Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A step in the wrong direction for Maryland

I waited to post on this until today. Yesterday when I heard the news, I was too frustrated and angry, and I would have just written some long soapbox-y diatribe. I'll try not to do that now. But I do feel like I have a lot to say.

Jacob tried explaining to me that sometimes, judges make decisions that even they may not agree with because their job is to decide within the confines of the current legal framework and the particular arguments with which they have been presented. And this one was tricky because the argument, as I understand it, was that marriage discrimination is sex discrimination, not sexual orientation discrimination. If you look at the example of the lesbian couple who was forced to separate because one of them was an Indian citizen and had to return to India because her visa had expired, and if they had been married, the American citizen could have sponsored her partner for citizenship, you could say that if one of them had been a man (something that is of course beyond their control), they wouldn't have had all the trouble they did. And that's unfair. But if you say, if they had been an opposite-sex couple, then you're talking about sexual orientation discrimination. It's semantics, but it's a very fine line, and the judges weren't buying it.

That's all a little hard for me to swallow. It's hard when from my perspective, the choice should be simple, and not a question of interpreting laws this way or that way. We're at an age where a ton of our friends are getting married, and I can think of three friends and their partners off the top of my head who would probably jump at the chance (or at least consider it seriously) if it were given to them. One of them is my best and oldest friend.

We struggled with the decision to get married, not because of how it would affect our lives directly, but because we felt conflicted and almost guilty about being in a position of privilege. This summer I wrote a research paper on same-sex marriage, and it made me think critically about what the institution has come to mean in American society. The counter-arguments almost always mentioned something along the lines that marriage exists in its current form because of the possibility of procreation, and opposite-sex couples are the only ones who can procreate "naturally."

I promised no huge rant, so I'll just say, if you have children, if you don't have children, if you've dealt with infertility, if you are a woman of any age, if you know children whose parents were never married and are (shocker, this one) totally normal, if you never plan to have children, if you have children who are not your biological offspring...think long and hard about the implications of that line of reasoning. Think about what really matters to you. "Legitimacy"? "Tradition"? Not so much for me. What matters are love, respect, admiration and dedication. Between any consenting adult partners, and among any family. Among human beings, really. And when you look at all of the marriage debate, those things aren't mentioned very much. Something's wrong with that picture.

We are very happy that we got married. In the end, it was what we wanted for ourselves. But I promised myself that I would try to help the effort toward winning this right for everyone who wants it.

So what can we do, now that the final decision has been made? The next place to focus is the state legislature. What couldn't be won in a lawsuit may be possible through legislation. If you live in Maryland, I encourage you to contact your state senator and delegates and tell them you support marriage rights for all.

P.S. The Washington Post hosted an interesting online Q & A session about same-sex marriage this afternoon. The transcript is available here.

1 comment:

Jacob said...

To paraphrase Prof. Eskridge in the linked chat: I agree with this post.