Monday, October 15, 2007

Same-Sex Marriage

Today I went to see openly gay Rep. Greg Harris of the Illinois General Assembly speak. He is responsible for the introduction of House Bill 1826 which is titled "The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act" which basically states that same-sex couples would be granted the right to civil unions which are the same as marriage in all but name, but religious groups can continue to not bless these marriages if they would prefer not to. With same-sex civil unions in such a close grasp in Illinois I can't help but feel the need to share my opinion on this hot issue.

The same-sex marriage debate is a popular one these days, but only two sides are really being voiced. Either you're for it because you feel that gay couples deserve the same rights as straight couples or you're against it because homosexuality is a sin or disgusting or whathaveyou.

There is a very important third opinion not getting voiced here. This opinion is that we shouldn't be fighting for gay marriage. It is the wrong fight and it is too specific to the LGB community (I'm specifically leaving T out because I don't think the rights of T folks are really getting acknowledged in the popular debate). We need to think of the bigger picture. What we should be fighting for are the rights of all types of families. This includes conjugal families, but also extends to grandparents caring for grandchildren, roommates, friends, extended families living under the same roof, those who choose to take care of their sick or dying relatives or friends, etc. Why is it that only married couples get these rights? Shouldn't all families get them? In this day and age the nuclear family is becoming less and less common and the laws and benefits need to be shaped around the real American family not some ridiculous conservative "family values" ideal. This real American family lives together and cares for one another emotionally, spiritually, mentally, financially, and physically. These are the real ideals that should be strived for in a family, not just sexual and/or blood relations.

All of the countries that have legalized same-sex marriage/unions have no real rights that go along with marriage. It wasn't a big deal to give same-sex couples the right to marry because everyone already had those rights already. But in the US we like to do things backwards. What we should really be fighting for right now is universal health care. That is going to get us and everyone else a little closer to the equality that we supposedly seek.

The marginalized need to stop fighting for things that only affect their one community. We need to work together for the greater good. In fighting for same-sex marriage we are alienating a lot of people who have much more pressing needs. In fighting together for the equality of every type of family we fight for everyone in our country. This would encompass same-sex marriage and any other type of family unit that is formed.

In fighting for same-sex marriage we are just widening the gap between acceptable types of family units and unacceptable ones. There will continue to be a hierarchy where nuclear families are at the top.

Now I want you to also keep in mind that this makes me a hypocrite. I want to marry my girlfriend one day and I will even if I can't do so legally. However, if I can legally marry her then I will be very happy to do so. But even if I do marry her in Illinois my marriage would still not be valid in most other states and I still don't receive any federal benefits. So once again we come back to the need for universal rights for all types of families.

*steps down off her soapbox*

If anyone is interested in reading more about this third side to the debate I encourage them to check out BeyondMarriage.org.

2 comments:

Robert Sean Nelson said...

No one should get any sort of government benefits from marriage since that violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Also, no type of marriage should be banned since that would violate the following Free Exercise Clause.

Katherine said...

You make an interesting point. I was just reading an International Lesbian and Gay Association report on state-sponsored homophobia, and it mentioned that Guatemala is considering an "Integral Protection for Marriage and Family Act." The law was designed to make sure gay couples can never be recognized, but because of the way the law is worded, it would wind up declaring that all non-nuclear households are not families - which would affect nearly 40% of the country's population, and possibly screw up their health benefits.