Where are the kids?

Today’s Ask Amy column gives five tips distilled from a project at Cornell University (The Legacy Project) about what makes a successful, long, and happy marriage.  Despite the fact that opponents of same-sex marriage always mention that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry because they don’t procreate (at least in the same way opposite-sex couple do), I find it curious that not one these tips mentions children at all!

Here’s my favorite tip (which, those who know me, will completely understand):

4. Talk to each other: Marriage to the strong, silent type can be deadly to a relationship. Long-term married partners are talkers (at least to one another, and about things that count).

Happy Valentines Day!

“It’s not about you!”

That’s what I want to scream whenever I read about or see news coverage of opponents of same-sex marriage speaking about “protecting” and “defending” marriage “as it’s always been”!

Dusk on a Winter's Eve - Washington, DC

For over a decade I have worked for national mental health organizations, currently in an area affecting millions of people on a daily basis. The issue we deal with affects millions of adults, but typically its “age of onset” is in childhood, often as a child is getting ready to attend school for the first time.  Fortunately, there are federal laws which guarantee that every child in this country — regardless of ability or disability — receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), and that such education be provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Implementation of these laws is a never-ending challenge for parents, teachers and school systems. Yet I wonder if, at the time of their introduction and passage, these laws were met with opposing arguments saying that public education should be limited only to children without any physical or mental impairment? I wonder if opponents argued that in order to receive that education paid for by taxpayer dollars, every child had to walk through the door on his own and couldn’t come in if she were in a wheelchair or otherwise physically challenged? I wonder if opponents tried to derail the legislation by taking the focus off children with disabilities (i.e. what the law is about) and putting it on the non-disabled children (i.e. what the law is not about)?

I pose that question because that’s exactly what opponents of same-sex marriage continually do. They attempt to frame this issue not in terms of what it is about, but in terms of what it’s not about.  When they argue their side, they don’t talk about gay people, and in fact do everything they can to frame it in terms of of everyone except gay people. So, instead of betraying either the ignorance or ugliness (or both) of what they really believe (“being gay is a choice,” “homosexuality is evil,” “gays and lesbians are sinners,” “they should just go back into those closets and not expose ‘our’ children to their unhealthy lifestyle,” etc. etc. etc.), they frame the issue of same-sex marriage and the civil rights of LGBT people almost entirely in terms straight people and children.

If you’ve any doubt, here are the talking points the so-called National Organization for Marriage suggests its supporters put on a 3×5 card, always ready at hand:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Marriage is about bringing together men and women so children can have mothers and fathers.
  • 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.
  • Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose; they don’t have a right to redefine marriage for the rest of us.

Notice that every point except the last one has nothing whatsoever to do with gay people. They all have to do with husbands and wives, (straight) mothers and (straight) fathers, and children (of heterosexual parents). And even the point that does mention “gays and lesbians” tries to start off positively, though it does so by perpetuating the lie that one’s sexual orientation is a choice.

Each of these points is easily be rebutted one by one; and for those actively engaged in the debate, it’s important to be able to do that.  From my perspective, however, it’s equally if not more important not merely to rebut these talking points, but to reframe the issue in terms of what it’s really about.  Previously, I’ve written about how those who oppose same-sex marriage get the answer wrong, because they have the question wrong.  “The issue isn’t about you!”  It’s about gays and lesbians.  It’s about those whom God created and gifted with same-sex attraction and whether or not society will recognize the full humanity of gay people, providing the full respect our humanity demands. Is that so hard to understand?

So, instead of playing their game and simply rebutting their talking points, here are a few of my own:

  • Sexual orientation, in all its diversity, is part of our God-given human nature. In every age and in every culture, God has created a certain percentage of people with same-sex attraction.
  • Marriage is an important civil and religious institution by which societies publicly sanction and support the loving, committed relationship of two people.
  • For gay men and women, establishing stable, loving, and committed relationships is good for themselves and good for society as a whole.
  • Just like a straight couple who either choose not to have children or marry later in life yet still enjoy the rights, benefits, and privileges of marriage, so too should gay and lesbian couples enjoy these same rights, benefits and privileges.

Now what, Mr. Mutty?

New Ways Ministry’s blog, Bondings 2.0, has an interesting post today about the leader of the Maine Catholic Conference. Apparently Marc Mutty has had some second thoughts about the ways in which he characterized the impact legalization of same-sex marriage might have in The Pine Tree State. In Catholicism, of course, we’re all about changing hearts and moving more and more toward the greater good.

My comment to the post is below:

Yes, Frank, thank you for sharing this story. And while I share the respect expressed by others who are able to admire someone who now sees the “error of his ways,” the question then becomes, Now what?

At the time of the Maine initiative against same-sex marriage, I took the time to write to Mr. Mutty’s boss, Portland Bishop Richard Malone. Bishop (then Father) Malone had been a professor and advisor of mine at St. John’s Seminary College in Boston. “Dick” Malone — whose doctorate came from a secular, not Catholic, institution, Boston University — was well-like and admired as a careful thinker, a good teacher, and someone who challenged students with high academic standards. I reminded Bishop Malone of this in my letter, challenging him to see that from the perspective of reason, opposition to same-sex marriage (especially in the civil context) is on very flimsy footing. Needless to say, I never heard back from him.

So, I come back to my initial point, which I hope Mr. Mutty would consider. In our theology of Reconciliation, when we recognize we have done wrong, we are called upon to embrace a firm “purpose of amendment” through which we commit to changing past ways. So, Mr. Mutty …. Now what??

The [Real] Meaning of Marriage

This touching video describes the love and shared lives of two men, clearly married “later in life.” It’s worth a few minutes of your time.

  • “Why would anyone not want to foster love? It’s as simple as that.” 
  • As my brother went down the path of advanced AIDS…. I saw his trust in Dave… and the care Dave gave him….My husband said, I don’t think I could do for you what Dave is doing for Carl… I’ve never seen greater love than that.” — Carl’s sister.
  • “I thought it was awesome, I thought it was great! — Carl’s son on his father’s relationship and marriage to Dave,
  • “The way Davey would take care of my father….that was remarkable to me.”
  • “I was given an opportunity to care. ”  —  On caring for his husband Dave as he was dying with AIDS.
  • “I saw in their relationship the fruits of the Spirit.” — The couple’s pastor in Arkansas.

Australian Gay Marriage Video

Guess I am a bit of a romantic, but I admit it … I did tear up when I saw this! How can anyone watch this video, produced by the Australian advocacy group, “GetUp! Action for Australia,” and not be moved?

To all  Catholic bishops around the world (including the Pope); all the Republican presidential candidates who have signed pledges in support of DOMA; Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown, and other intellectually challenged supporters of NOM … how can you possibly watch this and fail to understand that support for civil (and yes, sacramental … but that’s another story) marriage will in no way harm either the marriages of heterosexuals or children?

This is about:

  1. accepting the fact that being gay is not a choice;
  2. recognizing that being gay is a natural part of the diversity with which humanity is so blessed; and
  3. deciding how to live faithfully and responsibly in light of the God-given realities of #1 # 2.

Archbishop Dolan’s Letter Recognizes US Bishops Don’t Speak for US Catholics

I just re-read the letter which Archbishop Timothy Dolan, current president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent to President Obama last month expressing concerns that the Obama Administration is no longer defending legal challenges to the constitutionality of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).

Dolan repeatedly notes that he is writing on behalf of the “Catholic Bishops of the United States,” and that the views he is expressing are shared by “millions of citizens who stand with us on this issue.”

What the good archbishop does not say, however, is that these citizens are necessarily Catholic; nor that he is writing on behalf of Catholics in the United States.  Perhaps this is because, given whatever limitations the logic of his arguments might have, Archbishop Dolan at least is able to read opinion polls and he knows that the views he and his brother bishops are espousing are not the views of most American Catholics when it comes to recognizing that even gays and lesbians are God’s children, with all the rights and responsibilities this brings.