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Tag Archives: Gay marriage

What Comes After DOMA?

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On June 26th, seventeen years of national legalized bigotry ended. The United Sates Supreme Court ruled the Defense Of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, unconstitutional. This is a monumental development on both a political and personal level. Politically, we haven’t had a President (in any living person’s memory) who legalized discrimination. On a personal level, the repeal of DOMA means that it is no longer legal for only some people to have the full rights and privileges afforded to all Americans. Nationally, that is. It is still very legal for states to discriminate against an entire group of people.

Currently only 13 states* allow equal marriage. A couple who have married in these states and remain in these states for their entire lives have their marriages recognized on both a federal and state level. For anyone living or moving to any of the other states their rights are still greatly reduced. It is pretty clear by now that the SCOTUS and administration are happy to have the states figure this all out on their own. While there is no doubt that momentum is building across the country, and the numbers of states abolishing discrimination will continue to grow; this is no time to rest on our laurels. We know that there are many regions in this country that are not going to embrace this civil right. We know that there are states that have a very conservative and/or religious political agenda. We also know that money talks.

Boycotting states with legalized discrimination will fast track this movement. We can do this individually at varying levels of personal sacrifice. We can choose not to vacation in these states (perhaps the easiest form of boycott), we can choose not to move to or live in these states (perhaps the more challenging form of boycott) and we can do many things in between. We can refuse to do business with companies that choose to have their headquarters in these states. We can boycott corporations who donate money to politicians in these states. Companies can do more than issue press releases about their support of equality. They too can boycott these states; refusing to open offices, retail outlets or hold events. Once cleansing themselves of these affiliations, they can launch campaigns in which they brand themselves as ethical partners (it’s like being “green” but with many more colors of the rainbow.)

We know from experience that money is as powerful an influencer as public sentiment. When we shine the spotlight on these states, and (fairly) equate their stance to that of Jim Crow, we will make a difference. It’s Pride Week and there’s much to celebrate. It’s okay to bask in this victory for a bit. But when social media users switch back to their profile pics, relegating the red marriage equality symbol to a pop-art fixture, it’s time to put our money where are mouths (or avatars) are. It is a wonderful time to be living in these 13 states, but what of our brothers and sisters and our own sense of pride? Yes, many of us identify ourselves (geographically) by our state, but the world does not. The world sees us as Americans and rightly so. We are only as free as the next guy or gal. If there is anywhere in this country in which people are not treated equally under the law, we are all tainted. Think of this country as a meringue; one drop of egg yolk and we all fold.

*California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington (and the District of Columbia)

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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The City Of Love

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The news that France passed ‘marriage for all’ was delivered with jubilant footage. Members of Parliament cheering and tearing; there was hugging. It’s tempting to see France becoming the 14th country to legalize equal marriage as inevitable. Mais bien sûr! This is a country known for being far less rigid and puritanical than America. From a vantage point of 3,000+ miles France appears to be a more vivre et laisser vivre kinda place. This perception is distilled in mental images of Josephine Baker, James Baldwin (and just about every other writer found in any decent home library) finding a more agreeable way of life in France. The French, Parisians in particular, seem impervious to race and fluid when it came to sexuality. Sexual behavior and couplings seemed more akin to the pleasures of fine dining than a naughty or shameful undertaking. But is this live and let live kinda place actually for real? Have we, from 3,000+ miles, taken bits and pieces and formed an attractive if not entirely accurate picture?

Those hugging tearing politicians are just one image among many. Have you seen the violent protests and ugly worded signs? Have you heard the (translated) rhetoric? Much of the ‘anti’ argument (that has made the journey across the Atlantic) has centered on ‘the children.’ Almost without exception anytime ‘the children’ are invoked in an argument it is code for ‘no, look over here at this bright shiny thing.’ The children. That’s right, gay and lesbian French are fighting for their equality because of ‘the children.’ Opponents of equal marriage have declared that children need a mother and a father. That certainly makes for a nice sentimental placard but what does it mean? Are there no single parents in France (she says while spitting out her latte?) That’s pretty hard to fathom in a country known for being more lax about relationships outside of marriage. Are there currently no gay and lesbian households that include children? Doubtful, as some people come to relationships having already lived a bit. Without a law protecting equal marriage and the ability for both spouses to adopt a child, gays and lesbians will still parent. The children however will have less protection. It is remarkable in this day and age, when people are regularly parenting without benefit of marriage, that anyone would even attempt to wave the ‘one mother one father’ flag. No one, not any child expert, psychologist, sociologist or anyone would ever posit that a child is better served by fewer caring adults or instability. What children need most is a secure, stable environment in which the adults are focused on the care of the child. Denying their parents the right to marry or preventing the children from being adopted is simply not in the best interest of ‘the children’. That this or any argument is being made by a country known (to us) as being far more lax seems uncharacteristic.

It’s tempting to view an entire people as being cooler, thinner and far more adept at walking in heels on cobblestones than us. We’d like to imagine an entire country that sits down when drinking coffee, and not dressing their children in cartoon festooned garb. Knowing that there’s a place in which one greets the shopkeeper and ends every request with ‘if you please’ gives us hope. But there are manners (real or perceived) and then there’s real life. In real life the French aren’t that much different than us. Yes, they can do that scarf thing, and yes there’s the accent that can turn even a craggy old fisherman into Yves Montand, but when it comes to social issues, are they really that different? It is true that people of color, particularly artists, found an accepting home in France. But was that so much about French color-blindness as it was an appreciation for the arts or dare we say, Americans? When people of color moved into France in significant numbers troubles began to simmer. The 2005 riots were the result of a people of color feeling marginalized for quite some time.

Discovering that the land in which so much seems better, where the wine and bonhomie flow all day and into the night, is really not that much different than us is jarring but incredibly inspiring. It is a sign that Americans, with our baseball cap, sippy cup toting selves, with our puritanical views of sex and our discomfort with race, we too can pass a law that states that all people are created equal.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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Outing DOMA

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Everything I know about the law I’ve gleaned from a handful of undergraduate classes, To Kill A Mockingbird, In Cold Blood & every version (including the British) of Law & Order. In other words; I know very very little. But why should that get in the way? As the Supreme Court is considering equal marriage it occurs to me to question why? Why are we pinning our hopes on the Supremes?

The Supreme Court is rarely at the forefront (or even midway) in changing our nation’s narrative. There are few decisions (that come to mind) made that the populace had not already thoroughly considered. So why then is it the Supreme Court we look to to settle this matter once and for all? What would happen if the body that decided (in 1996) that marriage was only legal for couples of opposite genders did a do-over? Before the signing (by President Clinton) and the passing of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) there were no gender specifications in regards to legal marriage.

What would prevent President Clinton from launching an enormous mea culpa campaign? He is an incredibly influential man who no doubt has favors to call in. What would prevent him from lobbying congresspeople and senators to overturn what he created? The benefits of clearing his conscience notwithstanding, it would be an efficient method of eradicating the illegality of equal marriage.

Would the Supreme Court (or any court) even need to be examining the legality of any marriage had DOMA not been signed into law? Does anyone want to put their basic civil liberties in the hands of nine appointed people? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for elected officials to make those decisions for their constituents? If the polls are even remotely accurate it would seem that the majority of Americans support equal marriage. The (seemingly) vocal minority is similar to most vocal minorities who value their personal beliefs/views more than the public good. It is in the best interest of the public to have the people we’ve elected represent us.

“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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Going To The Chapel

It’s wedding season!  If you’re lucky you will have received an invitation by now.  Yes, I said lucky.  How can attending a wedding not be enjoyable?  Even the worst weddings are fun, perhaps not in the moment, but certainly in the tales you’ll tell later.  That wedding that took place outside, with no awning, in the blazing sun, in August?  You know, the one where they served cream of mushroom soup?  It makes for a good story, no?  How about the rural taxidermy spectacular at which you played “count the back tats” with your date?  Good times.  Without them would you have ever truly appreciated the Windows on the World pageantry, or the backyard exchange of vows under a weeping willow?

Weddings are a good time not just because you might get to dance and mingle with people you know or like, but also because they are a peek into people’s character.  An invited peek at that!  Posh, homemade, sentimental, calculated, they are all “beautiful reflections of his/her love’s affection.”  A wedding tells us scads about the couple’s heart’s desires.  It used to be that weddings mostly told us about the desires of the bride’s mother.  But times have changed.  People remarry, marry later, marry within the same gender, marry outside of their faith, and marry with children.  More and more, couples are redefining the steadfast guidelines of weddings.

Does a father need to walk a 45-year-old daughter down the aisle to “give her away?”  What if there is no daughter?  What if she’s been given away before?  What if she has two daddies?  Or more.  Does a bride need to cover her face with a veil?  Is a veil even relevant?  Luckily, before we needed to reexamine the tastefulness of throwing rice (symbolizing fertility) to couples in their sixties, the avian lovers made us find something else to throw.  Tossing your wedding remains (i.e., garters, bouquets) to your less fortunate friends is (mercifully) rare these days.  We can assume this is the case because a) no one can remember what a sad little piece of lace wrapped elastic is doing on a woman’s leg and/or b) lining up single friends to receive your cast-offs is not nice.  (Wouldn’t it be much more in the spirit of love and community, to have both partners invite all their exes and hope for love connections amongst the guests?)

Weddings are archaic and traditions are always slow to change.  There was a brief mini-bubble in the late 1960s/early 1970s when younger people married on mountaintops with an officiant sporting some beads and a ponytail.  But by the mid-1970s the Tricia Nixon wedding was back in style.  The shift in wedding style we are seeing today seems far more lasting.  By virtue of who is marrying, weddings are becoming more personal in design.  There will always be couples that prefer to follow a playbook (cue Wagner, Corinthians reading, candle lighting, receiving line, and we’re out.)  We will give these couples the benefit of the doubt and not suggest they haven’t thought a whit about their wedding, marriage or each other, we will instead call them traditionalists.  But they now seem to be in the minority.  Older couples (in this context “older” means 30+) have hopefully formed many friendships and important relationships throughout their lives.  Their wedding might reflect those in some way.  When different faiths and backgrounds merge, the results can be a beautiful integration of customs.

No one is forced to editorialize wedding traditions more than a couple of the same gender.  Who walks down the aisle?  Who sits where?  Who dances with whom?  The beauty of this process is that it often results in a “why in the world would we do THAT?” conversation.  A conversation that every couple should be having about every assumption at every juncture.  This all bodes quite well for the future.  More thoughtfulness is always a good thing.  Going through life attuned and conscious has a wonderful effect on the world.

As I sip my champagne, careful not to spill on my silk, I will toast to this ritual that by its definition is steeped in hope.  I will feel grateful for the opportunity to learn more about what makes the couple happy and how they feel about each other.  And I will dance, if not to actual music, than in my mind.  I will celebrate presence, consciousness, and of course, love.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Marriage/Wedding

 

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The Pious Doth Protest Too Much

There’s an awful lot of talk about equal marriage being incompatible with religious beliefs.  The president has even been speaking with religious leaders to alleviate their (and his) fears.  I’m not entirely sure I buy it.

I believe that people have found comfort in defending their stance with their religious convictions.  I mean who would argue with someone’s religious convictions or even suggest that religion, by its definition, is a way to exclude people who are not like us?  Not I.  But does anyone, even the most pious of Americans, believe that legal civil rights have anything to do with religion?  I can’t begin to understand how.  I’ve heard people claim a fear that their religious institution will be “forced” to perform marriages.  How?  They are not forced to perform marriages now.  I can’t walk into a religious institution with a willing heterosexual accomplice and force clergy to perform a marriage ceremony.  Religious institutions, again by their very definition, are allowed to exclude whomever they please.  (If you don’t believe me, just try getting married in a conservative synagogue without paperwork verifying your worthiness.  Even then it will be up to the discretion of the rabbi whether to cue the chuppah.)  So no one is going to be forced to do anything.

Then does just the idea that people are doing something that you believe your religion does not celebrate send a person ’round the bend?  Maybe.  People are entitled to interpret their religious doctrine anyway they please.  Whether I think intolerance has never been the teaching of any religion is immaterial.  But ya know what?  It turns out that church and state are in fact separate. There are several religions that ban pork from the human diet.  Yet the U.S.D.A. gives legitimacy to pork producers, manufacturers and distributors.  What would help anyone feeling that the United States government is on the verge of offending his or her religious sensibilities is to cease from seeing marriage as a religious rite, and see it as a civil right and legal construct.

Consider that in many religions the birth of a child is celebrated in a house of worship.  Not all babies are welcomed into that house of worship.  They must be of proper lineage and deemed worthy.  Yet, our government issues all babies birth certificates.  Why?  Because we have chosen, as a people, to have a government that ensures basic rights and freedoms of every citizen.  It all starts with the birth certificate.  Having a birth certificate is not a ticket to the alter/bihma it is a ticket to; social security, public education, voting and, with any luck, a marriage license.

 
 

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