Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Gay Marriage: What it's Really About

My apologies for posting on this issue yet again but here's another real-life story that sums up perfectly why our current resistance to formalizing gay relationships creates what anyone would have to consider to be true injustice.

Take the case of Buffalo police officer Patricia A. Parete, shot in the neck by a criminal while on duty almost one year ago. Since the time of the shooting, Officer Parete has been working to recover the use of her body after severe damage to her spinal cord. Her gay partner has been with her every step of the way:
Since Buffalo Police Officer Patricia A. Parete was shot in the neck, Maryellen Opalinski has been by her bedside on all but about five of the 257 days.

“As soon as this happened, it was just automatic, like a reflex,” Opalinski said. “I’ve been by her side the whole time. I have never given it a second thought.”
This kind of behavior demonstrates the deepest kind of love and commitment, true "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health" devotion. Those who oppose gay marriage on the grounds that homosexuality is "perverted" or "abnormal" or who say that gay relationships can't demonstrate the same kind kind of elevated love, where two halves become one whole, simply aren't cognizant of reality.

If you oppose gay marriage, get clear on two things: why you actually oppose it, and what the cost of that opposition is in the lives of men and women like Patricia Parete and Maryellen Opalinski, and Brett Conrad and Patrick Atkins.

8 Comments:

At 11:10 AM, Blogger stocad said...

Appreciate the post. It's a good expression of the fringe case that makes the plight for gay marriage seem all the more genuine. I have a deep appreciation for those who love deeply, however the foundations of marriage are built on more well defined grounds than this.

Marriage in the Catholic sense requires 4 commitments from the couple, that they join together totally, freely, faithfully and fruitfully. The first 3 are very approachable in untraditional relationships. I'm sure there's at least one farmer somewhere in the midwest who has a free, total, faithful relationship with one of his livestock, but nontraditional relationships can't be fruitful in the way that is required in marriage.

One extension of this is that I don't really see a couple who enters into marriage closed to the possibility having children as significantly different from a homosexual couple.

If they're committed to one another, good for them. Lets make a term for it and culturally lift it up. I don't understand why everyone is so bent on redefining an already present term to fit this new arrangement.

 
At 12:30 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

You might look over your post and reexamine your attitudes towards this issue. Here's what I picked up in the midst of your comments:

* the example of one gay person demonstrating selfless love for their partner is "fringe";

* that you felt a useful example of a total, free, and faithful non-fruitful relationship is a farmer and a cow; and

* that a union that does not involve a child who is the product of the husband's sperm and the wife's womb is not "fruitful" and thus not really marriage.

First, I suspect you're wearing your heart on your sleeve around what you really think of gay relationships if you consider genuine expressions of selfless love and commitment to be "fringe" and that a farmer in love with a cow provides a useful analogy for your argument.

Second and more importantly, if you believe that the fruitfulness standard has in any way shape or form defined marriage over the milennia, then it's you that are on the fringe. Childless marriages abound and always have, and so have marriages where children are involved from previous relationship but no new children are produced. Should we change the definition of marriage so that those that are not "fruitful" by your definition are actually called something else?

 
At 12:33 PM, Blogger Dan said...

> If they're committed to one another, good for them. Lets make
> a term for it and culturally lift it up. I don't understand why
> everyone is so bent on redefining an already present term to fit
> this new arrangement.

Stocad, I think this is our common ground, through we disagree on usage of the term "marriage."

Allowing a committed same-gender configuration to be called a marriage is quite unlike having twinkies and coke and calling it the Eucharist.

I disagree with the Catholic definition of marriage, period. I think a majority of gay folks don't care for or about it, either. To me, and likely them, the Catholic church is irrelevant. Call it a "Catholic Marriage" or "Papally Approved" or whatever and go to town with the rules, regulations and patterns the Catholic church wants to impose on it, as it should affect only Catholic practitioners.

Same with Protestants or *insert_religion_here*... make up whatever rules and regulations you want, provided you understand that it's your choice to live under those religious regulations and others should be allowed to reject them.

I'm don't care about Catholic or religious marriage, I care about the legal definition of marriage in the context of the laws of the U.S.

As a single person who has no interest in marrying or procreating, I think tax breaks for married couples is absolute crap. They have the potential for double the income, and just because they make/produce new consumers doesn't mean that they should be given extra advantages.

There are plenty of these "edge cases," enough to suggest that they're not fairly marginizeable as "edge cases."

The farmer/livestock argument is pretty absurd, IMNSHO. The folks who seem obsessed with the cross-species relationships are Deists, who profess that they're in a relationship with "God," a being who is not human. I guess one could make a pretty silly argument that cross-species marriage is a good idea as it's sorta modeled in the notion of having a "personal relationship" with the Creator.

God is irrelevant to marriage, unless you rope Him/Her/It in as part of your *personal* practice/commitment. The laws of the U.S. should not show favoritism to a particular religious interpretation of marriage.

The reason the term "marriage" is being pursued seems pretty straight-forward... there are a plethora of laws and legal agreements which address the rights of a married couple which would have to be rewritten to include "civil unions" or "insert_term_here." The simplest solution is to allow gay folks to "marry" which would allow them the benefits and perks (perhaps unfairly) given to all married couples. There'd be no need to rewrite/revise laws and contracts to support the expanded, non-discriminatory, term.
The argument that gay folks already have the same rights as non-gay folks (ie.- "a gay man has the right to marry a woman, just as I do, he just chooses not to") caused several of my friends to laugh out loud, because it's preposterous.

(I'm referring to one of Stocad's recent blog posts, which I commented on and included a link to Zeke's previous Gay Marriage post. We've dragged the conversation over here to Zeke's.)

Overall, I'm a bit puzzled as to why it's such a big deal to allow people to have health care, tax benefits, custody/care rights, etc., because someone uninvolved doesn't approve of the configuration of genitals in their relationship.

 
At 2:26 PM, Blogger Dan said...

> Childless marriages abound and always
> have, and so have marriages where children
> are involved from previous relationship
> but no new children are produced.

I think the whole "tradition says marriage should be this or that" line of reasoning is fatally flawed.

Marriage has traditionally been about the maintenance of property, assets, and control of lineage. Love and marital commitment have traditionally been a "bonus."

If you invest in a marriage as a method of transmitting control over assets, then procreation *is* important.

Tradition indicates that women should be treated like little more than cattle, as they have been since the dawn of time. Not more than twenty-ish years ago, the "tradition" was that only a man and a woman of the same *race* should marry.

If we use tradition as a rule of measure, we're effectively perpetuating the ignorant standards of the past. Instead of throwing out tradition, I think we should learn from it.

 
At 2:46 PM, Blogger stocad said...

Zeke,

*My expression that this is a "fringe" example was more to point out that this level of devotion is not the status queue in the gay world. There are those who are this devoted and in the midst of so many bad situations it is laudable. If we journey to the male side of homosexuality it is a medical fact that gay men live shorter lives than their straight counterparts. The lifestyle of a gay man is hard on the body apparently, I'm not really sure what all goes into causing their abbreviated lives, but I do know if I where a truly devoted gay man I would have trouble entering into a relationship knowing I was aiding in the shortening of my partners life.

* I think that if we alter the definition of marriage further to include homosexuality I'm not sure what prevents us from expanding the boundaries beyond our own species. Should a man be permitted to "marry" a Chimpanzee if the two of them are truly in love? I'll admit that my use of livestock was a bit more for effect than practicality.

* In terms of fruitfulness the key is in the intent rather than the fruit. If an apple farmer has a bad crop and comes out at the end of a season with no fruit to show for his labors he is still an apple farmer. One my say he is not blessed by his labors, but they are his labors none the less. If a person labels himself an apple farmer, but neither plants nor cultivates then at the end of the season is he deserving of the same pity as the man who labored? Does he really deserve the label he has ascribed to himself at all?

Dan,

I think we've found another thing we agree on!

"I think tax breaks for married couples is absolute crap"

I think the government should stay out of the marriage business entirely. If it has the desire to have jurisdiction over marriage it ought to allow for custom marriage contracts that are a little less generic. Marriage means different things to different people. If marriage is as malleable as it has become then why not let the parties involved define the terms of the legal arrangement.

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

My expression that this is a "fringe" example was more to point out that this level of devotion is not the status queue in the gay world.

I suspect you're right. It certainly isn't the status quo in the heterosexual world. Welcome to a non-sequitur.

I think that if we alter the definition of marriage further to include homosexuality I'm not sure what prevents us from expanding the boundaries beyond our own species.

Here's an analogous argument for you: "If we alter the definition of citizen to include blacks, I'm not sure what prevents us from expanding the boundaries beyond our own species." For the record, we are talking about consenting adult human beings here. You don't get to reframe the debate by introducing absurdities.

In terms of fruitfulness the key is in the intent rather than the fruit.

So you would not classify heterosexual marriages actual marriages unless the intent to procreate was involved in the marriage? I'd have to agree with Dan here... that sounds like a peculiar religious conviction and is not particularly useful in setting public policy.

 
At 4:42 PM, Blogger stocad said...

Marriage is most definitely a religious conviction (I have doubts as to its peculiarity) which is why this conversation isn't over, why gay marriage isn't public policy the world.

While you may consider it absurd for me to liken gay sexuality in with other aberrant sexual behaviors I find it similarly absurd to liken it to civil rights.

You are correct that it is pretty easy to scientifically distinguish between a being of the human species and that of any other. It is quite another matter to scientifically distinguish between "consenting adult human beings" to determine sexual orientation. I doubt very much that there is a "gay" gene, but maybe being gay is a choice that is easier made by a person born with any number of traits that could be inborn. I've heard of no compelling evidence that being gay hinges on anything more than a choice.

All "consenting adult human beings" are endowed with equal rights under US law presently. To liken the plight of homosexuals in todays society with any form of past civil rights injustice is belittling to those who fought so hard for equality.

We will in all likelihood continue indefinitely to disagree on precisely what marriage is and means, and so long as this dialog continues we will each persist in reframing the discussion as it suites our argument. I'm not sure how disallowing different perspectives is useful to the discussion, particularly when accompanied with equally absurd analogies as support.

 
At 6:59 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

While you may consider it absurd for me to liken gay sexuality in with other aberrant sexual behaviors I find it similarly absurd to liken it to civil rights.

If you look at the case I cited of Conrad & Atkins--where the family of a sick man kept him from his partner of 25 years--and don't see civil rights implications, then let me suggest that your aversion to homosexuality has clouded your sense of justice. You think on some level that it's about sex, and perverted sex at that. I showed you here just two examples that demonstrate that marriage--gay or straight--is about so much more than sex as to almost make sex beside the point.

 

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