Thoughts on marriage, before SCOTUS occupies the field

December 7, 2012 — 1 Comment

Same-sex marriages are neither better nor worse than opposite-sex marriages, just different.

Marriage is the union of a man and a woman; same-sex marriage is a different kind of iStock_000017570304_ExtraSmall(1)marriage. Why doesn’t that settle everything?

Referring to the union of one man and one man, or the union of one woman and one woman, as a “same-sex” marriage does not mean it is not a marriage.

It is not bigotry to believe that “marriage” refers to the union of one man and one woman, and “same-sex marriage” refers to something else of equal dignity.

Pretending that same-sex marriage is identical to opposite-sex marriage is not helping.

Same-sex and opposite-sex marriages are the same, except for the ways in which they are different, which makes all the difference.

Same-sex marriages are intellectual and emotional unions. Opposite-sex marriages are intellectual, emotional and biological unions. The union of opposite-sex couples typically produces children of the marriage. This is a difference that matters.

Same-sex and opposite-sex couples should be permitted, indeed, encouraged to marry, but should not be encouraged to pretend that there is no difference between same-sex and opposite-sex marriage.

Skydiving is not the same as deep-sea diving.

The sameness between opposite-sex and same-sex marriages is incidental, but the difference is essential.

Ice-skating and ice fishing are different things.

It is OK to discriminate on the basis of gender when choosing your life partner.

“Diversity” is not a punch line.

Celebrate diversity seriously: laws designed to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability celebrate differences, they do not eliminate or ignore differences. Laws designed to eliminate discrimination on the basis of same-sex or opposite-sex marriage ignore differences that they should be celebrating.

Same-sex marriages and opposite-sex marriages are defined by their differences, not by their similarities.

“Separate, but equal” is not a punch line.

Opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages are equal; no one is trying to segregate opposite-sex couples from same-sex couples; the phrase “separate but equal” is irrelevant to this conversation.

Self-Evident Truths about Marriage:

All arguments about same-sex marriage seem to be designed to perpetuate the argument about same-sex marriage; as if any conclusion that resolves the argument is, for that reason alone, invalid.

For example, one of the current centers of same-sex debate is the State of California, a trend setting, groundbreaking State in the world of same-sex marriage. California is the State that gave us the “Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003.” This is a law passed by California’s legislature and signed by California’s Governor that, by its terms, gave same-sex couples “the same rights, protections, and benefits, and . . . the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law . . .” as married spouses.

Why didn’t that settle everything?

That didn’t settle everything, because differences are essential to same-sex marriage.

The Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act begat litigation, which begat the California Supreme Court’s ruling in In Re Marriage Cases, which invalidated Proposition 22 (a law enacted by California voters in May 2000 that restricted marriages to only those between opposite sex couples), and declared that same–sex couples had a constitutional right to marry; which begat Proposition 8, which amended the State Constitution to read that “[o]nly marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”; which begat Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which found Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution; which led to more appeals, which are expected ultimately to be heard and decided by the United States Supreme Court.

Yet, in California, same-sex couples still have available to them “the same rights, protections, and benefits” as married spouses, under The Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003; and the same responsibilities, obligations and duties.

But same-sex marriage is not the same as opposite-sex marriage; the whole point is that same-sex and opposite-sex marriages are different.

The problem with resolving the argument is that there is no argument.

There are three self-evident truths about marriage:

First, opposite-sex marriage should be, and is, permitted;

Second, same-sex marriage should be, and is, permitted; and,

Third, opposite-sex marriage is not the same thing as same-sex marriage.

The fighting words are contained in the third apparently arguable truth about marriage: that opposite-sex marriage is not the same thing as same-sex marriage. Without the linchpin argument that opposite-sex marriage is identical to same-sex marriage, all other arguments about unfair and unconstitutional discrimination fail.

Agreeing to the premise that the marriage of Jack and Jill is not the same as the marriage of Jack and John, or the marriage of Jill and Jane, does not require a value judgment. The marriage of Jack and Jill is neither inherently better nor worse than the marriages of Jack and John or of Jill and Jane. It is just (apparently, arguably) different.

The same-sex marriages of men may turn out to be better or worse than the same-sex marriages of women, or better or worse than opposite-sex marriages, yet they each deserve the chance to find out without being burdened by the fiction that opposite-sex marriages are the same thing as same-sex marriages.

Mother’s Day is not anti-Father’s Day.

Mothers are celebrated on mother’s day, fathers are celebrated on father’s day, and there ought to be a day for celebrating the union of one man and one woman in marriage in love for a lifetime. Instead, marriage is increasingly celebrated as a tool for discriminating against same-sex couples, and for nothing else.

Marriage is viewed as the last redoubt of bigots and homophobes.

Marriage is not a rose by another name.

Marriage is marriage.

Marriage is either a rose or a tulip, it can’t be both.

On the one side, the battle is over the right of same-sex couples to partner, to form families, to live out their lives together as married couples. On the other side, the battle is over the meaning of the word marriage.

We will never reach the end of the fight over marriage versus gay marriage, over same-sex marriage versus opposite-sex marriage, until we accurately state the terms of engagement.

The fight between those who believe that there is no difference between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages, and those who believe that opposite-sex marriage should not even exist, is not a winnable fight.

Let’s retire to our neutral corners and carry on with our married or unmarried lives, child-bearing or non-child bearing, same-sex or opposite-sex, secure in the belief that our private, personal lives, with or without the benefit of marriage, are our private, personal business, not your personal business, and not the State’s personal business.

Let opposite-sex marriage be opposite-sex marriage; let same-sex marriage be same-sex marriage.

All marriages succeed or fail from the neck up.

Let’s get to work on that area.

Kevin Forrester


Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. “Truth, Metaphor, and Race in the Marriage Debate” | Kevin Forrester - February 10, 2013

    […] “Truth, Metaphor and Race in the Marriage Debate” by Robert Oscar Lopez rings true to me, a straight father of two adult children, and I offer it here as an apt follow-up to my “Thoughts on marriage, before SCOTUS occupies the field.” […]

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