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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Love & Marriage: The Problem With Prop 8 Decision

This journal entry is also my first column for yournewsdetroit.com--please check out this new online news source when you have a chance. Thanks.

I realize that the debate over same sex marriage is a divisive one, among friends and sometimes even family members. However last week’s upholding of Prop 8 in California is depressing. For people looking for the right to marry the person they love and have it validated by society, it must be enraging.

I’ve been in what the court (and most of the country) refers to as a “normal” marriage for 20 years. They’ve easily been the best years of my life, although they’ve also been very challenging. Marriage is a little like hang gliding or scuba diving or even a near-death experience--only those that have been there can truly provide any lasting insight to it--why it works or doesn’t work, why it’s the most enlightened experiment in human connection, or why it may be mankind’s most preposterous folly. (I believe the former.) Like those other activities I mentioned, you can only know by doing, and there’s no going back.

I can’t speak for my wife, but I got married for many reasons--most were emotional, some societal, others never to be understood. It was important for me to be jumping into something, in a social sense--into a kind of acceptance, into a practiced art, out of my own panicky rebellion. I didn’t settle, as all unmarried people will accuse those that marry; I armed myself. If you haven’t notice lately, it’s an often brutal and unpredictable world, with loyalty and honesty being rare. If life is a game played against chaos and death, against entropy, then marriage means having more home games on your schedule than away.

So I’m writing this as an instinctive reaction to the California Prop 8 ruling, which upheld making same sex marriages illegal. Here’s the main point of this thing to me: no one ever called into question my ability (my right?) to marry the person of my own choosing.

The Prop 8 ruling is correctly perceived by the gay community as a double-barreled attack on human rights. I’m sure that the Christian righties and other opponents of gay marriage find the impetus for their opposition based in some public employment of what they consider to be moral. However, it seems to me that arguing about pre-established or preferred sexual behavior is akin to arguing the morality of a tree--that is, it’s something that simply is, static and obvious. So this ruling tries to give all of us the parameters of what a marriage is or should be. If you don’t think that affects you, and you happen to be a heterosexual, you’re wrong.

Our supposedly sophisticated and free society tends to be embarrassed by the entire idea of sex. What’s known as the “Other” or “Otherness” in this culture--anyone outside the accepted notion of what or who an American is--should never be automatically associated with unaccountable behavior. And that’s exactly how I read Prop 8’s results. Gay people are not to be trusted. Ridiculous.

Accountability, in fact, may be the only measure of a man or woman—gay or straight--that the government need concern itself with, if they need to concern themselves at all. The irony is that nothing, and I mean nothing, leads to more stringent accountability than the shared promise and demands of a marriage. So the questions should be ours, and they should be directed at opponents of civil same sex unions. For starters--Why are you not in favor of intelligent people moving freely toward a life of love and societal accountability?

They would probably counter with the belief that it’s simply wrong—immoral—to conduct yourself in this way and thus illegal for the state to condone behavior so contrary to “God’s wishes.” Being just a simple human, I could never assume to know God’s wishes. And so often, the word morality is used as a means of oppression, a cover for political tyranny and failed imagination. For the sake of argument let’s call morality any action that is unselfish, kind and noble. Add to that the fact that it’s any action done with some sort of Karmic concern; that in the long run we won’t be sorry for what we’ve done, whether it’s in line with some petty human law or not. Or better yet: moral action is simply action which is life affirming.

We're currently all talking about this issue with an idealistic, moral and even romantic view. The practical side of it is even more compelling--I have several gay friends that want to be married for the real life reasons, in addition to love and emotional security. They want what hetero marriages take for granted--health care when a spouse or partner is covered, tax breaks filing jointly, equal protection under the law.

As insignificant as it may seem to the hetero-married or the unmarried, it makes a difference when your relationship is validated by both society and our byzantine government. It's just one less thing to worry about.

The fight for equality and justice is a fight for all of us, gay or straight, white or black, man or woman. When law is created or upheld due to a hazy consensus on religious beliefs, it's inherently at odds with logic. If there are real values, and I believe there are, and those values celebrate, affirm and explore human life, then they should be confirmed by American society as good. Anyone wishing to marry another person they’ve deemed fit for them is saying to me that they’ve made some peace with their own idea of freedom and commitment. They know that with that freedom comes a responsibility to look and listen, to own up to their idea of love, and feel in their hearts and bones what God or Time requires of them. And that no law can touch.