Wednesday, January 13, 2010

California Prop 8 Trial: No One is Perfect

In California, the trial on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 is underway. Soon, in New Jersey, a similar trial will take place. The proponents of Prop 8 say that "states have a compelling interest to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples for the sake of procreation."

The Holy See has also weighed in with the same argument. The Pope "linked the Church's opposition to gay marriage to concern about the environment, suggesting that laws undermining "the differences between the sexes" were threats to creation."

Um, Mr. See? I have three children. Some would argue I've procreated a little too much, especially for the environment. And most of those pesky gay people who want to get married? It's because they have kids. Not all, by any means, but many.

Meanwhile, back in California, teh gays are being portrayed as perverts, pedophiles and basically degrading societies fabric by the very act of breathing. "Nancy Cott of Harvard University, presented a centuries-old history lesson on government regulation of marriage, even touching on President Bill Clinton's indiscretions to argue that the institution has evolved dramatically over time."

Ah, but she's a woman and we know how much the Catholic church likes women. Charles Cooper, the lead defense attorney, said "the limitation of marriage to a man and a woman is something that is universal throughout history and different cultures."

Cott quickly responded, "she was “amused” when she heard Cooper say that because “the Bible is a situation in which characters practice polygamy.” She said his statement was “inaccurate.”

A smart woman at that.

Some of the response by the opponents, in my opinion the good guys trying to achieve marriage equality, has disturbed me. Nate Silver, Mr. amazing statistical analysis, is making the point that states who have marriage equality have a lower divorce rate. I respect Silver's opinion, and know his numbers are correct but I am hesitant to take this angle with the argument.

As a parent, I am always worried that if my kids screw up in any way, I'll be seen as an example of why gay people shouldn't parent. The reality is, they will screw up, I will screw up, we are human beings- no better, no worse. Women have the right to vote and that doesn't mean all women are great voters. Or even vote for that matter. It's about equality, not living up to some standard of perfection.

The Goodridges, of Goodridge vs. MA Department of Health fame, the case that won marriage equality for the first time ever in this country, are divorced. As a long time friend, it was heartbreaking to me because I cared about them both very much. The reality, though, is I don't know a single couple married 19 years who haven't come close at one time or another to getting a divorce.

I did. A few years ago, my wife and I almost got to a point to where we couldn't go on. We were lucky, and we figured it out. Not everyone can, and not everyone should.

They were treated horribly in the press and by our community as if they would be the reason marriage equality would end. The right wing pounced on it, acting as if they had been married two years, when in fact, it was over 19.

Do we have to have perfect unions? If divorce rates go up, is it really because there is marriage equality? "In order to form a more perfect union," the preamble of our constitution, isn't about being perfect. It's about a goal. It is a work in progress. Anyone who has been married for any period of time, know it is a work in progress. Always.

This summer, Julie Goodridge went to a fundraising event in Provincetown where Lily Tomlin performed. After the show, Julie went up, introduced herself and thanked Tomlin for the show. Tomlin looked at her and said, "I really wish you hadn't gotten divorced. We wouldn't have lost California."

Really? Millions of California voters thought, damn, that couple got divorced, those gays don't deserve our sacred union. All they will do is divorce. Um, last I looked, Ms. Tomlin separated from her long time partner. What is that rule about glass houses?

As if straight people don't divorce all the time. Some for very legitimate reasons, such as getting married on a reality TV show called, "I married a stranger," having your friends and family pick out your spouse for you. After you pocket the cash, do you really stayed married? I don't think so.

Ah, that sacred institution. Good thing it's limited to heterosexuals for procreation and holding together that fabric of society.

The reality is, divorce is real. It happens. We are not perfect. Please don't expect us to be. We will marry too young, or drunk in Vegas, or on an impulsive whim and decide to get divorced. Being gay doesn't mean we have to live to a higher standard than heterosexuals. Not as parents and not as spouses.

We're doing the best that we can. The argument isn't about being better, it's about being equal. We deserve fair access to housing because we deserve to have housing, not because we will gentrify a neighborhood. We deserve to not be fired from jobs because of our choice of partner isn't relevant to our work performance, not because we're more creative, interesting people to work with. We don't need another stereotype of what gay people are, raising the bar higher for those of us who are basically boring, normal people who go to work, raise our families and have mismatching tableware in the kitchen cabinets.

The arguments in California, and across the country, need to focus on the fact that we are human beings. That there are real economic benefits to marriage given by the government, not some statistic that points to perfection. It's unconstitutional because we are citizens of this country and we deserve the same rights.

And by the way? We procreate, too.

Besides, the defense strategy is pathetic enough all on it's own.


Blogger Sue J said...

I also wonder how long this "the only purpose is procreation" argument can hold up. I mean, what does that mean for straight couples who are unable to have children? Or who get married when well past the age of procreation? Will their marriages be null and void, as well?

No matter which side wins this case, be ready for an appeal ....

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Morgan said...

Did you see this?

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Morgan said...

Here they are on Rachel Maddow last night:

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish not concur on it. I over polite post. Specially the appellation attracted me to be familiar with the intact story.

12:30 PM  
Blogger weese said...

My wife is a JP here in CT, while she performs all sorts of weddings she primarily gets calls from same sex couples. Sometimes she will come home from a performing a ceremony and remark something like..."boy, those kids are young i hope they make it."
and I say back to her - "This is exactly what we are fighting for."

We are not JUST fighting for marriage. We are fighting for divorce and making stupid mistakes and marrying too young ...
that is true equality.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

ever wonder if "holy see" is where we got "holy shit" from?

1:02 PM  
Blogger Bobby said...

I might have an unpopular opinion. While I desire to marry my partner with every fiber of my being, I have to say I am very happy this case is NOT being handled by the usual gay rights groups of HRC, et al. In fact they tried hard to stop this from happening at all. When you lose every battle you fight, it's time to let someone else lead the charge. Living in AZ, we fought the ammendment battle back in 2008 and lost. Since then, HRC efforts have evaporated. Why aren't we pushing to repeal it? They lose and move on. It's about time we went on the offensive instead of waiting for the inevitable vote to repeal what courts or legislatures have put in place and then getting all riled up (or more aptly not riled enough). The right wing says jump and HRC asks how high. Marriage discrimination is wrong and we should be making that case everywhere instead of pretending we're fighting some intellectual battle over states rights. Here in AZ, I don't think the word "Gay" was even mentioned in the effort to defeat the prop. If HRC and the like are afraid to even say the word how do they ever expect to win people over?

Kudos to Olson for bringing the case to court. Too bad he had to fight our own advocacy groups to do it.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Niles Dolbeare said...

Um, last I looked, Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner are still very much together, 39 years now.

(Also, the correct spelling is "all on its own" in your subsequent paragraph, not "all on it's own.")

4:36 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

last the media reported, they split a few years ago. they still work together creatively.

let's face it, it was mean. and wrong.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous cbc said...

and disappointing.

the heteros in china have done a bang up job w/ procreation, huh?

9:30 AM  
Blogger J said...

Last time I checked, unmarried folks weren't having any trouble procreating.

And I don't recall seeing anything in the effort to legalize gay marriage that would stop hetero-married couples from spawning.

So can someone please explain to me why we need to limit marriage to heteros order to procreate?

If that's the best defense they have (and I hope it is) I can't see how they can win with that.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's always disheartening to see people--especially those of our own persuasion and commitment --being so obtuse, insensitive and downright wrong. I'm talking, of course, about Sara's suggestion that Lily Tomlin and her long time love, Jane Wagner have split. Nothing could be farther than the truth. In fact, Barbara Boxer is honoring them in SF on Feb 26. Shame on you Sara for your Rush Limbaugh type defamatory reporting. And, it goes without saying that Julie's claim of Lily's comment in P-Town is equally specious. Maybe Julie's just disgruntled because she can't come close to Lily's heights. Check your facts, girlz.

10:22 AM  

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