LGBTQ Support

Am I Married In Your Eyes?

Zoot and MrZ

When Donnie and I got married, we worried about finding someone non-religious to officiate. We didn’t really want someone just serving for the court, but we didn’t want someone who would use any religious foundation for our marriage. We ended up finding a very spiritual masseuse who incorporated basic spirituality themes into the ceremony…but no religion. We had no desire for our marriage to be based on something we didn’t believe in. We believed in our love, our commitment, our fidelity. We wanted it to be based on that.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

When Obama was running for president, my number one complaint was that he did not believe in same-sex marriage. He had some talking points about Civil Unions, but that was the extent of his support. I looked past that; however, as he assured the Gay community that he would work to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and that he did NOT support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). These two things gave me assurance that he would at least push us forward in the Gay Rights movement.

The last couple of days my heart has been breaking as I’ve seen discussion after discussion of the recent Dept. of Justice brief supporting that the Defense of Marriage Act being held up. Now – of course it is the Dept. of Justice’s role to uphold current law. I recognize that. But it’s the statements within’ the brief and the lack of statements from the administration against the act – that is what pains people like me who believe so whole-heartily in the rights of every couple to marry. Here is a great article about the decision to defend DOMA that attacks the action from a legal and political standpoint.

Thus, the general rule that the DOJ must defend laws against attack is relative – like everything in Washington. And even when the DOJ does defend a law against constitutional attack, it does not have to advance every conceivable argument in doing so (such as the brief’s invocation, in a footnote, of incest and the marriage of children). In fact, many legal experts believe that in this particular case none of the issues going to the merits of whether or not DOMA is constitutional needed to be addressed to get the case thrown out. The administration’s lawyers could have simply argued, for example, that the plaintiff’s had no standing. There was no need to invoke legal theories that were not only offensive on their face, but which could put at risk future legal efforts on behalf of our civil rights.

I have tried my best to see the argument from the other side – as with everything in my life. But I just can’t do it. I just can’t. I have never been able to understand people who support DOMA and I most definitely don’t understand the administration of the man I voted for and their decision to support it.

If it’s a religious argument – one that believes that only some biblical definition of marriage is real or legal – then my marriage must be false. I do not believe in your religion. If you believe that only a marriage that fits your religion’s definition can be legal, then you must say to me, “Your marriage is NOT legal.” I mean, how can you think my marriage is legal if I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your religion that defines marriage is wrong?

You may say, “But your marriage is between a man and a woman so it’s recognized by the church.” Then your church is insane. Why would it recognize MY marriage, a marriage between two people who don’t even believe in GOD, as true – while refusing to acknowledge the marriage between two Christian men? Or two religious women? They believe in your God, they read your bible, they practice your teachings – but MY marriage has more validity in your church? That doesn’t make sense.

If you believe that something like the right for gay people to marry can be left up to the voting public…then you must NOT believe it’s a civil liberty. You must NOT believe it’s a basic right that we ALL have. Because if you believed it to be a basic right, then you would know that the basic rights of minorities should NOT be left up to a popular vote.

So – you must not believe it’s a basic right or civil liberty. If you do NOT believe it’s a basic right or civil liberty then you should consider this: What happens if that right is taken from you? If you do not believe it is a basic freedom that everyone deserves, then you should understand that it could be taken away from you. Let’s just say some angry gay people took over the country. (Hee.) What if they decided that THEIR way was the only way. And since YOU had already established marriage was not a basic freedom, they could just yank yours right away from you.

Of course we all know that’s not going to happen, but either it’s a civil liberty or it’s not. Either it’s a basic right, a basic freedom for EVERYONE, or it’s not for ANYONE.

I am not a political writer. I’m not trained in constitutional law. I’m not even in a homosexual relationship. In other words? I’m not an expert. There are others who can write about this better than I can.

So on behalf of my organization and millions of LGBT people who are smarting in the aftermath of reading that brief, allow me to reintroduce us. You might have heard of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. They waited 55 years for the state of California to recognize their legal right to marry. When the California Supreme Court at last recognized that right, the octogenarians became the first couple to marry. Del died after the couple had been legally married for only two months. And about two months later, their fellow Californians voted for Proposition 8.

Across this country, same-sex couples are living the same lives that Phyllis and Del so powerfully represent, and the same lives as you and your wife and daughters. In over 99% of U.S.[2] counties, we are raising children and trying to save for their educations; we are committing to each other emotionally and financially. We are paying taxes, serving on the PTA, struggling to balance work and family, struggling to pass our values on to our children—through church, extended family, and community. Knowing us for who we are—people and families whose needs and contributions are no different from anyone else’s—destroys the arguments set forth in the government’s brief in Smelt. As you read the rest of what I have to say, please judge the brief’s arguments with this standard: would this argument hold water if you acknowledge that Del and Phyllis have contributed as much to their community as their straight neighbors, and that their family is as worthy of respect as your own?

All I know is this: I feel guilty too. I feel like I have done nothing to deserve the right to be married. I don’t believe in the religion that the DOMA supporters often adopt. Yet they recognize my marriage. I don’t feel like I deserve that. I definitely wouldn’t try to act like my love or my commitment is in any way better than my gay or lesbian counterpart. I feel like just wearing the ring on my finger often implies my partnership is better somehow. But it’s not.

So I will deal with my guilt in the same way Sierra does. Recognize it’s unproductive and use that energy as my call to action.

So instead, I will say this: this is my fight, too. I will not accept entering into an institution that discriminates. I don’t believe that anyone’s civil rights should be put to a popular vote, but if that’s the way that this will be won, then that’s the way we will win it. I’ve always believed that an institution is best changed from the inside out. When liberals would threaten to move away during the Bush years, it always felt like the coward’s way out. Democracy is not always easy, but this is your country – show up, do the work, we need you here now more than ever.

I refuse to stand by and treat an entire segment of society like they are 2nd-class citizens. Like I am somehow better and therefore deserve more. Hell, decorated military men/women can’t even serve our country if they’re open about their sexuality.

I guess I’m just openly declaring this: I will not sit silent with the ring on my finger and hope the LBGT community will someday be able to do the same. Hope looks great on a sticker but it does nothing for the greater good if not followed by action. I’m probably not going to see a change in Alabama any time soon, but I’ll at least donate to groups who can try to get change made in more open parts of the country. And in the meantime? I’ll at least put stickers on my car letting the rest of my community know that I stand for equality.

Update: It looks like – possibly in response to the uproar in the Gay community – that President Obama is going to make a move in the right direction by offering same-sex partner benefits to all federal employees. This is a good thing…assuming the early details are accurate. We will hopefully know more today.

36 thoughts on “Am I Married In Your Eyes?”

  1. “You may say, “But your marriage is between a man and a woman so it’s recognized by the church.” Then your church is insane. Why would it recognize MY marriage, a marriage between two people who don’t even believe in GOD, as true – while refusing to acknowledge the marriage between two Christian men? Or two religious women? They believe in your God, they read your bible, they practice your teachings – but MY marriage has more validity in your church? That doesn’t make sense.

    If you believe that something like the right for gay people to marry can be left up to the voting public…then you must NOT believe it’s a civil liberty. You must NOT believe it’s a basic right that we ALL have. Because if you believed it to be a basic right, then you would know that the basic rights of minorities should NOT be left up to a popular vote.”

    I could not have said this better myself. My marriage (which happens to be hetero) doesn’t have any type of religious foundation. I got married because I LOVE my husband. And I have yet to hear someone explain how two people, of any sex, who are in love and want to spend their lives together, can “threaten” my marriage.

  2. My atheist husband and I were married by our atheist best friend in my parent’s back yard, yet we were given a marriage license without question. Why, because we were born with the particular genitalia we each posses, are we given rights not given to so many others? You’re right- it doesn’t make sense. It has never made sense to me, either. A close, female family member of mine is in a very serious relationship (getting close to marriage) with a transexual that was born a woman and chose to become a man. THEY can get a marriage license because he went through the legal steps to become a man, EVEN THOUGH HE DOESN’T HAVE A PENIS. The qualifying standards for who is allowed to be legally married are ridiculous. The government (and other people besides my husband) needs to stay out of our bedrooms and out of our pants. These people who want to get married and have legal families are CERTAINLY not hurting anyone. Their marriages don’t negate anyone else’s. I’m all for the defense of marriage- I love mine- but only if it’s for all, regardless of sexuality.

    (I may feel too strongly about this to make much sense here. Sorry.)

  3. @heels – I was worried that I felt too strongly about it to make sense! So you’re in good company. 😉

  4. I found myself nodding along as I read this… I couldn’t have said it better myself so I won’t even try. Thanks for writing this.

  5. Hear hear! It’s great to see you speaking passionately about something you believe in.

    I support marriage equality, but the political landscape isn’t always as clear-cut as we’d like it to be. I try not to get caught up in second-guessing every decision the Obama administration makes; I trust him absolutely and can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have in that role right now, even if I disagree with the administration on some points of policy or tactics.

    Personally, I think gradual legislative change is the best way to ensure that the cause of marital equality can gain broad-based legitimacy and public support .

    P.S. I donated to the AL marriage equality group last year and never got mah minivan flair to prove it. Coincidence or gay mafia conspiracy?

    P.S.S. Kidding!

  6. Oh WORD. I have been an Obama defender. I understood when he didn’t overturn Don’t Ask Don’t Tell immediately. Believed he would stand up for civil rights. And then he actively attacked them.

    The Obama team and the DNC called my husband and I for money today. We have been long time contributors. But not another dime until they do something.

  7. Thank you from the bottom of my lesbian, atheist heart for this post.

  8. Okay I lied. I am not ordering a sticker. It’s 4.50 for shipping. My frugality just won’t allow it. But don’t give up on me! I’m searching for another option.

  9. On the other hand, I have to commend him for stepping up to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers. My understanding is that he plans to announce this tomorrow. This was a huge win for LGBT federal worker community-and something they have been requesting for years.

  10. Lisa:

    Go to your next Gay Pride event (probably some time this month) and they give them out (as many as you want) free at the Human Rights Campaign Fund’s booth (there actually may be more than one, since they’re the biggest gay and lesbian civil rights lobby in the country).


  11. This? Is brilliant! You are on a roll this week my friend.

    (Can I also say that I have been reading you for almost four years now and it is just this week that I’ve realized how much in common we both have. Teenaged mothers, non-religious marriages, working moms, red hair, we both have girl parts, then there’s the human race thing…)

  12. This brought tingles to my skin. I want to forward this to everyone I know, on both sides of the issue. A really beautiful, well-written, and passionate post. THANK YOU for being so brilliant!

  13. Wow, you’ve hit on my feelings on the matter exactly. If a religious persuasion that happens to dominate current government can define whether or not a marriage is legal, what happens when the predominant opinion in that government shifts? If next year, all the lawmakers elected wanted to change the law to say MY marriage wasn’t legal because it WAS in a church, would I want that? No. So how can I support a legal situation that leaves the door open for that just because today I don’t happen to be the one who’s being discriminated against? It doesn’t matter whether I believe it’s “right” or not. There are a lot of things I believe and follow in my personal life, but I don’t expect the government to legislate out of fairness and respect for the free agency of each individual. I’m not sure why this should be any different.

  14. I am with you, 100%, Zoot. There is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to love and marriage. If all partners are in agreement, then dammit, why can’t everyone be married who wants to be? I support gay marriages whole heartedly because they have just as much right to have the same rights as “straight” people. And, honestly, that’s another thing that bugs the ever living hell out of me. Why have a label if you’re gay or straight? Who CARES what gender it is that you love? Love is love, you can be perfectly straight, and still fall in love with a person of the same sex – it’s about the personality and the person, not about what equipment they have!!

    I guess part of this really hits home for me, too, because where as, no, I’m not lesbian or bi, I’m poly. Which means I’ll never be able to get married either, because it would never be fair to the one partner that I DIDN’T marry. I’d feel like I’m saying, I love him more than I love you, so I’m going to marry him and not you. Which would never be the case. I really hope that if people start to accept gay marriages, that they may start to accept poly marriages if all partners agree.

  15. I haven’t read through everything, but under the law you cannot discriminate against somebody based on sexual orientation. Period. That alone should put an end to the legal or not/vote on it crap. I believe churches have the right to decide what they want to sanction and people have a right to choose a church that they agree with.

  16. I sort of disagree. Which sounds awful, I know. But really, I think I object to the government being involved in marriage at all. To me, marriage ought to be a personal, spiritual thing between two people (or maybe more, sorry secha) and their own religion or spiritual beliefs. . . whether they are Christian or Pastafarian or Agnostic or whatever. It shouldn’t be a contract that involves the government.

    I also think everyone ought to have the right to be in a Domestic Partnership or Civil Union or whatever you want to call it with the person they choose, whether they are gay or straight. And that SHOULD be a government sanctioned contract. It shouldn’t be a matter of belief when it comes to recognizing the union – if it’s a legal Partnership or Union then everyone would have to recognize it.

    Separate from that, people can choose to be married if they want to, and it is no one’s business but their own and that of those they choose to involve in it. If they want to be married in a church then it’s between the couple and the church whether they meet the requirements that the church has for marriage, and if they want to be married by their best friend at a carnival instead then that is their business. A church should be free to refuse to marry those who don’t fulfull their requirements – whether that’s because they don’t believe in gay marriage or because they don’t want to marry those who aren’t members of that faith or because they will only marry same-sex couples, or whatever other reason they might have for not recognizing that union. But of course there are other churches and other belief structures, and if one group won’t marry a couple there willl be other that will be more than happy to marry them.

  17. Wow have you written some amazing posts lately. I mean, I’ve loved your blog for years, but the way you’ve gotten at the heart of such important issues … thank you. It’s so great to have voices like yours out there saying everything I think and feel (and much better than I ever could)!

  18. This is a great post. I felt like crying when I read the first DOJ story last week (a few weeks ago?). I wrote the White House asking why they’re supporting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell when it was a campaign promise. It just sucks all around.

    It is ILLEGAL to tell one group of people that they don’t have the same rights to do X as another group of people. How about: “Anyone but women can drive cars”, or “Anyone but Caucasians can go to these restaurants”, or “Anyone but Christians can use public transportation” ???? It’s insane to think that “homosexual” is any different than any other label.

    I thought about not getting married in April until Prop 8 is repealed….but the I figured that the whole point of Prop 8 is so that ANYONE can get married, not so that more people don’t. But I still go to ever protest march, every rally.

    I really do think that in 2, 4, 10 years it won’t even matter. How many kids today don’t give a RIP about same sex couples? And soon, THEY’LL be the ones who vote, and the Limbaugh and Glenn Beck fans will be so far outnumbered they’ll be left spinning.

    Sorry for hijacking your post. Obviously, a lot of people are passionate about this!

  19. WOOT.

    I recently started donating money, too. I’d been spinning around and around thinking, “What can I do? What can I do? I don’t know what to do!!” And then I realized I could FUND the people who DO know what to do.

    I take heart that this is only a matter of time. It didn’t used to be legal for a black woman and a white man to marry, but now it is, and people who think it shouldn’t be are considered crazy hateful racists. It will be the same with this.

  20. Oh, also! My husband and I got married by a justice of the peace, and we asked for the non-religious ceremony but the guy did the religious one by mistake and we just went along with it. So we actually LIED all through our marriage vows, promising to respect God and so forth when we don’t even BELIEVE in God! Our marriage should be invalid, I’m thinking. But—oh wait, I have girl parts! and he has guy parts! so THAT’S okay then!

  21. Nicely said.

    I recently saw a suggestion to refer to peoples’ husband/wife as their “boyfriend/girlfriend,” “long-term partner,” or similar phrase, and when corrected simply respond that you choose not to recognize anyone’s marriage. I sort of like that; it gives people with a “real” marriage a little taste of how people who aren’t allowed to marry must feel.

  22. Here here, Zoot!!

    I hope you know that you’ve already done something important for the cause by putting this out there – minds get changed when people come out as passionate allies and advocates.

  23. Just got to stand up (comment up?) in support of your sentiments. It’s been too long since I’ve been active in this fight. I blame the raising of babies, but what kind of excuse is that?!

  24. my bf is a republican. *eye roll* i’m not. i informed him that there would be certain topics that would be “deal-breakers” for me. this is one of them. thank goodness he’s a NON-RELIGIOUS republican. i can still speak to him. 😀 thank you zoot!

  25. Maybe it’s time to take marriage out of the secular world and make it strictly a religious ceremony, and make everyone have legal Civil Unions. That way everyone who is in a committed relationship can have the same rights regardelss of their sex or beliefs or whatever, and people who want their union blessed by God can have a marriage ceremony in their church. Would that make everyone happy?!?

  26. @lisa-marie –

    Scurvy and I actually had that exact conversation today – in response to her comment. In a perfect world I think that would make everyone happy. I think that’s one of those Never Gonna Happen So We Have To Settle things because of the semantics. The word “marriage” is used so often legally that redefining, or replacing it with “civil union” would be a legislative nightmare.

    But – that doesn’t keep it from still being true. If we could turn back time I think we’d have to just give churches that word to use on their ceremonies and let each church decide – but make civil unions and marriages equal in the eyes of the law. Would be a great solution! You’re spot on!

  27. I am religious, and I got married in a religious ceremony, but I agree with you, and I like the way you wrote this.

  28. This is perfect. Wonderful!! I love it. I said recently on another friend’s blog on the same topic, that along the lines of the religious marrige, then divorce shouldn’t be allowed, via their “rules” How many people would that affect? I wish some people were just able to open their eyes, minds and hearts more. I feel sorry for them. (nope not a religious person, a spiritual one, yes.)

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