Still So Long To Go

Of all the contentious issues that face the nation today, one of the ones that breaks my hear the most is the state of equal rights for homosexuals.  Loving couples are denied the right to express their union in the form of true marriage and have that union be recognized as equal to that of other loving couples.  These couples are denied the right to adopt children by the same construct of people who wag their fingers at women and tell them that abortion is evil and adoption is the only satisfactory answer.

At its heart, the discrimination against homosexuals is yet another reminder that a country whose very promise of equality continues to go unfulfilled.  As a political science professor once posed to our class, “Soon, gay people will be allowed civil unions everywhere you go.  That’s where this country is heading.  Is it really worth all the extra fighting for just one word?  Marriage?”

Marriage, though, is so much more than just a word.

As the New York Times makes clear in an article today, the actual words being used are only the first differences between marriages and civil unions.  Contrary to what may be popular belief, civil unions are not the same as marriage without the the moniker, there are real and substantive differences.  For instance, thanks to the dubiously named Defense of Marriage act of 1996, even in those states which do recognize civil unions, those couples still have to file their federal taxes separately.

Also, there is the question of status.  In a world that is geared towards “Married, Single, or Divorced,” how does a partner in a civil union fit in?  How does one explain to an employer the complexities of his or her relationship in a job interview?  One of the arguments so many people make is that homosexuals shouldn’t thrust their orientation in the public spotlight and flaunt it everywhere they go, but when you’re in the middle of an interview and you have to explain that you are in a marriage-like civil union, you have no choice.

Or, as the article linked above also points out, what about in a hospital after you’ve been in a car wreck?

But even beyond all of this, yes, the word itself is important.  These people are not engaging in a business deal, their not inking a long term legal agreement.  They are seeking the legal right to celebrate a lifelong bond of love and companionship not totally dissimilar to the one I share with my wife, or you with your spouse.  Not allowing them to use the word “marriage” along with stripping them of so many writes heterosexual couples enjoy, is a government sanctioned judgement that homosexuals cannot experience matrimonial love equal to that of heterosexuals.

It invalidates who they are, and the relationship they are in.

Sadly, these are not rights that people we are likely to see awarded soon.  Indeed, polling shows that a majority of Americans do not approve of gay marriage.  They don’t approve of gay adoption either.  The only poll (and I was shocked to even see one) that showed a greater approval rating than disapproval rating was an ABC/Facebook poll.

This alone tells me one or both of two possibilities; it was either an internet poll which, as poll watchers know, internet polls are highly unreliable, or it was a poll that focused more on the younger internet savvy population which is irrelevant at this juncture but does provide at least a glimmer of hope for the future.

The rest are firmly camped against granting homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals.  One of the things that makes this a trickier battle is that so many people don’t even see this as discrimination.  Admittedly, homosexuality doesn’t lend itself to the same kind of obvious distinctions that being black, or being a woman does. 

For far too many people, homosexuality is a choice, or a malady, and not something that must be addressed as a real point of distinction between people.

It’s a tricky battle to fight, and one that seems hopeless at times.  For too many people, their minds are simply not ready for it.  As irrational as it may seem, as unfounded a denial of rights as civil unions over gay marriage can be, there are far too many who think that just the use of that word alone in application to homosexual couples will result in the death of our civilization.

And thus here we are.  My solution would be to stop the government from recognizing any marriages at all.  Let that be between the couple and their church if they have one.  Neither my wife nor I are particularly observant, yet we’re married.  And do you think atheists don’t get married as well?  No one is denying their right to celebrate their union through marriage because they don’t prescribe to the holy precepts of the Bible.  And what of marriages of convenience?  Being a military member for ten years, I know all too well fellow service members who married each other to increase their benefits.  Is their union truly any greater than two men who love each other or two women who love each other?

As I said, I think the government isn’t exactly the right entity to judge who does love and does not love one another, but just as gay marriage is not politically feasible at this point in American history, neither is my solution.  What does seem likely is that civil unions are the vehicle of the present.  It is what we can get at this point, and as bitter as it is, we likely must take it with the understanding that we can’t let it stop there.

We must ultimately look upon this as an interim situation with our eyes on those folks who participated in the Facebook poll, that youth of ours that seems eternally more understanding than we are.  And we must hope that the decisions of the future can correct the errors of the past.  But I”m afraid that there is still so much further to go before that can happen.

3 Responses to “Still So Long To Go”

  1. Your words ring with the truth of the situation today.
    My partner and I have come a through a lifetime of inconsistencies since being civilly united in 2000 in the great state of Vermont.

    Problem is, we live in Pennsylvania – where nothing is legally recognized. If we crossed the border about 7 miles to the east of where we reside, we would be legally recognized in New Jersey. I am thankfully covered by domestic partnership health benefits provided by his company (which happens to be based in New Jersey) but if something happened to either one of us – there is nothing to guarantee that the other could visit in the hospital or take care of anything legally should the need arise.

    Tomorrow, Senate Bill 1250 is up for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee – by people who claim to represent the rights of their constituents – but always seem to fail in doing the right thing. This proves to me, once again that fundamental human rights should never be up for popular vote. That this is even a question degrades us as “second class citizens” – but you learn to live with it day to day, everyday of your life here in the ‘greatest country in the world’.

    We are so “great” that we don’t need to try and make things better, because everything is already the best it can be. Any dissension is unpatriotic.

    That’s OK, but I’ll still be in Harrisburg tomorrow if anyone needs me.
    Thanks for writing this post. It was very kind of you.
    …and yes, we still have a long way to go.


  2. Well, as I’ve said, you know this issue really is one that goes straight to the heart. I’ve always been opposed to these measures to ban gay marriage, and to be honest, it was Bush’s first push to do so in the constitution that initially got me into politics. When my brother came out of the closet, the fight seemed all the more urgent and important.

    And, you know, I really faced an inner struggle writing this post because I didn’t want to offend, but really the debate regarding discrimination against homosexuals is a particularly tricky one. It’s not like the battle for the rights of black people who can’t just magically change the color of their skin, or for women who also are identifiable. Because you can’t necessarily tell a gay man just by walking by him on the street I think that kind of gives a lot of people lisence to say, “Well, it’s his choice, therefore, what we’re doing can’t be discrimination”.

    On the other hand, when homosexual people go to marching for their rights, too many people turn it into an argument about how appropriate sexual behavior in the public eye is and that kind of malarchy. So for homosexual rights it becomes a difficult battle to plot out. How do you work for something in which your damned if you do, or you’re damned if you don’t?

    Further, your comments really kind of bring out to me something I think is interesting in that I think you are expressing the same kinds of feelings that Jeremiah Wright expressed in that devestating speech he delivered.

    You know, I haven’t written about Wright much because I think that ultimately this is an ugly avenue to let the Democratic primary travel down, but you know this is a man who is coming from a pre-Civil Rights movement mindset. This is a guy whose memory and impression of America is far different than the one we have today, and let’s not kid ourselves, things aren’t that great.

    I dare anyone to tell me what that man had to be proud of America for. I’m proud of America, but I also recognize its flaws and am biased because being a straight White Male means that I haven’t been discriminated against. I can’t imagine the kind of bitterness having to drink at a blacks only water fountain might instill in me just like I can’t comprehend the bitterness I would feel at not being able to marry the one I loved.

    My point being, yes, Wright went over the line in his sermon, but at the same time, didn’t he have some points? For a culture that never had to suffer descrimination, are we so totally blind that the Civil War wasn’t the last of mistreatment of black people? And isn’t the homosexual population in that place right now? Fighting so passionately for their very own rights, and getting told in no uncertain terms that they are heathens and second class citizens?

    If you’re a White Christian, America can be truly great. But when America is telling you that something is wrong with you, when you don’t rate equal to the rest of the citizens of this country, is there really cause for pride?

    Thanks again, RD. I’m busy as hell this week, apparently, but I’m going to try and draw a little more attention to that bill tonight or tomorrow morning.

  3. Well, Kyle… I am in agreement with you, but I have to take it just a bit farther.
    You know, I didn’t think I’d ever have to defend Jeremiah Wright here but… (sorry I have to laugh). You are right, he does have some valid points.
    I’m quoting a co-blogger of mine here. He writes at his site:

    …”The real injustice in this case lies in focusing on black racism, and dismissing white racism. Yes, Virginia, and South Carolina, and Iowa, there is racism among blacks. But what white person has ever been wrongfully arrested, unreasonably accused, unfairly tried, unjustifiably convicted, and vindictively executed or sentenced to an extra-long stretch in prison by black cops, black prosecutors, black juries, black judges and black corrections officers? What rich black hospital, clinic or doctor has refused treatment to a poor sick white man, woman or child? What black public school has closed its doors to white students? What black landlord has denied housing, or provided substandard housing to a white tenant? What black employer has denied employment to a well-qualified white job-applicant? What great and undeniable historical and contemporary wrongs has the dominant black establishment inflicted upon the white masses?…”

    Now I don’t pretend to defend Jeremiah Wright for what he said, but I damn well will stand up for his right to say it. What is really a sin is the way the media has turned this around and tried to make it stick to Barack Obama.

    …and now, back to the original issue at hand – Equal Marriage Rights for all citizens.
    You know that the Constitution has no references to “gay”, so people like Bush have to have that reference put in there; but there is a “pursuit of happiness” clause that is contained in the Constitution… One that they would have validated if “pursuit of happiness” is defined by someone or something else. That happens to be my pursuit of happiness that these so called “lawmakers” are trying to define. Would you have someone else define yours for you?

    These are not ‘special rights’ we are talking about – they are EQUAL RIGHTS. This is not a religious issue we’re talking about – but a civil one. And by what precedent does this government have the right to determine who a single citizen has the right to love? Be it at the state level or the federal level… If we lose the fight on this issue, you can damn well be certain that other rights we take for granted everyday will soon follow.

    By the way Kyle, I think you may have misinterpreted my ‘greatest country in the world’ statement. I simply meant that there is still a lot of work to do to make it greater. I love my country too, but I will never be satisfied until she lives up to her obligation that “All Men Are Created Equal”.


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