Sunday, November 16, 2008

So, Um, I'm Pretty Open-Minded...

but I'm definitely not politically correct, at least not all the time.

I've been mulling over the gay marriage issue for a while now, trying to figure out how I feel about it. I was distressed at the outcome of California's vote on Proposition 8... not necessarily because I agreed or disagreed, but mainly because it was a reversal of something that had already been passed. Like if they overturned Roe V. Wade. It's really uncool to sign something into law that affects how people live, and then take it away. Yeah I know, it happens frequently. But that doesn't make it right.

But it got me to thinking, again, how I felt... and I guess I do know, and I'm not trying to hurt any body's feelings... and I know almost everybody I know is either gay or bi-sexual or has a family member who is. And some of the folk I've really truly come to love and appreciate are gay or bi or has a family member who is.

I was watching snippets of the demonstrations on CNN, and a woman said "you can't legislate love".... and she's right. You can't. You can't help who you fall in love with... and love is so rare these days that if you find it in the arms of someone of your same sex... who's to say you shouldn't pursue it?

But at the same time, I've had an internal debate going on for years about how I feel about the gay rights issue. See... I consider myself to follow the teachings of the Old Testament. It's pretty specific that men should not lay with men, although I'm always highly amused that as specific as the Old Testament is about a lot of stuff, right down to how you treat leprous sores, that it never says specifically that women shouldn't lay with women. Although it does say specifically men shouldn't wear women's clothing or vice versa (that last instruction is kinda dicey these days, though).

Then of course there's the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and how the men of that town had surrounded Lot's house demanding he turn over his (male) guests so they could have their way with them. It doesn't end well for the men of that town, so it's pretty clear what the moral of that story was.

On the other hand, that story is older than Methuselah, which means a.) homosexuality has been in existence since the beginning and b.) obviously there are times in history when it is easier to be openly gay than at other times in history. There is even a tradition of homosexual Native Americans, particularly the Great Plains and Southwestern tribes. In some tribes they were known as "Two Spirits" and revered because they tended to be spiritual leaders, and the fact that they existed between two genders was considered a gift.

I've come to the conclusion for myself, that the spiritual tenets that I follow require me to make choices about the way I live my life. A lot of people in the world eat pork or shrimp or calamari but if you "choose" to follow Judaic Law, than you are forbidden to eat those things. But I can't. And there are whole chapters and lists of things to do or not do if you choose this God... but it doesn't mean other people will choose the same thing.

In the Old Testament certain offenses are punishable by death or ostracism, but when you really stop to think about it, the punishments are for the people who are supposed to be following these traditions but aren't. Generally, they didn't extend to folk outside the Tribes of Israel, unless of course you were coming into Canaan to take over the land. Then you were to kill everyone. But that's another subject. The point I'm trying to make is that if you are living within a certain set of rules then the punishment for disobeying those rules pertains to you... not to the rest of the world.

I have a son. I'm pretty sure he's hetero although he's far from girl-crazy right now and sort of takes it in stride that little girls (and I mean little girls... he's a major hottie for the 2-6 year old set) chase him around. He's only ever had two "girlfriends" or crushes since pre-K, and one major crush on his best friend's older sister but usually he's just kind of cool about the whole thing. But I've wondered how I would feel--really, truly, honestly feel--if he came and told me he was gay. I know that I would always love him from the bottom of my heart, and I know that I would always want for him to be happy. I want for him to find his one true love and live happily ever after. But I confess I'd be less happy if his true love turned out to be another man.

And if he did come to me and tell me he wanted to marry that man, I'm pretty sure I'd struggle with it. I'd struggle with it because according to the set of rules I live by, and am hopefully raising him by, his choice would not be in accordance with those rules.

Another thing I've been struggling with is the comparison of the gay rights struggle to the civil rights struggle. And I confess I take some offense. No doubt some people are really really brutal and mean to gay people. And it's not right. We've all seen and heard horror stories of hate crimes against gays and it turns my stomach.

But it's arguable whether gay people are born gay or are made that way... I tend to think that for the most part, it's the former. I've met young children who have seemed to lean one way or the other, and not for nothing but however they lean as young children they tend to grow into that. But I've also met young women molested at an early age who became gay. And I've met gay women who weren't molested and molestation victims who weren't gay. In other words there is debate about the origins of sexual orientation. There was a time when I thought that gays chose to be gay, and at that time my argument against the comparison between gay rights and civil rights was that you don't get to choose to be Black. You just are. If you're light enough, you can choose to pass for white, but generally if you're born Black it's a guarantee that that's pretty much how you'll stay. But I'm pretty certain at this point in my life that for the most part, you don't choose to be gay either--you just are.

But there's no debate about being born black, particularly during the civil rights era. There was no doubt at all that at the worst of it, particularly in the south, you couldn't drink from the same fountains, sit in the same movie or coffee houses, ride in the same train car, go to school with, walk with, talk with, be insolent with someone who was white without risking a beatdown, or worse, death. There were signs telling us where we were or weren't allowed to enter. There were laws preventing us from going to school in certain places, as well as laws about who we could marry. And when horrible things happened to us there were laws that prevented us from obtaining justice. When African Americans finally rose up in numbers to protest, they were beaten and lynched and had fire hoses and dogs set on them. On television. So to me, it's kind of not the same thing.

That doesn't negate the human rights aspect that gay people are fighting for. And no one should ever be fired from a job cuz they're gay, or be ostracized, or teased or beaten or discriminated against. And if two people have decided to become a family unit, they should be able to share health benefits, or visit each other in the Emergency Room or hospitals.

But I do have some issue with the marriage thing. I think it's because generally, the institution of marriage is based on a religious view. You're choosing this person as a life partner in the sight of your God. And for the most part, marriage is between a woman and man and a God they've chosen to follow. Quite honestly, I think this is the way it should be. And I think that within the confines of a religious faith, this is perfectly acceptable. Because you can choose to follow or not follow a certain religion.

And while I completely agree that same-sex couples should be able to provide each other with health insurance the way married hetero couples do for each other, and I applaud companies who allow this, I get really annoyed that an unmarried, hetero couple can't provide health insurance to their partner. Someone once provided me with the argument that it's fair because the theory is that a hetero couple can marry but a gay couple can't, but I disagree with that. Because sometimes a hetero couple can't marry, for various reasons. And I also think that if an adult is living with say their disabled parent or sibling, they too, should be able to provide health insurance for that person.

But I don't like the idea of the Federal Government stepping in to define what marriage is or isn't. I think that's dangerous.... it would give the government too much control over our private lives, and there is that whole issue of the separation of Church and State, since the definition of marriage is really based on a religious idea.

I do think though, that the government should--across the board--create a definition of a domestic union, and write into that definition that any people who file papers requesting this status be awarded certain rights. The right to insure each other, or visit each other in a hospital room, etc. I think that the definition of a domestic union should include adults who have become their parent's caretaker. Or two members of a family who live together for whatever reason.

Of course this brings into question how to handle divorce, or the dissolution of a domestic union, and I recognize that for the purposes of creating amendments to a constitution it's probably easier to change the current definitions of marriage to include same sex couples, rather than write a whole new set of laws. And I can't see the government doing that...

So I guess this sort of dumps me back where I started out from; reluctantly supporting gay marriage, because I wholeheartedly believe everyone should be entitled to certain things. I wholeheartedly believe you should be able to love and cherish anyone you choose, and I believe that the government should respect your personal decision.

But I still, deep down, think that the definition of marriage should remain between man and woman and God...

3 comments:

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

I really appreciate you sharing your internal dialog on this issue. It is a struggle for many heterosexuals for exactly the reasons you stated.

And I particularly empathize with your saying about your son, "I want for him to find his one true love and live happily ever after. But I confess I'd be less happy if his true love turned out to be another man.

I feel the same way about my own two kids. In the end, I came to the same conclusion as you did, that Uncle Sam should respect the personal decision of others, which would include with how they define God and God's wishes since we live in a secular society and not a religious ruled government.

And I like your honesty over your struggle. I just blogrolled you.

The Bear Maiden said...

Thank you, again :)

And thanks for understanding cuz I do struggle. There are some folk I admire the crap out of... and I know that I speak of "them" when I speak of "them". I'm confident though, that had the issue been put to the vote in NY, I would NOT have voted the way California did. It's not right. That really bothers me.

Fat Lady said...

I hear your struggle, and I wish that more people who struggle with this issue, could separate their own religious beliefs from what it is right for our government to do. Because our government is designed to be, should be, secular. The only way to the government can respect the religious beliefs of all the citizens of this country is to not get overly involved in any of them.

And while your god, and the gods of many people in this country, defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, my god, and the gods (or lack thereof) of others says that marriage is between people who are willing to make that bond of love and commitment.

There is no way that the government should form it's laws on the religions of some - to the exclusion and detriment of others.

I agree that if it was going to be done properly that, on a government level, there should be domestic or civil unions for everyone and leave marriage to the individual places and people of faith.