What is Marriage Anyway? The Introduction to the Arguments

Last week I went to a forum at the Nashville Jewish Community Center on “What is Marriage Anyway?” It was brought together by Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, and Tennessee Equality Project. The issue was to discuss the role of marriage in contemporary society and to hear various points of view on the topic of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. The upcoming vote on Nov. 7th on a constitutional amendment barring gay couples from marrying is what has made this discussion so necessary. Most of the people in attendance were supportive of marriage equality for gay couples; however, that wasn’t the intention of the groups involved. In fact, they purposefully invited local spokespeople of the Family Research Council, the two members of congress co-sponsoring the state amendment, and even a representative from Bill Frist’s office, since he co-sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment, but all of these people declined to participate. While much of it felt like a preaching to the choir, there were some interesting points of view and a great discussion of the complexities and problems with a constitutional amendment. I thought I would share some of those with you. If nothing else, perhaps having a variety of arguments will help us discuss this issue better.

First of all, what is the amendment? What does it say?

Vote No on 1, the Tennessee grassroots organization fighting this amendment, has it posted on their website:

The historical institution and legal contract solemnizing the relationship of one man and one woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state. Any policy or law or judicial interpretation, purporting to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one man and one woman, is contrary to the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee. If another state or foreign jurisdiction issues a license for persons to marry and if such marriage is prohibited in this state by the provisions of this section, then the marriage shall be void and unenforceable in this state.

Panel Speakers included:
Rabbi Alexis Berk, The Temple Ohabai Sholom
Shelley Klein, Director of Advocacy for Hadassah National
Gene Floyd, Member of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
Chris Sanders, Tennessee Equality Project President
Abby Rubenfeld, Attorney and Former Legal Director of Lambda Legal Defense
Julian Kanter, A Father's Story

It is my hope that the three arguments I have broken this down into (Personal/Family, Civil Rights, and Religious) will help our community and our allies in formulating a sound discussion of this issue. Use what you need of this, add your own twist if you want. Even once all the amendments have been passed or not, remember that the fight goes on. New challenges will be thrown our way. New angles of fear and hatred will be tossed at us. We need to know where we stand and what we need to say. I hope this helps.


At 08:53, Blogger John Hosty said...

Callie, thanks for this post and thanks for visiting my website. I took you on your offer and decided to create a post of what you had said, you'll see it on my website alter on today. I am going to add a link to your site too, feel free to do the same if you are inspired. I believe my crowd of readers and yours will have much in common, especially the interest in equality. Peace and happiness to you and yours.

At 10:46, Blogger John said...

Excellent post, Carrie.

Is there any realistic chance that this amendment will lose?

At 12:04, Blogger RedStateExile said...

Thanks John H!

For the other John, we're being cautiously optimistic. There are lots of backwoods areas of TN that have no idea what's going on.

The Vote No on 1 group has been canvassing and working hard to get the message out about the dangers with this amendment, but it's tough covering the whole state.

What I do know is that the fight won't end whether it passes or fails. The LGBT community here is optimistic that our major cities, esp. Nashville and Memphis, will have a good showing of those that don't support this amendment. If that's the case, there are plans in the works to start a proactive and positive campaign to go to elected officials and say "our citizens do not support discrimination against gay people and their families; therefore, we want..."

This won't die because of the votes cast. It'll just be the start. We know the fundies will be back to try to get companies Bridgestone/Firestone and private universities like Vanderbilt (which have been deliberately advertising to the LGBT community) to drop their ads and drop their DP benefits. We have to be ready to fight back first and we will be.

At 13:27, Blogger John said...

Hopefully the debate will wake some people up.

Here in Massachusetts, we are seeing a trend in which companies are ending DP benefits on the grounds that they no longer serve their purpose.

This is upsetting for straight couples who have chosen not to marry as well as gays, but I see it as a good thing.

One standard, marriage, for all.

I happen to believe that once DP benifits are taken away, that's it. That will be what the Federal courts need to strike down DOMA laws and state amendments.

At 13:59, Blogger RedStateExile said...

I've heard that John.

But the way I look at it is that if we are put on the same level playing field with the same social expectations (i.e. you want to have your relationship legally recognized and be able to protect your partner) then you'll get married.

A straight ex-coworker of mine wanted to get DP benefits for her boyfriend but it was for same-sex couples only. It bothered her and she felt like it was discriminatory, but I told her, "At least you have the option to get married."

At 14:27, Blogger jenny said...

great work, callie! linking to you.

At 15:15, Blogger John said...

"At least you have the option to get married."


At 15:55, Blogger momoaizo said...

Hey {{{Callie}}} and all,

got your email, thank you for inviting me over. for the benefit of any who don't know me, I am a 53 year old white, straight, married woman. I have two children, my daughter, Valencia is 32 with two boys and my son, David (Aizo is his online name, thus I'm mom o aizo), he's 27 and engaged. Both are straight.

I must admit that over the years my thoughts and postions have changed on GLBT's, heck I only recently learned what that stood for. In the past, all I knew about GLBT's was that they were evil, ya know, Sodom & Gomora....caused the city to be destroyed. Like the evil might rub off if i got too close. Really, all I knew of "gayness" (please let me know if that's offensive, really I don't know) was what I had learned in church and at the movies.

Differences scare people and I believe that's were bigotry begins. I have posted this before Callie, but after the vote earlier in the year about the marriage amendment and you posted that you had been crying all week about it, that gave me a different paridigm. I realized that all you want to do is love the person you choose. It made me think....you are being persecuted for nothing more than wanting to love the person you love.

I do not know the answer, I only know that it must continue to be discussed. Like too many other issues these days, the Republicans just don't want to have a true and open discussion. They are using gay rights as another political scare tactic, unfortunately it works on too many people. Educated and uneducated alike. But more people are starting to wake up, more of us are willing to have discussions. More of us are starting to see that you are not devil spawn, that my liking you and not condemning you is not a sin.

I don't profess to be a model Christian, I haven't gone to church for some time. But I know that the bible is used as a weapon instead of a tool way too much. Just like Christianity, and that is not what MY Jesus told us to do.

Ha, just thinking back on what made hubby and me decide to quit the church we had been active members in for 10 years, bet you guys will enjoy this. The straw that broke the camel's back, sorta speak, was when the minister ran off with a woman who had 8 children. She and her husband (and 8 children) were life time members, everyone thought the perfect couple...HA! (But before that, it was getting too cliquey and political....not the "God is Love" feel we wanted.)

So I wanted to share this with you and let you know that I think differently, that I am having this discussion with friends and family and I want to encourage you to continue the discussion. We straights need to hear you, you need to make us understand.

At 16:40, Blogger dorsano said...

A MN Republican state legislator, Paul Koering, came out last year when he with voted with Democrats against putting a "marriage" amendment on the ballot.

He's in MN district 12 which is largely rual and he faced a primary challenge last week. His challenger's spent the last three months asking MN Republicans to "vote their values".

So they did

State Senate: GOP State Sen. Paul Koering, who revealed he was gay, beat back a primary challenge from city Councilman Kevin Goedker, who asked voters to decide the race based on their values but said he was not opposing Koering because he's gay.

I love my state.

Best wishes, Callie. Take care.

At 17:14, Blogger RedStateExile said...


That is probably the nicest and most heartfelt thing that anyone has ever said to me.

Thank you for listening and having an open mind.

Like I've said, if we don't say it, how can we expect anyone to hear it. We have to keep talking...all of us.

At 17:20, Blogger RedStateExile said...


I heard about that. Gay Republicans are winning in MN and a lesbian Democrat won in AL.

Orientation is becoming less of an issue for candidates. Maybe the same will eventually be true for the rest of us too. ;)

However, dors, I thought I read somewhere that Koering would vote for an amendment if it came up for a vote in the legislature.

At 18:15, Blogger RedStateExile said...

For those who know Greg G, he wanted to post this but doesn't have a Blogger account. I told him I'd put it up for him.

Hope it makes ya smile:

I have three things to say so far. They have Jewish people in Tennessee? Who knew? The second is ----and they provided a forum for right wing cretins (send them back to Brooklyn for re-education) and third the right wing nuts didn't show up but the female sex maniacs from hell did?

At 20:02, Blogger dorsano said...

However, dors, I thought I read somewhere that Koering would vote for an amendment if it came up for a vote in the legislature.

I haven't heard that. He did support a procedual move to debate the amendment in the senate. But he's either abstained from other anti gay legislation or voted against it. He supports expanding MnCARE coverage to everyone under 18. And he's voted for minimum wage increases more than once.

Even his challenger Goedker wouldn't go on record on how he would vote on the amendment.

The last quote I have from Koering is on the 4th of September and he wouldn't say how he'd vote.

Do you have a link to a quote?

At 20:38, Blogger Tonito Bandito said...

Thanks for that my friend! Mwah!

At 06:49, Blogger Lizzy said...


That my friend is a good find. Marriage is the unity of 2 people, period end of discussion.

Missed you, been so busy with NY-19


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