Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I've got Mine, Jack and Jill

Today is "write to marry" day and I do have something to say. I've got mine, Jack and Jill, so screw you. Really, when you come right down to it, as far as I can see, I got to get married at a time and place of my own choosing and to a person I deeply love and I get to live with that person unmolested and uncriticized so why should I care about the rest of you? My life is ok, so you all can suffer.

I think that's pretty much the message of all those happy, healthy, Mormon types who are the pretty face of Prop. 8. And they aren't altogether wrong. Selfishness, isolationism, contempt for one's neighbors--its as American as apple pie. But here in MA we have another idea, and we've seen it working. More... Its called, well, loving thy neighbor and caring about them. And its working out pretty well. Its true I'm in an easily legally recognizable heterosexual marriage. But I'm surrounded by people who, up until our laws changed, didn't have the option of marriage and I'm ashamed to say that I didn't worry about them until after our laws changed and people I knew started coming out to me. Not coming out to me as gay, I knew they were gay, but coming out to me as people who wanted to get married, to have that security for themselves and their loved ones and their children. I well remember the moment that I grasped this issue fully. We were heading into one of our canonical, touchy feely, gay pride events at my children's school (this was years before the law changed) and I asked a friend of mine, our school nurse who is gay and who I knew was gay, btw, "just how many of these kids are gay?" Its hard to tell that story now, because so many wrong thoughts are embedded in that remark--I was thinking about "gay pride" as primarily an adult issue, a sexual issue, and also assuming that the children were in a sense unsexed or ungendered at that young age when, of course, they aren't. But she was so patient and so open to talking to me about it. She just looked at me, mildly, and said very kindly, "you know, a lot of these kids have gay parents and they want to feel safe and secure about the way their classmates and teachers are going to handle that." After equal marriage in our state, one of my co-PTA chairs got married to her long time companion and told me what a hugely liberating thing it was for her sons. As catholics, they had been concerned for years with the way the Church spoke to them about their two mothers and as children they were constantly afraid that the Church was strong enough to tear their family apart. State recognition of their union helped make her sons feel secure. Allowing religious idiosyncrasy and intolerance to rule over marriage laws put those children at risk.

And, of course, it goes both ways. I've got two daughters. I don't know yet what they'll grow up to be--doctor, lawyer, beggarman, thief? Hell, sometimes I don't know whether they are planning to grow up to be fairy princesses or dragons. And I certainly don't know who they will love, or how. But what kind of parent would I be if I let society or the state or someone else's church tell them who they could love and marry before they even decide for themselves? I'm old enough to remember the many, many, many cases of women and men forced into false, loveless, sometimes asexual marriages to preserve society's sense of amour propre (yes, bad two language pun). The pain of those marriages, the pain for the children born of those sad unions, is not to be believed.

Younger people, like the deluded kiddies in the Mormon commericals, don't have any grasp of that. They are far from realizing how much pain and suffering their own church condones, and even enforces, on those who don't match its strict criteria. He who lives the longest will see the most. Over time, many of the people who engaged the most vociferously in anti-gay events and propaganda will find themselves or their loved ones on the outside of their church, looking in. Perhaps then they will learn what they could have guessed--it is better to love and protect everyone's rights now, agains the day you need them yourself.

Which is by way of saying that I'm no better or worse than the haters on 8, just a little older and a little more aware of the harm that is done to each of us, and our communities, when the state and the church step in and determine that some get second class rights while others get first class ones. The Prop 8 people say that this time its for all the marbles, or to hold back the flood, or some such metaphor. And they are right, but not in the way they tell each other. If Prop 8 goes down in defeat California, and the rest of the country, will see what we've seen here in MA. When your neighbor gets married--you celebrate! When your neighbors have kids--you throw them a shower. When your neighbors kids go to your kid's school--you work with them and enjoy their company. And when those children go out into the world happy, healthy, loved adults you wait to welcome them into the community as new couples, adults, parents. with confidence that whoever they choose they will be making the right choice for them. Isn't life hard enough without trying to micromanage love? The world not only doesn't come to an end, it flourishes. Equal marriage makes all of us stronger because it makes all of us feel safer.