9/17/2006

What is Marriage Anyway? The Personal/Family Argument

The discussion covered nearly all of the primary issues involved with this amendment. I want to try to point out those here. First of all, marriage is a personal and family issue so this amendment is harmful to the well-being of couples, their current families, and the families they plan to create. Gene Floyd and Julian Kanter were perhaps the most touching of the panelists, approaching this issue from a very personal point of view. Mrs. Floyd, a strong Southern Baptist, took issue with individuals using their faith to hurt others, especially her son. She said in true Southern Belle fashion that she “didn’t take to kindly” to the horrible things people were saying about her son. Mr. Kanter, who has no organizational affiliation and thus perhaps no organized agenda, asked to be on the panel so he could discuss his perspective of the amendment as an average father with a not-so-average daughter who just happens to be in a 13 year committed relationship with another woman. He simply stated that he worried about his daughter being harmed by this amendment and that he was concerned about how it would leave her and her partner of 13 years vulnerable in their time of need.

All parents worry about their kids, but parents of gay children worry even more so. They know that the world isn’t kind to difference and they know their gay kids will have difficulty. It’s good to know that unlike what many of us have experienced that there are good parents out there that are trying to make the world a safer place for their kids. It’s not always easy though. As Mrs. Floyd said, “Your child comes ‘out of the closet,’ and you go in.”

In other cases, the couples have children, whether within their current relationship or a previous one, and the amendment could possibly cause long-term harm to their created families. On this particular point, it’s personal for me. My partner and I have been together almost 11 years and we have a difficult decision to make. We want to have a child, but from everything we’ve read, there is no guarantee that the known donor or a third party wouldn’t or couldn’t challenge the legality of me as a parent to our child. An argument many people make who support these amendments is that we (gay couples) can get the same protections through legal contracts. Do some reading about this because it’s simply not true, not for gay couples. The closest we can get to protection is to do insemination through a doctor who gets the sperm from a sperm bank. For us, the nearest sperm bank is Atlanta and our doctor didn’t even know there wasn’t on in Nashville or what to do to help us. Supposedly, rights of the father are automatically written off if the donor’s sperm is donated through a bank or a doctor.

On top of that, this particular amendment mentions marriage as a “legal contract”. What about other “legal contracts”? Audience members were able to ask the panelists questions by writing them on cards for the moderator. That was basically my question to Abby Rubenfeld. What about the contracts we make? Can they be void or undone or invalid if this amendment passes? She said that typically contracts can’t be retroactively invalidated because the constitution is set up to avoid that. However, that same inconceivable retroactivity also was used by the state supreme court to get the measure on the ballots without enough time being allowed for review. That has a long complicated discussion so I won’t really bother with it. However, we see how laws are being retroactively used elsewhere. Massachusetts, even though they allow gay marriages, is retroactively using an old 1912 law to stop out-of-staters from getting married. The fundamentalist groups are trying to retroactively outlaw civil unions and domestic partnerships (even just domestic partner benefits) because amendments have passed in other states. In one breath they say that the amendments won’t eliminate the possibility of civil unions or DP’s but then as soon as they pass, they start working to do just that. Once Ms. Rubenfeld put all of that out there, she concluded that there isn’t a way to stop the attempt by those wish to try to invalidate our legal contracts. So, my partner and I are basically screwed. Actually, I’m more screwed than she is. If something happens to my partner, our contracts may not be recognized and they can even be challenged. It all depends on the whim of a judge. If he/she wants to use this amendment against us, he/she certainly could.

A question was raised about what is the next battleground area for marriage equality and that very example was brought up. I believe it is Minnesota that is going through this right now. The amendment passed because the citizens thought it left an open door for some kind of separate system for gay couples. Now that it’s passed, the fundamentalist groups are trying to get the state to do away with domestic partner benefits because the amendment doesn’t allow for the recognition of anything other than married couples as defined by their new law. It’s the opposite end of the “slippery slope” theory. Fundamentalists fear our relationships will lead to the approval of polygamy or bestiality, but they’re following the slippery slope on the other end to ensure that no gay relationship is ever recognized in any form or fashion.

As for the whole polygamy/bestiality comment, (yeah someone made that comment) the panelists didn’t even acknowledge the absurdity of the bestiality issue. However, Abby did comment that polygamy was outlawed because of its power issues. There is inequitable power in a polygamist society so it was deemed detrimental to society. I’ve heard another argument about this too. Basically, for as long as we’ve had statistics, the male/female split in society has hovered around the 50/50 range. Now if one male gets to “marry” so many women what kind of inequity and problems might be created for the males who don’t get to marry anyone. What will become of these men without partners? Wouldn’t eventually this cause a bit of an inbred situation? After all one man having children with many women means those children would be blood related. If this occurred enough, wouldn’t eventually the children or grandchildren have a higher chance of procreating together? Then again, with all of the divorced and remarried couples over and over again, what’s the difference? Perhaps men are getting their polygamist tendencies out of their system but in a different way, i.e. serial marriages. The only thing I can say about the bestiality thing is, how can a dog sign the marriage contract and how will the dog say the marriage vows? Yeah, exactly, now end of that stupid point of view.

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