semantics of commitment
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
It reminded me of the following op-ed I wrote on the subject a while back. It ran in the Dallas Morning News. I actually wrote the column at least a year before I submitted it for publication--I feared the response. But during that time, I had the epiphany that it was OK to piss people off and that I wouldn't die if people disagreed with me, however strongly worded their disagreement. But that's a topic for another post.
And much to my great surprise, the responses I got to the column were weighed strongly towards the supportive. Only a few people hinted that I was on the path to burning in the eternal flames of hell. (My favorite of those e-mails after the column.)
Sure, I'll eat in the kitchen
I’m willing to give up my “marriage.”
That’s not to say I’m packing my bags and walking out on my “husband” of nearly two decades.
But I am perfectly willing to describe our legally-binding, state-sanctioned relationship as a “civil union.” I’m happy to give the word “marriage” to the church and live in a “civil union” if it would bring us closer to equal rights for gays and lesbians.
It is, after all, the religious community in certain permutations that has been most strident in its objections to marriage for single sex couples. And I have no argument with organized religion drawing its line in the sand wherever it wants. They don’t wanna? Fine. They don’t hafta. I’ll keep out of it. None of my business.
But I want them to leave my state out of it.
The compromisers in the debate over gay marriage say that gays should not be allowed to “marry” but should be allowed to enter into “civil unions,” which would give them same the legal rights and privileges Tom and I enjoy.
It’s a squirrely distinction. To my mind the difference between “marriage” and “civil union” is semantics (which is why I’m using quotation marks – they’re just words).
Tom and I were not “wed” in a church but in a park building in ceremony conducted not by a minister but by a justice of the peace. We’ve been “married” ever since.
But except for the word on the license affording us this legal status, what we have is essentially a civil union. Our relationship is sanctioned by the state and carries all the attendant privileges even though no church blessed it.
How is that different from what the compromisers are offering gays and lesbians? Like Tom and me, single-sex couples want to pledge their troth, share their riches and struggles, have family insurance plans and enjoy the law’s acknowledgment of their mutual commitment. Some even want to raise children together, which Tom and I have opted not to do.
So why should what gays and lesbians have be called something different from what Tom and I have?
Because God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve?
Fine. But I’m not talking about God. I’m talking about Uncle Sam.
If the religious convictions of a segment of society prevents gays and lesbians from officially sharing the word “marriage” with heterosexuals, then as a nonreligious heterosexual, I’m willing to share “civil unions” with gays and lesbians. What if we make the dividing line between the two states of union not sexual orientation, but religion? Couples of any sexual orientation who belong to religious organizations willing to bless their unions will have marriages. The rest of us will have civil union.
I suppose that will mean many in the religious community will look down on anyone in a civil union. I can live with that. People like me – a secularist in the Bible Belt – become accustomed to scorn and pity from a certain segment of society. It’s not as bad as the condemnation my gay and lesbian friends must withstand. I can live with it.
Because even if we compromise with the term “civil unions” for gays and lesbians to give their relationships legal protection, what we offer in the compromise is separate and unequal. Gays and lesbians in committed and loving relationships – no different from what Tom and I enjoy – would be relegated to the kitchen while everyone else sups on linen and china (wedding gifts, probably) in the dining room.
So I’m willing to join them. I’d rather eat in the kitchen with friends than in the dining room with those who would judge me.
Eddieozment@XXX had this to say about all that:
You can call it sexual orientation if you want. Paul (I know you do not know who I am talking about) called it depravity. I guess pretty soon by your standards your friends can come over with their animals and it will be okay for them to exhibit their beastiality (a sexual orientation). How about the poor pedophile? Is that going to be okay by you? You hammer the church and accuse it of judging. The church does remind itself by way of Romans 3:23 "that all have sinned and fail short of the glory of God". Have you really attempted to rightly divide the word of God? The church is in a constant battle with satan and his fiery darts. My salvation is only granted by God's Grace not by the product of my righteousness. I pray each day for patience, self control and righteousness. I pray for forgiveness when I fail. Do you view the Ten Commandents as a dictation from God to enslave His creation? The laws of God were to show respect for Him and to protect us. The bible tells me not to judge, but that you can recognize people by their fruits. I can not stand idly by when such a horror as Homosexuality infest the whole world. I will vote yes Pro 2. I will pray for you Sophia Dembling to better know Jesus Christ and the love of God.
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