Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Traditional marriage in California and beyond

I sent a slightly different version of this item to the New Yorker letters to the editor.

As I mentioned in a blog post last Thursday, I stepped into a blog-comment debate on Prop. 8 with a guy after a mutual friend posted a blog entry titled “Mawwiage” on her blog. His theory, and the theory of a very wrong New Yorker piece in the new Dec. 1 issue, is that old people helped push through Prop. 8, young voters opposed it by 13 points, and once the old people die off, gay marriage will once again become law in California. “[I]t’s hard to think of a reason that getting older should change their minds,” the writer opined.
I thought of a reason. Traditional marriage. The voters’ own traditional marriage.
Getting married for the first time drastically changes one’s perspective on marriage. Before getting married, one gleans his or her concept of marriage from parents, grandparents and married friends. Some of those people have wonderful marriages, and some unfortunately have bad marriages or are divorced. Until one actually walks the plank and experiences marriage for himself, he cannot understand fully understand what marriage truly means. Once married, I think his perspective changes (and improves) in two areas:
1. If he was previously ambivalent or mildly opposed to adultery, he now sees it as abhorrent and disgusting; and
2. He realizes how special and unique his marriage is, and that it is very different from the union of a gay couple. And that it deserves its own legal distinction.
Obviously, there are exceptions. Millions of married people cheat; and a number of the six million California voters who voted “no” on Prop. 8 are married. However, a huge percentage of those under-35 “No” voters are never-married singles. If the gay marriage forces in California manage to put another measure on a future ballot, they’ll find that a large numbers of this year’s “No” voters will be married. And those young married couples will no longer share the view that gay marriage is the same.


Ken Salkover said...

[Here is Amanda's initial comment.]
Amanda Newman at 1:38am November 26
I take issue with point 2. "He, (or she I might add,) realizes how special and unique marriage is, and that it is very different from the union of a gay couple."

My issue is this: How can someone realize marriage is so different from union of a gay couple simply by changing single status to married? A proper parallel would be going from straight ... Read Moreto gay to straight again. If one is not gay or has never had a gay relationship, one can't judge that gay marriage is different from heterosexual marriage. Your argument is as weak as male claiming "I flew to China for a week so now I know what it is like to be an African American female dealing with racism."

Also, you write that marriage "deserves its own legal distinction" from a gay relationship. Essentially, you go from extolling the tradition of a typical relationship and then declaring what the appropriate legal status of a couple is based on that. To take an emotional or religious statement about traditions and use it to justify a law is the exact opposite of what our country is supposed to stand for - a country that is supposed to be religiously free and allow its citizens the pursuit of individual happiness that doesn't effect anyone else. So my final question is this: how does gay marriage harm you?

Ken Salkover said...

[For readability, I dispensed with "he/she" wording. Please assume it can go either way.]
Amanda, no, I don’t think it would be necessary to go from straight to gay and back to straight to comprehend the difference between traditional marriage and gay marriage. Once a person accepts his marital vows, I think there’s an immediate understanding that one characteristic he most appreciates about his spouse is how different she is. I’m not just talking about the physical aspect. The way a married couple relates to each other is two people who are physically and emotionally different, with different mindsets, becoming one. There is no way a gay couple can relate to this concept.
Naturally, I don’t see my argument as weak. Claiming understanding of an African-American woman’s struggle with racism is patronizing in any respect. Again, I dismiss out of hand any suggestion that the gay marriage issue is in any way connected to civil rights. (And BTW many African-Americans find this attempted connection deeply offensive.) Gay couples in California have every legal right that straight couples have besides marriage. What exactly are they missing out on?
Yes, I believe traditional marriage deserves its own legal distinction. Yes, I did extol the virtues of traditional marriage. I hope I did not make emotional or religious arguments because I don’t believe such arguments are valid or persuasive. I doubt a single independent or undecided voter in California voted for Prop. 8 because a religious person told him, “This is what G-d intended.”
Gay marriage advocates like to say gay marriage doesn’t harm anyone, especially straight couples. If it’s really no imposition, then, why bother? Aside from that, by focusing on the idea of harming individual marriages, which gay marriage doesn’t do, gay marriage advocates are avoiding the real point. The real point is by equating gay marriage with traditional marriage, the concept of traditional marriage becomes compromised. Let me suggest another analogy: when a child is caught in the crossfire of gang warfare on the South Side and murdered, there’s no real effect on North Side residents in safe neighborhoods. But the city as a whole suffers. I’m not trying to compare gay marriage with murder. I’m suggesting that marriage is damaged when people claim something clearly very different from marriage is actually marriage.
Allow me to challenge you: do you honestly believe the special relationship you have with your husband is identical to the relationships of gay couples in your neighborhood?

Lisa said...

The way a married couple relates to each other is two people who are physically and emotionally different, with different mindsets, becoming one. There is no way a gay couple can relate to this concept.

On the other hand, the way a gay couple relates to each other is two people who, having their physical selves and much of their psychological makeup in common, can attain a far deeper sense of mutual knowledge and understanding than probably any heterosexual couple possible can. To use your terms, there's no way a straight couple can relate to this concept.

But of course, that's not really accurate. Because straight or gay, people are different. And a gay couple is going to have many differences as well. They will fill each other's gaps in much the same way that a straight couple will.

Don't take this the wrong way, but I've been in both kinds of relationships, so I have a little more to go on here. Your theory doesn't match my experience. And experience tends to trump theory.

Lastly, I'm not sure why you don't see this as a civil rights issue. Surely you know that the same arguments used against same sex marriage were used against interracial marriage not very long ago. There are people today who are dead convinced that interracial marriage is a crime against nature, and that you might just as well have people marrying animals. I know you'd rather not see your views in that light, but honestly, Ken, in another 20 years, there are going to be people looking back at the fight against same-sex marriage and being as confused by it as most people are today about opposition to interracial marriage.

Ken Salkover said...

>>>They will fill each other's gaps in much the same way that a straight couple will.

I disagree with your opinion that it's "much the same way." But I'll concede lack of experience and let you have the last word.

I vehemently disagree with the gay-marriage debate being compared to the now-moot interracial marriage debate. (Cf. Loving v. Virginia.) My DNA is very similar to that of any black or Asian MALE. But it is completely different from any female. There is a long history of interracial marriage on the planet and in this country; gay marriage has only been sanctioned recently, in a very few locations. I am very interested to see what the gay marriage debate will look like in 20 years. I believe it will be where California left it three weeks ago. The commitment religious organizations have to traditional marriage is nothing like the commitment a few racist religious organizations had to maintaining slavery and (later) racial separation. They will continue and always provide a solid foundation of Americans opposed to gay marriage.