A See-Saw Week on Same-Sex Marriage
I haven’t had as many chances as I’d hoped to be proud of President Barack Obama in his 3+ years in office. But yesterday was a day I could be very proud of him; as you certainly know by now, he is the first US president to acknowledge that same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, including the right to marry. Obama has been ambivalent on the issue (and quite a few others) for many years, so a clear, unequivocal, uncompromising position is rare. Perhaps is voice is stronger because of his own history; the union of his parents would have been illegal in many parts of the country for years after his birth.
This should not be rocket science. Same-sex marriage has been legal in several other parts of the world (and even a few US states, including my own home of Massachusetts) for several years, and the sky has not fallen.
Still, when I attended my first few same-sex weddings back in the late 1970s, I didn’t think I’d live to see such unions acknowledged by any government. In less than 30 years, it’s become an inevitability. I remember President Bush reluctantly endorsing civil unions, even as he condemned gay marriage, and thinking that this was enormous progress. But a full endorsement is much better. And while it still seems odd to read or hear phrases like “her wife” or “his husband,” it’s a good kind of strange.
And yet, just a day earlier, the Neanderthals soundly thrashed same-sex marriage in North Carolina.
Here’s the bit I don’t understand from the so-called “family values” crowd: how is the ability of two people to marry—and with it, to visit each other in the hospital, to file a joint tax return, to attend parent-teacher conferences—in any way an attack on the institutions of marriage and family? As far as I can determine, these rights make the idea of marriage and family stronger. Marriage, whether heterosexual or homosexual, should be a partnership of equals that strengthens the family unit and builds family values. Living just outside the town that the National Enquirer dubbed “Lesbianville, USA,” I’ve seen this strength in the many same-sex couples I know with children, who were parents alongside my wife and me as our kids went through day care and then school. I can’t wrap myself around the argument that it destroys families.
I’ve tried to understand the position, but I just can’t grasp it. When two people of the same sex declare their love and commitment, they build a family just as real as any straight couple. And when a heterosexual or same-sex marriage falls apart, it’s tough on both partners as well as on children and friends. I just can’t grasp how allowing two men or two women to mary has any impact on relationships between a man and a woman.