Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Can we vote on your marriage now?

Me in DC at the Marriage Equality Rally with my sign

I have mixed feelings about gay marriage.I don't like that it has taken the focus off of issues like employment and housing discrimination that I think are a lot more pressing for our community than the right to marry. I don't like the thought of a "gay movement" that seems to be a movement of middle-aged, wealthy, white men and women, where it seems that men are directing many of the efforts, and transgender people are completely left out of the dialogue. I don't think that the government should be in the business of recognizing relationships at all, and so find it difficult to argue my way into an institution that I think should be wholly left to individual families and religious institutions. I don't want my ability to be the legal parent of my child, or the health insurance status of my family, to depend on what I chose to call my relationship with my partner.

And yet, while I busily list the things I don't like or support about the idea of gay marriage, I am quickly brought back to reality. The reality is that right now, gay marriage has taken on the symbolism of equality of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Someday, when I can call the shots, the government will get out of the business of recognizing marriages and can simply recognize the legal documents I create to define my civil contracts. Until that point, however, having the right to marry is the only way to really ensure that my kids will have two parents, that my partner can inherit my (even minimal) stuff in the event that I die, and that she will receive Social Security benefits after my death. There are also a million other benefits that I think should probably come with citizenship, but actually only come with marriage. Unfortunately, that makes marriage important.

Finally, and for me this was particularly frustrating, it just seems wrong to give people rights and then take them away. The California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were required by the constitution so that everyone would be equally protected under the law. This was really exciting, and lots of people got married. Now their marriages are being taken away? Few things illustrate the tragedy of this as poignantly as Judith Warner's blog entry.

So I conclude with this: I have mixed feelings about marriage but I support it anyway, and I hope you'll join me. People should be free to have their families legally recognized and supported.

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