Adam and Steve?

gay marriage

photo by Jim Herd

On my way to school this morning I passed through a crowd of protesters outside the California Supreme Court. It seems that California is considering the issue of same-sex marriage today, and these folks have a problem with it. When I got to school, I found that Hastings is running live footage of the arguments in the student lounge, to be followed by a panel discussion on the constitutionality of people with the same configuration of X and Y chromosomes marrying. This is San Francisco, so I can pretty well imagine the general reaction locals have to the debate. That made the protesters stand out all the more. Despite their placards warning of the spiritual perils filing joint tax returns with someone who wears the same kind of underwear as you do, I don’t think they’ll be changing too many minds. One well-meaning protester dropped some mathematics on passers by with the helpfully simplistic slogan “Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman.” I can’t fault him on his arithmetic, but he forgot to show his work so he can only receive partial credit.

Gay marriage is an issue that is hard for me to get worked up about, despite my zip code. On the one hand, of course homosexuals couples should enjoy all the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as other citizens. It offends my notion of justice and fair play to suggest homosexuals don’t deserve to receive tax breaks, insurance benefits, or any other freedom guaranteed to every other American. Civil Unions may grant all those same rights. Is that enough? Is marriage by another name just as good? I don’t know.

For many people in this country (though not me personally) “Marriage” means something very specific, as the arithmetical picketer I spotted this morning demonstrates. Not all of them are closed-minded assholes of Phelps-ian proportions. Marriage is a social construct, and it operates in both a secular sense and religious sense. Why not let these people (of which there are many) reserve the language of marriage for a church-sanctioned act and let homosexuals enjoy the same benefits through a secular civil union? Let marriage be the province of the church if that’s what it takes to appease the minds that differ.

Such a compromise reeks of the separate but equal doctrine, which was neither. The idea retarded the civil rights of blacks in this country for too long a time and it seems like an overly restrictive way to approach a personal freedom. And what could be more personal than deciding who you want to spend your life with? But it may be a necessary semantic concession to the more stringent conservative elements that also make up American society. It may be the cost of doing business in a pluralistic society, as it were. California voters approved a ballot initiative eight years ago that put the kibosh on any gay marriage, and the electorate has not reversed its position.

The whole froofera has never sat particularly close to my heart, since I am both heterosexual and pathologically afraid of commitment. I think though, if I were an Adam wanting to commit to my Steve I would be more concerned with getting the same rights than getting to use the same word.

UPDATE:

Here’s some footage of the douchebags in question:

via SFist (where I also found the above photo)

4 Comments on "Adam and Steve?"

  • Someone you and I both know from high school got gay married in san fran. Couple #23.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/03/14/LVGH65H19M1.DTL

  • I don’t personally know either of the young ladies in question, but more power to them. Janet Thompson pseems to more or less agree with what I was trying to say “I suppose I personally feel that if gays can get every single marriage right and have it called a civil union and be universal, that’s OK with me. That it’s not the words so much as getting those rights. Being married to the person you love is going to trump all else.”

  • I don’t think the phrase “civil union” (as related to same-sex couples) reeks of anything at all like “equal-but-separate”. Heterosexual couples that are non- (or even anti-) religious still unite their lives in a way that is recognizable by law, and what is that, if not a civil union? Personally, I’d be against any same-sex couple that wanted to get married in a Christian church, because on my respect-o-meter that is no better than anti-gay picketers showing up to their wedding if it was held elsewhere. Just an opinion.

  • Well, that’s more or less what I was trying to say. The counter argument, and I think it’s a fair one is that as long as you say that gays can have “unions” and us breeders can have “marriages” you are creating a distinction. A distinction without difference, perhaps, but it still a fundamental way of saying that gay unions don’t measure up.

    And I guess it depends on the church. There are probably more than a few Christian churches that would be okay with it.

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