The National Organization for Marriage, or NOM, is an outspoken and effective leader in the debate of marriage equality
and I would like to offer my response to their ‘Marriage Talking Points.’
My effort here is to create a dialogue with NOM and others who would deny equal marriage rights for all Americans and
to spark ideas that others who support equality might find useful for their discussions.
I am writing from the perspective of a straight, Christian ally who seeks equal standing under law for all people.

NOM writes:
Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose,
they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”
I respond:
All people are guaranteed “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in America. Let’s start from there.
I would add that there is a loaded word in that statement: “choose.” Let us remember that we know that sexual attraction is not a choice. While lifelong commitment in marriage is a ‘choice’ we can listen to many people’s experiences (straight and gay) that they often cite being “drawn together” or “made for each other” or that “God drew us into relationship.” There are deep levels of loving relationship that are so overwhelming, it isn’t the type of choice like choosing what TV show to watch.
I would add that the second part of that statement pretty much overrides and nullifies the first part. Marriage is a giant part of a person’s life and happiness. Marriage is considered by many a ‘sacrament’ and is probably one of their most memorable and important days of their life. To say to someone: “You are free to do whatever you want in terms of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness….except the biggest part of your life, liberty and happiness.” makes the whole sentiment ring pretty hollow. I think we can all see eye to eye that love is real, love is amazing, and marriage can be a person’s and a couple’s most central relationship and facet of their being.
And importantly: equality advocates and social justice seekers don’t expect you to change your definition of marriage. You can have any definition that you currently have. If you believe that divorce is not permissible for you and your partner, you can keep believing that. If you think that sex before marriage is not permissible for you and your partner, you can believe that and act on it. There are many divergent beliefs about marriage and different ‘definitions.’ We can all get along. Some believe it is not permissible to use birth control. That’s cool.
The bottom line I’m getting to is that no one I know in the equality-camp expects to change any one else’s mind about what marriage should be. Sure, I will grant that we will speak about how love and trust and family and commitment are, that’s true. But if you believe being gay is wrong or a sin–that is between you and God. No amount of arguing will change that. And you can raise your children to believe whatever you see fit. We only want equality under law.

NOM writes:
“Marriage is between a husband and wife. The people of [this state] do not want marriage to be anything but that. We do not want government or judges changing that definition for us today or our children tomorrow.”
I respond:
Marriage has certainly changed throughout our nation’s short history hasn’t it? We don’t need to get into details like 1967’s Loving v. Virginia decision or anything else. We just need to accept the broad stroke idea: Our nation has grown over time to better and better protect all people under law. The government and judges and people’s voting have all swayed towards less discrimination, and more equality under law. The legal definitions of many facets of our lives have changed: when a person is an ‘adult’, who can vote, who is a citizen, who can marry, when a person is legally drunk, what can be sold on Sundays, etc.
Importantly, despite the legal changes over time, this doesn’t prevent many people from keeping their own values and morals.

NOM writes:
We need a marriage amendment to settle the gay marriage issue once and for all, so we don’t have it in our face every day for the next ten years.
I respond:
This statement is pretty heavy. It sounds like equality for all people is hard on you and “in your face every day.” Wow. If this issue is affecting you this much, imagine if you will the lives of those who want to get married and can’t. What will their next ten years be like? What about the next ten years of their children? I can guarantee you that their inability to marry their loved one is important to them and I dare say even more pressing to them than it is on your life. There are well over 1,200 marriage benefits that these families cannot access including: ability to make medical decisions for an ill or end of life partner, access to partner’s coverage under Social Security and Medicare, joint adoption, bereavement leave, ability to sponsor partner’s immigration, etc. These are basic issues of compassion. Imagine yourself in their shoes.

NOM writes:
Do we want to teach the next generation that one-half of humanity—either mothers or fathers—are dispensable, unimportant? Children are confused enough right now with sexual messages. Let’s not confuse them further.
I respond:
I work with youth now and have for many years. I have encountered a number who currently have two mothers or two fathers. I also know adults who have grown up with gay parents. I can only speak from their feedback and how I have interacted with them but not once have I seen anyone say that some people are “dispensable or unimportant.” Everyone has the capacity to be an effective, positive parent if they want to be. My message and the messaging I’ve heard from other equality advocates is never that anyone “is dispensable or unimportant.” No! Anyone who loves children and is willing to commit to the hardships of parenting should be applauded for their love and encouraged and supported. I firmly believe that not only are loving parental roles important, but so are other adults in children’s lives. Everyone is important! We all have a role to play in protecting and respecting our young ones.
But who is really getting the treatment of being “dispensable and unimportant?” Maybe people who are being singled out to be incapable of adopting, incapable of being legally married? Maybe our children are more confused by inequality in society. It would appear from many surveys that our younger generations are more accepting of LGBTQ folks than ever before. What do they think of having two sets of rules to play by: in word we laud equality and liberty but in deed we discriminate? That’s confusing to me!

NOM writes:
Marriage as the union of husband and wife isn’t new; it’s not taking away anyone’s rights. It’s common sense.
I respond:
Marriage as it has been commonly practiced and understood in the US for the last couple of decades is exactly that: just a couple of decades old. So it is a bit new. That we have ‘no fault’ divorce, that women are not considered property, that married women have sexual rights to not be raped and assaulted by their husbands, that people of ‘different races’ can legally marry, etc. Yes, it is pretty new. And it isn’t universal. There are many different cultural perspectives and expectations about marriage. Is it okay to marry a first cousin? Is it okay to marry a teenager?
What I’m getting at is that the way marriage has been approached in mainstream America for the last couple of decades is not a ‘given,’ is not ‘ancient’, is not ‘universal.’
I would argue that to deny someone the benefits of marriage (remember, there’s over 1,200 legal benefits!) because of the sex they were born would be to deny them equal access. This is a form of sexual discrimination, and it is not equality under law. We can see the provisions given to us by judges and government that protect freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of privacy, protection from sexual discrimination. This is the ‘common sense’ to which we appeal.

Closing Comments:
I respect the right of religion and freedom of conscience. However you want to believe the ‘ideal’ family looks like and however you want to define marriage for yourself and for your children and with your religious community, you can do so. However, without evidence that society or individuals are harmed by having two mothers or two fathers, there is no legal basis to discriminate against a group of people or an individual.
This is an issue of religious freedom. Many LGBTQ couples believe that God has blessed them with their relationship and has blessed them and led them to be married. Their churches and their clergy bless them. It is not the government’s place to tell them that their God, their church, and their clergy are wrong.

This is an issue of sexual discrimination. Imagine: it is because of how you are born that you cannot marry the person you love. Would we tell that to anyone else based on how they were born?

This is an issue of keeping government small and out of our private lives.
Will we have government officials assigned to supervise the sex of marriage applicants?  Do we want big government to research the medical histories of marriage applicants?

What about intersexed individuals? Who decides their ‘sex’ and potential to marry? What about transgendered individuals?

I for one promise to not use the ‘bigot’ card when discussing this issue. I do not know the heart of those who would oppose marriage equality. My first inclination and intention is to love. I want to meet everybody as a person of inherent dignity and worth and as an equal to be respected. I want to empathize with you in values we share and to listen to you carefully. I believe that the march towards greater justice is paved by patience and righteousness, not arguing and vitriol.
Much love and more love!

You can read NOM’s “Marriage Talking Points” at this link:
http://www.nationformarriage.org/site/c.omL2KeN0LzH/b.4475595/k.566A/Marriage_Talking_Points.htm

 

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