Away We Go to an Island Fair
Books Read in 2007
SPEAKING OUT FOR GAY MARRIAGE
22 October 2007
I went to an ACLU informational meeting about gay marriage yesterday. Obviously this was "preaching to the choir" for me, but Ellen and Shelly were going to be speaking and asked me to come along.
It was a small group of people gathered around a meeting area in a local bookstore and I was sitting in front, so I don't really know what the makeup of the group was. People were, like me, there alone, there were some same sex couples and some heterosexual couples, so what the gay:straight ratio was was not possible to judge. It was also not possible to judge whether there was anybody there who was not supportive of gay marriage.
But even though I have been supporting and campaigning for gay marriage for years, having hard facts and figures at my fingertips was enlightening. The guy from the ACLU had put together a questionnaire that even Ellen and Shelly weren't able to answer 100% accurately. We all learned something. And it was nice to hear a married couple ask about having a smaller meeting in their home to pass along the information.
At the conclusion of the meeting we were all encouraged to "get the word out" and so that's what I'm going to do here, with some facts and figures that you might surprising or enlightening. Facts and figures don't give you emotion, though, and I only captured on video a small part of Ellen and Shelly's impassioned description of why it's "different" when you are married than when you are just legal domestic partners.
There are 20 questions on the list and I'm not going to go through all of them, but will just pick and choose a few.
In case you were wondering, there are six countries recognize gay marriage: The Netherlands, Belgium, Israel, South Africa, Canada and the list says England, but I think Ellen & Shelly said they have something that is "like" marriage, but is called something else, making it separate and unequal.
In the U.S. only one state recognizes marriage: Massachusetts. Connecticut, Vermont, California, Main, Hawaii, Washington DC, New York and New Jersey have some form of legal status, but not marriage. Marriage is prohibited by statutory law in 18 states and in constitutional amendments in 27.
Shelly talked about how when Vermont made domestic partnerships legal, she and Ellen flew to Vermont and registered. She smiled as she recalled their newfound status as they walked around buying souvenirs. But when they drove across the state line into New Hampshire, they were once again legal strangers to each other.
Many Americans think of "marriage" as both a legal and a religious institution, but in legal terms it is simply a legal contract and being denied this legal contract deprives gay couples of more than 1,100 rights that married couples enjoy. These include such things as hospital visitation, death benefits, spousal support, visitation rights with children if a couple splits, inheritance rights, the right to make decisions about the disposition of a dead partner's body, etc. Some of these can be taken care of with the help of an expensive attorney which many cannot afford. They come automatically with marriage. (Shelly points out that 40% of marriages in this country are civil marriages only, and do not involve the blessing of a church, which does remove the "religious" issue, don't you think?)
In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that interracial marriage was legal throughout the United States (it was legal in California in 1948). At that time 80% (8 out of 10 people) of the population of the United States were against it.
The Catholic Church performed union ceremonies for same sex couples from the 5th through the 14th century. It always amuses (and frustrates) me that the Pope is supposed to be infallible when he speaks ex cathedra, and yet up until the 14th century the Pope apparently felt that it was OK for gay couples to marry but after the 14th century some pope decided it was not OK. Surely SOMEBODY wasn't infallible!!
It was not until the 18th century that people began to marry for love. Before that, people married to strengthen family alliances, to be socially acceptable, and for procreation. But since the 18th century, most people have been marrying for love. Gay couples just ask for the same right.
The Bible. Ah yes. The Bible. It's fair to say that few of us have the language ability to read the Bible in its original format and all of us rely on translations. "Leviticus 18:22" is the standard argument used by opponents of gay marriage. Here are some interesting English translations:
English Standard Bible: You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is abomination.
King James Bible: Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.
Living Bible: Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin.
Net Bible: You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman; it is a detestable act.
New International Version: Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
New Living Translation: Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin.
Revised Standard Version: You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
(by the way, relations between women are not mentioned in the bible at all, so lesbianism must be OK.)
In California there are more than 90,000 same sex couples who have been together more than 5 years (some much longer. Ellen and Shelly have been together 34 years; Steve and Jimmy have been together more than 20 years, for example). California couples are raising some 70,000 children. Nationwide, according to the 2000 US Census, 33% of female same-sex couple households and 22% of male same-sex couple households reported at least one child under the age of 18 living in the home.
Isn't it time to admit that gay couples are here to stay, that they are living in stable, monogamous relationships and raising children together and that they and their children should be afforded the same rights that straight families have?
Let's all just pretend it's somewhere between the 5th and the 14th century (but with indoor plumbing and Internet access) and follow the example of the Catholic Church.
PHOTO OF THE DAY