Thursday, September 07, 2006

Torn Asunder

Maybe you've noticed I feel torn about gay marriage. I want it for myself, I think I believe it should happen. But ultimately I struggle with whether it's the most important issue out there. Reading this article from The Progressive, I feel the same old questions rising up for me. It examines the impact previous statewide bans, and upcoming ballot measures to ban gay marriage in other states, will have or have had on gay couples and families.

My initial reaction is to wonder why anyone (other than gay couples) cares so much about this that they want to enact legislation on the matter. I get angry at the difficult position such changes in the law put families in. I start to wonder what family values really mean.

But a parallel track plays in my mind even as the anger bubbles up about the injustices against gays. What about the single parents? What about the rest of the uninsured? If we fight to carve out our piece of the pie (something I've written about before), it means we stop looking at the bigger picture. Just this week, the Census Bureau released information from a recent poll showing that 47 million people in the U.S. are uninsured - an increase both in the number and the percentage of uninsured Americans. It's not just gays and lesbians who are struggling with this, and I get antsy when the arguments for gay marriage turn toward partner benefits.

More compelling for me - and I think this plays to the larger national audience as well - are questions of rights. Hospital visitation gets to people. Even if you think homosexuality is something that should be kept behind closed doors, or is perhaps a sin, it's hard to argue that two people who have made a life together for decades shouldn't have the right to visit each other in the hospital if one falls ill.

I'll admit that when it comes to the legal challenges of having children together, I feel moved as well, for obvious reasons. But when it comes to convincing society at large, you must tread carefully on the gay parenthood issue. Arguing that we should allow for gay marriage - or even domestic partner rights - on the grounds that not allowing for it jeopardizes families with gay parents opens up the whole question of whether gays and lesbians should be having children...

As a total aside, I feel no conflict about the question of whether gay parenting is okay. The deeper we get into this process of being approved to adopt, the more I wonder why everyone doesn't have to go through this in order to become parents. It isn't a person's sexuality that dictates whether they're going to be able to raise a healthy child, and plenty of folks without the necessary skills manage to fall into parenting with nary a thought.

On the larger question of gay marriage and/or partnerships, I urge each of you to think about the ways that focusing on so narrow a goal leaves so many other Americans - gay and straight - in the dust.


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