Wednesday, May 27, 2009

gay marriage.

apologies to facebook friends who've already read this, but today i reposted a link-- a link to a blog post that responds critically to the outpouring of anger in the wake of the california supreme court decided 6-1 in favor of upholding proposition 8.  i posted this link with some trepidation, as my own update feed was almost entirely filled with good friends who are, in fact, very angry about the decision.  here's the link, and here's what i wrote:

to be clear: i'm interested in civil unions. not for gay people, but for everyone. the rights, privileges, and obligations that come with state-sanctioned unions should be available to any consenting adults who would choose to enter into them-- a legal framework flexible enough to structure all kinds of different families. if i spend my old age caring and being cared for by my dearest friends, then we'd be a household, a family, worthy of those privileges, rights and obligations. if my sister and i raise children together, then we'd be a household, a family, worthy of those privileges, rights and obligations. leave it to religion to specially consecrate sexual relationships (heterosexual or otherwise), and abolish civil marriage in favor of civil unions between any consenting adults who will pledge in good faith to be profoundly responsible for one another.

this is a policy change i would donate money and sign-petitions and canvas and write letters to the editor in support of.

i was extremely anxious about posting anything that would convey my ambivalence about the decision. partly out of respect for the very real pain and disappointment suffered by citizens of california; partly out of respect for the fact that, even though i'm not exactly "for gay marriage", those fighting against it are obviously motivated by their own intolerable homophobia and not to be supported in their aims;  and mostly by the fear that it would further alienate me from certain friends (see: my last post).

but this is a serious issue, and i've got to say what i think. for every story about a same-sex romantic partner being barred from a hospital room, or being ignored while estranged parents are allowed to make bad end of life decisions or take away children or property (even if special papers have been signed), there's a story about the same sorts of things happening to people without romantic partners.  their actual life-partners-- friends and housemates who care for and understand them and their wishes-- are ignored.  these are wrenching stories-- each one a terrible miscarriage of justice.  all people, in the vulnerable moments around death and birth and sickness, need recourse to the special protection that state-recognized unions afford.

and there's something maybe larger and certainly more radical that ought to be on the table: it's hard to see how we, as queers, can effectively imagine and adopt nontraditional family structures without said recourse.  and it's hard to see how the larger public could begin to re-imagine traditional (often oppressive) family structures in the shadow of civil marriage.  i won't go on about this at length, but it's worth mentioning.  i'm no HRC gay with a yen to assimilate.  i'm a radical, god damn it, at least about this, with a mind to reimagine.


mms said...

Thank you, laura G!!!!! you said it.

laura.g said...

thank YOU for posting the original link! i think it was brave. i'd wanted to say something, to register some disagreement with the general consensus, and had been hedging. your post totally slapped me out of it. xo.

Drew said...

Good post. I'm sympathetic to your ambivalence. Not much else to say. I do think, however, that the most interesting kernels of information were contained in your final paragraph.

Just the other day I came as close to a panic attack that I've ever come, thinking about what life will be like when I'm old. Unlike most folks, I was lucky enough to grow up with all of my grandparents fairly healthy and autonomous. Only over the past few years have I seen the health of my grandparents deteriorate to the point where they've begun to lose some of their autonomy. I see my own parents take more and more trips to help my grandparents, and I also see my own parents becoming more aware of what their lives might be like in 10, 20 years. I realize that this is the same old traditional story that we've heard about for hundreds of years (reinforcing traditional family structures), but in witnessing it for the first time, it struck a chord in a way that it had not before.

Got me thinking about myself, in particular how my political-moral views on marriage [opposed to marriage on the grounds that it violates the separation of church and state, that it is an irrational decision, and most crucially that its terms are inconsistent with living an ethically good life] will play out in the future. I think most people assume that having a single partner (with enforceable legal obligations!) provides some sort of guarantee for end of life care. I vividly remember a discussion of justifications for marriage in my senior English class in high school (Catholic school, no less). Several students offered as a justification 'security'. I accepted that as an explanation, but not a justification.

But lately I find myself thinking about that very idea more and more. Shit is scary, I can't lie. So describe in more detail other options. What is the alternative to marriage or marriage-like relationships? In the groups of friends idea, would we be limited to having a civil union only with one person? That is, would civil unions legislate monogamy, as marriage currently does? It seems like that might lead to 'triangulated' legal obligations. And a not so great outcome.

What's the minimal amount of state involvement in these relationships? And what's the optimal amount? These are some of the questions I need answered before I can reach a decision.

(I also think all this is fucked because we treat people on a morally dubious model of private property. We need to get rid of private property.)

laura.g said...

well, for a start:é

this, in conjuncture with abolishing civil marriage, takes care of the church and state issue. it's a two-person arrangement, though. i'm not sure how to feel about this. on the one hand, it's an obvious limitation. it's easy to imagine that a good kind of a family-- a solid, sustainable kind of a family-- would involve three or more people who are not blood relatives. on the other hand, there might be certain contingent facts about human beings and our psychology-- deep facts-- that make it unrealistic to think that we could be profoundly responsible for more than just a very few people. to be responsible for someone through sickness, financial calamity, and the inevitable difficulties of aging-- it seems likely that there are some natural limits on the number of people that a typical person can look after in this way, and that limit might be just one. i'm not saying that it is, but i'm saying it's conceivable, and it's important to think about whether or not we think this is true, and then to move beyond our intuitions (which are suspect for all kinds of reasons), and do some actual research on the matter. the idea is build something strong and sustainable-- something that can withstand the awesome pressures of tough times. i think that we could build more sustainable families changing certain typical structures, but i also suspect that certain aspects of typical family structures have endured precisely because they work, and because they reflect certain facts about being human which we ignore to our detriment.

mommymae said...

great points. as an agnostic who was married by a justice of the peace, i agree that marriage or partnering or civily-unionizing or whatever you wanna call it should be free from religion if people choose to make it so.

and i'm kinda sick to my stomach when i think about the fact that i'm moving back to a state (arizona) that just amended the constitution to ban gay marriage. sick from the hate and homophobia, ya know?

Lowry said...

I also am convinced the state should get out of the marriage business and leave it to religions. I also do not believe in legislating monogamy; in fact I consider this perverse and a mistake. This despite the fact that I am, indeed, both married and monogamous.