Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Gay Marriage Is All About Values

One thing I've been thinking about was a letter to the editor that showed up in today's Minneapolis Star Tribune. It's an argument that I hear all the time concerning gay marriage. I used to agree with it, but I don't anymore. The impetus of this is a column written by the Strib's token conservative columnist, Katherine Kersten (being center-right in my politics, I like to see conservative writers, but I perfer ones with brains. Ms. Kersten doesn't have one. Or a heart for that matter) that talks about how Canada is sliding towards Gommorah because of it's support for gay marriage. Whenever people start talking about gay marriage, you will hear an argument from our side. Here's an example:

Katherine Kersten states that the proposal to preserve same-sex marriage will be one of the biggest issues of the next legislative session. If so, shame on us.

We have children without health care, traffic congestion, working parents unable to afford housing, and underfunded schools. If we allow ourselves to be diverted and avoid the real moral issues before our state, how can we kneel in prayer before the God who calls us to lives of justice and compassion?

Now, there was a time in my life that I would have agreed with this writer. But I don't anymore. Why? Because what this person is saying basically is that gay marriage doesn't matter. It isn't a moral issue. We have more important things do deal with than two guys getting hitched. The message this line of thinking sends is that gay marriage isn't important. If we are saying that to the general public, you know what happens? The general public will listen.

The fact is gay marriage does matter. It matters to millions of gay Americans who have or are intending to have a life partner, someone to share their lives with. It matters when one person in gay couple gets sick and the other person can't visit because he's not a legal relative in the eyes of the state. It happens when one partner can't get the other's social security benefits when the other one dies. It matters.

A few weeks back, Log Cabin President Pat Guerriero was in town. My friend and fellow Republican, Mark, was able to get him on a local radio station that has a lot of conservative programming. He shared a story of two gay men in Vermont who have been partnered for 50 years. One served his country in war. The other was a teacher. They are both in their 80s. One is very ill and will die soon and as it stands now, the surviving spouse won't get the dying man's social security benefits.

That is a moral issue. These two men have given of themselves to help others and this is how society treats them.

The anti-gay crowd have one thing right about this issue. They know it matters and will do what it takes to stop gays from marrying and hopefully put us back in the closet. Why are we and our allies so scared to deal with this honestly and say this is about values and morals? How can one be moral and deny people things like seeing a sick partner?

Maybe it's easier for me because I'm somewhat more conservative, but values do matter. Not the one that the religious right spouts, but the values my parents taught me about being kind to people and tolerant of others.

I think we need to start talking about values. Getting married is a value. And it matter and it's important. We need to start acting like it is.


At 8:16 PM, Blogger Lessica said...

I'm glad to see that there are still good Republicans in the world who see the problems that denying gay marriage cause.
I myself am more of what some would call a "communist bleeding heart liberal", but nonetheless I see we share some values.

At 7:26 AM, Blogger fmodo said...

You may be interested in this post trying to explain geographical variations in attitudes toward gay marriage.

Also, I've commented on Muder's article in UU World about the differences between how religious conservatives and religious liberals think about family--the dichotomy between obligation-based and commitment-based relationships. I suspect that obligation-based thinking relies more on rigid ideas of the definition of a family, explaining why gay marriage would be seen as a fundamental challenge to the system.

Muder also writes:

For years, religious liberals have been publicizing the wrong thing about ourselves: our freedom. The Right knows that we have more freedom than they do, and they see it as evidence of our superficiality: Sure, you’re free. You can get an abortion. You can get a divorce. You can drink. You can sleep in on Sunday mornings. You can go to porno movies. You can sleep around.

They’re not impressed.

They see us as people who want to be free to slough off our obligations. They don’t understand that we want to be free to make commitments. And that we do make them and keep them. That part doesn’t fit. It breaks the frame.

When I look at this congregation, I see a lot that would break the frame of the Religious Right, if they only knew about it. I see married couples -- gay and straight alike -- who stand together and handle gracefully whatever the world throws at them. Their frame can’t account for that.

I see children who are growing up to be fine young men and women. Their frame can’t account for that.

I see people who give up their time, their energy, and their money to make the world better. Who build affordable housing. Who are committed to peace. Who make beautiful art and music. Who care for the mentally ill. And there are people I don’t see right now, because at this moment they’re back there teaching our children to be better people.

Their frame can’t account for that.

The Religious Right sees itself as the last embattled fortress of virtue in a world overrun with vice. If evil is breaching that fortress, it just makes their battle more desperate. But if goodness is alive and well outside the walls, that doesn’t fit. It breaks the frame.

We fight them best by making lives that they have to admire. By building better families and better communities. By contributing more to the world. By doing it in public. By doing it in ways they can’t ignore. If you want to hear sermons about family values, go listen to Jerry Falwell. He’s good at that. But if you want to be surrounded by people who live values, whose example can show you how to make your family work, come here.

That’s the message that wins.


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