Sunday, August 22, 2010
Last night I watched a panel on the Larry King Live show give various views on the question of gay marriage, a topic much in the news these days. Because I am a member of this "minority group" (gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered), I have a special investment in this area, though certainly I have no desire at this stage to marry anyone of any sex. (I live alone and really, really like it!)
However, since I grew up knowing that my "lifestyle" as a lesbian was a major offense to society at large (which then used such terms as queer, fairy, pervert, and pathological to describe people like me), I simply could not resist saying something about the debate currently going on about this issue.
As a longtime professor in the liberal arts (English and American lit, women's studies, the modern novel), I emphasized critical thinking as a key part of a liberal education. Many of the arguments put forth on the panel seemed to me to reveal a sad lack of honest, rational thought.
Here are some of the arguments that made me wince:
l. The purpose of marriage is to have children, and it is indeed better for a child to have parents of opposite sex rather than two parents of the same sex.
Answer: If the purpose of marriage is to have children, then what about those who are incapable of begetting a child for physical reasons or those who perhaps prefer not to have children? What about those over childbearing age? Are they also to be barred from marriage? A lot of older heterosexual widows and widowers will be disappointed to hear this.
Further, has anyone checked the divorce rates among heterosexuals lately? How many children are being reared in one-parent households? Is it not better to have two loving parents of the same sex rather than one person struggling alone to care for her(his) kids as a single mom or dad? Recent studies show that the children of gay and lesbian couples are in fact more adjusted and generally happier than the typical child from heterosexual parents.
And there is yet another argument, that few mention. One of the major problems facing our planet today is overpopulation. Surely, couples (or singles) have a right to reproduce, but we must also acknowledge that those who choose not to have children also make an important contribution to society. At one time, women who failed to bear children were considered failures and more or less pitied or shunned by society. Is gay marriage (as well as the choice of women and men not to bear children) actually a phenomenon being used by nature to control excess population growth today?
2. A second area of concern is the failure to grasp the parallels between the struggle for gay rights and the civil rights movement which granted rights to African Americans and other minority groups. The opponents of gay marriage (some of whom are themselves African Americans) insist that this issue is very different, because one (civil rights of racial minorities) involved race, and this (gay rights) involves sexual orientation. One of the speakers on the panel (a talk show host named Dennis Prager) made the astonishing statement that America had never been a racist country (at least, I think that's what I heard). What can you say against such a lack of awareness of the actual history of our country, with its deplorable record from slavery to laws against miscegenation (marriage between whites and blacks), to segregated schools, to......on and on. One blushes to think of the horrors committed in the name of "white supremacy."
When the laws against "miscegenation" were up for repeal, the arguments against repealing this ban were quite similar to those against gay marriage today, only even more demeaning and virulent. Whites and racial minorities are now free to marry each other and society has not fallen apart. Massachusetts and Iowa allow gays to marry (and, intermittently, California) and heterosexual marriages show no obvious damage. What are these people afraid of?
3. I think the answer to the above question is : change. One of the arguments (again by Dennis Prager) was that marriage had always been between a man and a woman for all times and cultures. Therefore, this was the way it was supposed to be.
What this speaker failed to notice was that change is necessary for progress to occur. At one time, we were a slave holding country. No more. At one time, women were not allowed to vote (they were inferior creatures lacking the brains to participate in the political process). Not so recently, gays and lesbians could be denied the right to housing, jobs, and other accommodations because of sexual orientation. These discriminatory practices were finally eliminated. We are in a time of major transformation, and our attitudes must also change to be more open, more accepting of diversity.
4. Gay marriage is against the Bible. "Dr. Laura" (not on this panel) quotes Leviticus to make her point against gay marriage. Yes, this oft quoted passage in Leviticus does call homosexuality an abomination--but she fails to mention other Biblical passages which condone slavery (Leviticus 25:44); give permission to sell your daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7); command you to put to death anyone who works on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2); and prohibits those with visual defects to approach the altar (Lev. 21:20). (I am quite near sighted, so that would let me out.)
(By the way, "Dr. Laura" ( who strongly opposes gay marriage) is discontinuing her radio show, because she feels she is being denied her first amendment rights by those who have opposing views and are acting in ways to express those views through social action. Is she losing sponsors?)
Surely, marriage should be based on love, not one's capacity to procreate. Surely a child is better off with two loving and caring parents rather than those who neglect or abuse their offspring.
Surely this country will get over its irrational clinging to false arguments and grant equality of civil rights to all its citizens.
Surely, we will not have to wait too much longer for these spurious arguments to fade into dust and allow the world to look at other, more pressing issues, at this critical time in the planet's history.
P. S. There were two articulate speakers for gay marriage--one, a talk show host named Stephanie Miller, who has recently "come out" as a lesbian herself, since she felt it was no longer defensible simply to be a hidden supporter from the sidelines. The other was Kamala Harris, the City Attorney for San Francisco, who spoke in defense of gay marriage as a basic civil right.
And here is another very important point. The issue is one of equal civil rights for all. It does not infringe on the right of churches to determine who they will or will not marry. It is talking about marriage at city hall before a justice of the peace. It is an issue of basic civil rights, not the views of religions or churches.
(Note: the pictures above are ones I took at the Gay Rights Parade in San Francisco a few years ago. They illustrate the wide variety of ethnic groups impacted by legislation involving gay rights. When gay marriages became legal in San Francisco for a brief time a few years back, not only were many different ethnic groups represented, but some of the couples, Caucasian as well as others, had been together ten, twenty or even thirty or more years. It was a time of great celebration.)