In this blog, and another blog I used to write, plus my Facebook page, I wondered why the Christianist leaders and their followers (although not their followers so much since they are, after all, followers), anyway, I wondered why they were so virulently anti-gay marriage. What harm was it doing to them if I chose to marry a man instead of a woman? It wasn’t as though I was going to come into their home or place of worship and defecate on them. I wasn’t even going to speak to them since they don’t know me and I don’t know them except by repute. So, I was puzzled.
I reconnected with a good friend from college who has a good intellect and a mind with enough flexibility to provide good rhetorical argument while not getting personally involved to the point of hurt feeling. In our spirited discussions, she said that she believed in providing the same legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples as to opposite-sex couples. She just didn’t think it should be called marriage. I’ve heard a variant of this argument before so I came back with the fact that in our country “separate but equal” doesn’t work and the very phrase indicates one side believing in its own superiority. She agreed. She wanted the word “marriage” stricken from the legal process that conferred the benefits. She wanted it to be called something else, although she had no suggestions for what it should be called. She said that way, marriage could only be sanctioned by those groups who used it to confer a religious meaning, while everyone could enjoy the benefits of a legal union without the sanction of religionists. I told her I was going to have to think about that one for a while.
Now, I think I finally get it.
I have another close friend that I’ve known since almost the first day of high school. She is very religious, very open-minded, loves me dearly, but has told me that she “believes in the biblical definition of marriage.” She believes that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman for eternity. Initially, I was ready to write off a friendship of over forty years since in her mind I wasn’t worthy of the same rights and benefits that she believed she was. The more I thought about it, though, the more difficult it became to reconcile my interpretation of what she was telling me with what I knew to be her feelings for me.
You see, a gay relationship is not all about phyical sex any more than a straight relationship is. There are many people who would like to make us believe that so it will seem simplistic and easily managed. When I was in South Korea working one time, one of my team members, a younger guy who I’d known for several months told me that he didn’t believe I was gay. At most, he believed I was bisexual. I asked him why he thought this, and he told me that he’d heard the way I talked about women and how attractive or beautiful that one was over the other one; and, he said, he’d seen the way I looked at women in South Korea and it didn’t look gay. I had to laugh. Partly, I was laughing because this was the same guy who told me that he’d always known I was gay because I pronounced all my words properly. Mostly, I was laughing because he didn’t get what a gay person was all about. So I told him that I can appreciate beauty wherever it was found whether it was male or female. However, when I wanted to connect on an emotional level with another human being, I always chose a man, every time, for my entire life. I told him that I’ve had many close friends of both sexes, but the people who have always “got” to me were men. After that explanation, he agreed that I was probably gay. And that’s what a same-sex relationship is about. It’s not about the physicality of people involved, although that’s an important part of it. It’s about the emotional level where two people connect. It’s complicated in the same way that opposite-sex relationships are complicated.
So how do I manage to stay on close terms with a friend who believes that I shouldn’t be allowed the same benefits she should be allowed? I finally realized that she wasn’t talking about legal aspects. She was talking about religious aspects. She said she believed in the biblical definition of marriage. I figured out that I didn’t want her church’s blessing, or any religion’s blessing for any union I entered into. What I wanted was all the legal rights and benefits accorded to any person in a legal, binding, committed relationship recognized by the government of this country. I wasn’t asking for her form of marriage; I was asking for a legal union.
That’s when the first friend’s words made sense to me. Let the religions keep marriage and all the spirituality that it signifies. What is needed is a word to describe the purely legal definition that all citizens must enter regardless of the sex of the adults involved. Once that legal state is reached, wherein all people are treated equally in the eyes of the law, then the question of marriage ceases to matter on a political level. Those religions who choose to maintain the opposite-sex definition of marriage may do so without harming the legal rights anyone entering into the legal relationship.
As my college friend says, I don’t have the word for that relationship. We can’t use marriage because that already belongs to the religionists. We could use the word Union because that is what it is. Would that catch on? Every adult couple entering into a Union would then be afforded the same rights and benefits. If the couple then chose to add a religion-sanctioned Marriage to their relationship that would be between them and their religion.
So! What do you think?