Gay Marriage, Weddings, and Civil Unions

I wrote this article on November 16, 2006

So I’m watching Studio 60 last night and they raise (yet again) the question of same sex marriage, so I roll my eyes, sigh, think about changing the channel, but ultimately stick around (not a whole lot on on Monday nights, right?). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have no opinion on the topic or that I think the topic boring or unimportant or trivial, but I am just sick to death of the tired old arguments on both sides of the issue. We know both sides of this debate and have heard them until we (okay, maybe only I) am sick to death of the whole thing.

And then Studio 60 did something different, somehow managed to get me to think about same sex marriage again. Sure, they trotted out the “how’s it going to hurt traditional marriage?” and the “where is it allowed in the Bible?” questions (the answer to both is “it’s not.”), but they also brought up the question of a parochial society unwilling or unable to keep up with the swift changes of our age. This I found interesting. And refreshing. Maybe not accurate, but at least it was a new spin on the well-worn arguments in this debate.

The way the argument was posited was during an exchange between the two principal male and female actors: the female against same sex marriage, the male for it. She says the same stuff about same sex marriage we always hear from the right: it’s a religious, moral, and social question, and he responds by saying based on that argument, then, slavery shouldn’t have been abolished (I’ve not read the entire Bible, but I guess slavery is A-ok in there). Hmmm. So then she says (and here is the part that got my attention), but it takes time to accept change, and that Black people had been living openly as Black people for centuries; whereas, homosexual people had been living openly for only thirty or so years. Hmmm.

All in all not a very generous view of middle America (where the numbers are, and where “protecting marriage” is a real issue). But there just might be something to this argument, right? I mean, look what happened to Ellen DeGenerous. She comes out on her sitcom, kisses a woman on the show, and she’s out of a job before the end of taping that day. Next thing you know, everyone is kissing same sex people in prime time; Rosanne does it, happened all the time on Will & Grace, and well, on just about any sitcom you can name. Once it happened, it was somehow more okay. It’s like bad language and violence; it really wasn’t that long ago that prime time shows couldn’t air words such as “shit” and “whore,” but now, well, you hear those, plus “bitch” and on cable, even worse. It’s taking a mile when you’ve been given an inch; it’s pushing the boundaries . . . just a little, until they’ve been pushed back so far, they cease to exist. Women weren’t allowed to vote in this country until 1920, and now, less than a century later, at least one woman is thinking about running for President.

I have no doubt that same sex marriage will eventually be recognized by law in this country, and I think that’s a good thing (I’m not so sure that increased violence and foul language on prime time is a good thing). I guess it’ll start as “civil unions” which is just a bigoted and homophobic way of saying that homosexual people aren’t as important as the rest of us, that their love and commitment is somehow less than ours. But then, someone somewhere will realize that millions of heterosexual couples get legally married by Justices of the Peace or Notary Publics (the latter only in some states, i.e. Florda) without any religious involvement at all: across the land, opposite sex marriages are happening in court houses, on lawns, in living rooms, in forests, while snorkeling or sky diving for goodness’ sake, and all without the benefit of the (or any) church. Some of these people, GASP, are atheists or heathens or . . . worse! There is no “sanctity of marriage” involved here, right?

But these heterosexual couples are permited to marry and to be recognized as married by the laws of this land; so maybe it’s not a religious issue at all since marriage itself is not always about making an oath before God or even by people who believe in God, right? Wouldn’t that suck the religiosity out of it? To some people getting a marriage license is just as religous and spiritually meaningful as getting a fishing licence or registering their car with the RMV. But no one is telling them they better change their ways or they can’t get married (someone is probably telling them that they’ll burn in hell, but then, at least they can visit each other in the hospital on their way down.).

And when someone somewhere realizes all this, they’ll get the word out that a traditional church wedding and getting married are totally different things (very like a wedding and marriage are totally different things). And then people will be rushing to ensure that same sex people cannot be married in a church and/or before their God but only in nonreligious, nonsectarian ceremonies recognized by the State. And maybe that will be okay. I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

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