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 â€“ 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 briefâ€™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 administrationâ€™s lawyers could have simply argued, for example, that the plaintiffâ€™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. 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 childrenâ€”through church, extended family, and community. Knowing us for who we areâ€”people and families whose needs and contributions are no different from anyone elseâ€™sâ€”destroys the arguments set forth in the governmentâ€™s brief in Smelt. As you read the rest of what I have to say, please judge the briefâ€™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 donâ€™t believe that anyoneâ€™s civil rights should be put to a popular vote, but if thatâ€™s the way that this will be won, then thatâ€™s the way we will win it. Iâ€™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 cowardâ€™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.