutional scholars who don’t agree with these interpretations, and who despite fancy educations and access to all sorts of persuasive facts and arguments continue to be wrong. What can I say? You can lead a horse to water …
***All of New England, in fact, except Rhode Island, where the Governor is a stumbling block and the legislation has a good shot as soon as he is out.