Gay marriage, one year later

Tuesday 17 May 2005

One year ago today, gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts. At the time, there was a lot of talk about activist judges, and amending the state constitution, and the people being heard. There's not much talk of that anymore, I think because those efforts looked like they would fail. Something like 6000 gay couples have gotten married here in the last year, and it has been quite peaceful.

On Mother's day this year, we had breakfast at a diner in Watertown. It was an interesting experience because of the variety of non-traditional groups we saw there. In a few cases, we couldn't quite parse out the relationships. Next to us at the counter were three white women and a black toddler. One thing was clear: they were very happy. Everyone in the place was happy, they were just families celebrating a day for families.

I wholeheartedly support allowing two committed adults to formalize their relationship and enjoy the same advantages and benefits as any other family. The only reason to oppose gay marriage is if you oppose homosexuality. While I completely disagree with those that think homosexuality is wrong, at least those people have a consistent world view when they oppose gay marriage.

Those that claim they are fine with gays but don't support gay marriage either haven't thought it through or are trying to get elected. I think as people see these relationships in practice, the opposition to them lessens. There is still very vocal opposition, both in Massachusetts and across the country, but it seems inevitable to me that people will come around. It may takes decades, but it will happen.

Comments

[gravatar]
Count0 12:46 PM on 17 May 2005

I guess that my views on marriage have changed considerably in the last year. Initially I fell in behind the whole defense of marriage act thing. but I eventually had a good look at the origins of the situation. Initially licensing marriage was a way to maintain a caste, separate protestants from Catholics and Jews and keep white people from marrying anybody else. The entire system is racist to the core.

I am a very religious person, so when I say this it may seem odd.

I think that the government should get out of the business of regulating what is essentially a religious rite. If the government did away with the legal definitions of marriage. You could call your dog your wife if you like. People would draw and sign contracts specifying property and potential parental rights. All divorces would go away because specific remedy would be included in the contract.

[gravatar]
Sylvain Galineau 7:48 PM on 17 May 2005

It will definitely happen. It should not be the state's business to define your partner's gender.

I do, however, also accept the right of any church, synagogue, mosque etc to refuse to marry couples based on whatever criteria they see fit, including sexual orientation. And I think that's where the friction and the conflict is for many religious people; they are, rightly or wrongly, quite concerned that once the former is law, legal challenges to force it on their particular denomination will both follow and be much more likely to succeed. At the very least, they have been led to believe that this will be the case.

Which means their reason to oppose gay marriage is not necessarily a simple opposition of homosexuality; the integrity and independence of their religious institution may just matter more to many of them than gay's right to marry, especially when civil unions and many of the benefits thereof are already accessible to them.

The prospect of having the government telling their priests who they may or may not marry, jailing them for not complying if need be, rankles them deeply. And if such challenges were in fact possible, I would have to agree. The separation of Church and State ought to work both ways.

I don't think this is a problem or a risk at all. But given how emotional and loaded the whole argument is, it's no wonder this kind of fearmongering can carry weight far beyond the subset of the population who do oppose homosexuality itself. And that's precisely why the argument is so actively promoted by some.

[gravatar]
Bill Ballantyne 10:02 PM on 17 May 2005

Both these responses have hit the nail on the head. I grew up going to an independent, premillenial, fundamental Baptist Church. As a kid, our church vehemently opposed state licenses and interference in any church related activity -- schools, day care, etc. Unfortunately, they (organized religion) gave away control of marriage long ago when they let the states control it.

Let the churches do what they want, but the government needs to open up civil marriage for everyone or get out of that business altogether.

[gravatar]
Nate Finch 11:06 AM on 18 May 2005

Anyone who spends any time with homosexual couples will realize they're just like any other couple. They laugh, they fight, they buy houses, go out to dinner on their anniversary... They're not going to ruin "the institution of marriage". They're not going to affect any straight couple or so-called institution, they just want to be allowed in the hospital room when they nurse says "immediate family only". They tried it with interracial marriages back in the day, and that eventually got thrown out. This is the same thing. Some day we'll look back and wonder how anyone could possibly have thought banning gay marriage wasn't outright discrimination.

[gravatar]
Sylvain Galineau 11:54 AM on 18 May 2005

The 'institution of marriage' line is catchy but it's pure grandstanding. Given the amount of infidelity, divorces and single-parent families out there, blaming a few gays for damaging an institution that is already obviously abused, taken for granted and even neglected by a large chunk of the heterosexual majority. You would think people who do want to get married and do not take it for granted would be embraced for the sake of the said institution, not rejected.

[gravatar]
Count0 1:09 PM on 18 May 2005

It isn't just about getting into the hospital room when the nurse say immediate family only. That isn't law it is hospital policy.

It is also about getting a back door into spousal benefits from one of the partner's employers. If we end up with something along the lines of "civil marriage" do you think that employers who are morally opposed to homosexuals being married is going to continue to offer spousal benefits? No they will stop offering them to any significant other. Benefits extended to significant others are not required by any law.

That is one of the reasons that I am against any concept of a state sanctioned "civil marriage."

Ned said in the original post that any committed adults should be able to enjoy the same advantages of a married couple. I feel (and I think that I missed making this point in my first post) that there should be no advantages to being married. There currently are benefits to being married. Let's remove them. That way gays won't want to be 'married' and it can return to being a religious rite. What religion I don't care because it can in no way affect my life or relationship to my wife and children.

[gravatar]
Sylvain Galineau 1:38 PM on 18 May 2005

Count0, you could also argue that some employers might be 'morally opposed' to interracial marriage and choose to skip on spousal benefits for their employees as a result. Do you oppose interracial marriage too ? Where does it stop ?

And why should the employment benefits of those who are already married define who I may or may not marry in the first place ? What does one have to do with the other ? Fear of potential employer blackmail -'potential', as in unproven - is no justification to deny marriage to gays.

Going further, let's assume that a) you own a business and b) are in fact strongly opposed to gay marriage. Would it really make sense for you to stop offering spousal benefits to all your married employees so as to deny them to the minority of gays among current or potential employees ? Are you going to make yourself a less attractive employer to the vast majority just so you can make a statement against a small minority ?

That would certainly be your prerogative, as far as I'm concerned. But those of your competitors who do offer these benefits would certainly say thank you for making them more attractive employers, including for your own staff...

As for removing the legal benefits of marriage, it is as impractical as it is unlikely.

[gravatar]
Count0 4:30 PM on 18 May 2005

If marriage is to remain a state institution then you are correct that there is no reason to deny gays access to the institution.

What I have been advocating (mostly tongue in cheek) is that if you want to restore "sanctity to the institution or marriage" (or what ever is the catchphrase is this week) then you need to get the government out of it. Like I said in the first post is that the entire motivation behind the state picking who can and cannot get married is racist or whatever -ist you feel the need to tack on the end of the description of a group that has been denied the rite of marriage.

It is wrong for a king or state to dictate who can participate in a religious rite. It is also wrong for the king or state to allow special privilege or status to people who have been allowed to participated in it. Lets look at it this way:

Your solution:
Allows gays to marry or form "civil unions".
Results in:
Gays now have the majority of the special rights allotted to married heterosexual couples.

My solution:
Remove special privileges from married couples and eliminate common law marriages. Allow people to create civil contracts stating responsibilities and specific remedy of contract violation.
My results:
Everyone (not just gays) now have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. Religious rites are now no longer regulated by the state.

To answer your question you are correct in that I would not offer spousal benefits to my employees. Instead I would pay them enough to buy insurance for a family on top of what ever the average pay for the job was. That way it would be his or her responsibility to find coverage. Nobody has to know that you are living with a same sex life partner. It isn't my business to know that. That way the entire problem of who I insure or not is no longer an issue.

[gravatar]
Sylvain Galineau 8:01 PM on 18 May 2005

What is easier ? Granting a small number of gay people the right to marry ? Or removing all the existing rights and privileges related to state marriage licensing, from tax law to joint accounts and everything else ? Marriage licensing and the benefits thereof are here to stay. Period. Getting rid of them is so expensive as to be impossible, both politically and practically. Which means it's not going to happen. Deal with it.

And even if it were, that is still no reason to deny gays the right to marry. I have absolutely no issues with gays getting the 'special rights allowed to married heterosexual couples'.

[gravatar]
David Boudreau 1:12 AM on 19 May 2005

I think you're having trouble understanding what marriage is. Many people tend to think it's a union between two individuals. It's actually between the couple, on one side, and the society or community on the other. Why should one side be forced into a union it does not accept? Particularly one in which no children will be produced. So what is the point, why should society be forced to accept it or have to give its blessing?

Marriage benefits society, because they get to assign fathers to their children- if their kids aren't claimed, the state is left to clean up the mess and raise the kids themselves. That is a genuine problem for all. And giving insurance coverage to some for others' irresponsiblity does not solve the fundamental problem.

Society is very picky about its suitors. Even if gays offered to adopt unclaimed children, without a woman and man to raise it together, it's still unacceptable or at least undesireable to society's adoption centers.

[gravatar]
Ned Batchelder 5:40 AM on 19 May 2005

David, the argument about children is the biggest bull of all. Gays are allowed to adopt, and do adopt. We aren't hearing a huge outcry against those laws. For some reason, people are more OK with gays raising children than they are with gays marrying, so don't try to equate the two.

And plenty of hetero couples are allowed to marry where they clearly will not be having children. When two straight 80-year-olds marry, it's a heartwarming story on the evening news, even though they will never have children together.

[gravatar]
David Boudreau 1:08 AM on 20 May 2005

I don't think the state allows 80-year-olds to marry for the heartwarmth alone. Any previous children from either would be considered to benefit from it, or even children in their neighborhood, filling "monogamous grandparent" roles/role models, to some degree. Also technically, while the 80-year-old woman might be infertile, you can't tell that of the man so easily; and thus be able to label any potential future children of his outside the state sanctioned marriage as "illegitimate". Any subjective thing like heart temperature is irrelevant as far as the state's concerned. And the state _should_ be concerned with child upbringing (regardless to religions therein), since it suffers when children are not brought up adequately. Some religions are all _for_ suffering, for all the state knows.

I could be misinformed on the adoption rights or am remembering biased sources- society's not so finicky perhaps, but I heard they ideally try to put children into 2-parent, man-and-woman homes, as the priority. They probably have limited options/resources.

[gravatar]
Nate Finch 11:21 AM on 20 May 2005

David, one specific marriage has NO impact on society or the community. You probably don't even *know* if the people across the street from you are married, and if you did, how would it affect your life in any way? No one's asking for your or society's blessing to get married. I think we're long past the era of asking a father's permission to get married... why should we ask some stranger?

As Ned said, gay couples can and do adopt children all the time. Given the large number of children in need of adoption, this is a great thing.

I agree that the state should be concerned about upbringing of children, but I can't see how a gay couple could be worse than a heterosexual couple. Sexual orientation in no way determines how good a parent you will be. And given the fact that gay couples have to go to a lot of legal and financial trouble to GET children, on average they're probably a lot *better* parents than the average hetero couple who forget to use birth control.

[gravatar]
David Boudreau 3:09 AM on 21 May 2005

>No one's asking for your or society's blessing to get married.

Could have fooled me.

>this is a great thing.
As for the irresponsible births, it seems to me more like a mop-and-bucket solution for dealing with a leaking faucet (root cause, larger scope) kind of problem. If the state made it easier for gays to adopt, that's effectively more incentive (/less disincentive) for irresponsible heteros to just start dropping off their offspring at their doorsteps, so to speak.

>Sexual orientation in no way determines how good a parent you will be.
There are studies showing both that and its opposite.

>father's permission
Cohabitation might be in vogue, but that doesn't mean it's a good thing. Women in particular might be more sensitive to fathers and society's opinion than you might believe. It's degenerated from waiting until her wedding night, to simply "keeping her off the pole" (of the strip club).

Nate, please explain to me why do you want something so much that you don't even have any respect or any value at all for in the first place?

[gravatar]
Nate Finch 11:20 AM on 23 May 2005

"If the state made it easier for gays to adopt, that's effectively more incentive (/less disincentive) for irresponsible heteros to just start dropping off their offspring at their doorsteps, so to speak."

Oh, yeah, right. 'Cause Billy Joe and Trixie are really considering adoption laws when they're screwing in the back of his pickup truck. You give the idiots of this world way too much credit.

">Sexual orientation in no way determines how good a parent you will be.
There are studies showing both that and its opposite. "

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "it's opposite", but I'd love to see a *scientifically accurate* study that shows homosexuality is a determining factor of bad parenting.

"why do you want something so much that you don't even have any respect or any value at all for in the first place?"

I never said I don't value marriage. You think I don't value marriage because I don't value keeping around some antiquated idea of a nuclear family that doesn't describe even half the families in the united states, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Marriage is valuable in that it gives you many benefits that are otherwise difficult to obtain. There are many legal benefits which come automatically to a married couple that take a lot of time, money, and effort to obtain if you're not married.

And what's more important, it's not about what value marriage has to me, it's about equal rights. Not allowing homosexuals to marry is discriminatory, plain and simple. You can't stop someone from getting a job because of their sexual orientation, so why should it be legal to do so when it's their own personal relationship?

[gravatar]
David Boudreau 12:17 PM on 24 May 2005

>"You can't stop someone from getting a job because of their sexual orientation, so why should it be legal to do so when it's their own personal relationship?"

You're equating marriage with a personal relationship, but they are two different things. Furthermore, it's a blatant attempt to vindicate a personal relationship via marriage- in the guise of "fighting discrimination". Personal relationships stand on their own.

>"And what's more important, it's not about what value marriage has to me, it's about equal rights. Not allowing homosexuals to marry is discriminatory, plain and simple. "

You could also say it's discriminatory to sibblings, by not letting them marry reciprocally, either. Adults are "discriminated against" if they try to marry children as well. The rights are in fact equal: marriage license applications don't ask for a person's sexual orientation. Of course, if Cletus wants to "marry" Jethro, it's clearly frivolous because the proposal obviously will not produce more mouths to feed, regardless of their personal relationship. Can't be so sure with that couple across the street though.

>"Marriage is valuable in that it gives you many benefits that are otherwise difficult to obtain. There are many legal benefits which come automatically to a married couple that take a lot of time, money, and effort to obtain if you're not married."

I used to hear this and think it was true, but question this now. The hospital visitation rights thing isn't valid. If anyone is worried about it, file a health care proxy and power of attorney; marriage isn't necessary for it. The spouse benefits were originally designed for dependent mothers, staying at home to raise their children- not two-income earning households which is probably more often the case, especially these days.

btw it's interesting to note that lesbians took advantage of last year's Massachusetts law in much higher numbers than male gays, by a landslide. Why did that happen?

>"I never said I don't value marriage. You think I don't value marriage because I don't value keeping around some antiquated idea of a nuclear family that doesn't describe even half the families in the united states, regardless of their sexual orientation."

I still don't quite understand. Because present-day reality doesn't reflect the basic tenets of marriage very well, you're saying that's a good thing or a bad thing? I don't think the heteros are particularly proud, happy, or feel any better off from all of the divorcing they've been doing recently. I get the impression that you think marriage is simply a personal relationship... the marriage certificate, a hallmark card signed by city hall... is it something more substantial in your view?

>"I'd love to see a *scientifically accurate* study that shows homosexuality is a determining factor of bad parenting. "

(you probably won't be happy with what I'd find and say it's biased, but here goes) There are a bunch of studies referenced here, one by sociologists Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz:
http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=IF03H01
but I don't think it's a big secret that homosexuals are more promiscuous, for one, so they're more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases, beyond the lack of any chastity values they would be passing on to the kids. Higher rates of domestic violence is also cited. It says these and other problems are actually higher in locations most accepting of homosexuality, not less common.

It's probably biased to a large extent, but I honestly don't see why a contrasting study wouldn't be any moreso.

>"Oh, yeah, right. 'Cause Billy Joe and Trixie are really considering adoption laws when they're screwing in the back of his pickup truck. You give the idiots of this world way too much credit. "

Billy Joe and Trixie should consider the consequences of their actions, at least. As far as the wellfare of society is concerned, their act deserves proper attention because of the potential consequence (a child), unlike those of Cletus and Jethro.

Add a comment:

name
email
Ignore this:
not displayed and no spam.
Leave this empty:
www
not searched.
 
Name and either email or www are required.
Don't put anything here:
Leave this empty:
URLs auto-link and some tags are allowed: <a><b><i><p><br><pre>.