Gay Marriage

One Oglethorpe Echo newspaper column that got left out, from 2004.

Okay, now I’ve had it.  I’ll warn you ahead of time – you probably won’t like what I have to say this time.  I dislike writing about highly controversial things and definitely prefer to write humorously about things that really don’t matter.

This time, however, I’m stepping into it because I can no longer keep silent on one particular topic – gay marriage.

It’s all about bigotry and paranoia.  So much so that I sometimes feel like we’re back in the middle of segregation and racism, in the middle of the “feminist” movement.   Hey, they are different – they aren’t like us – they are not human, shouldn’t be allowed here, have no place doing things like us and so on and so on.

I returned to Georgia back in the early 1980’s because Georgia was making progress.  I stayed here because I have watched the march of progress continue.  Now, I’m not so happy.  Though gay marriage is not the only topic that has helped create this situation, it is my topic for today.

I am a happily married woman, married to a wonderful man.  We were not married in a church but had a civil ceremony presided over by a judge. We have a good relationship and a strong commitment. I was unable to have any more children by the time we married so procreation has never been an option for us these past 15 years.

I am proud of our 15-year history.  I’m even prouder still of my sister’s 25-year relationship.  Her solidly committed relationship is now entering the retirement phase since both she and her partner will be retiring in the next year or two. Just like any couple their relationship is evolving to another plateau, one that my husband and I will be facing some years in the future when retirement is right for either or both of us.

My sister is much more conservative than I, has held an important job at the Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta since 1966 and is financially much more stable than I.  She has a much wider circle of friends and neighbors than I do and is well liked and respected by them and by her co-workers and the many doctors who rely on her advice and expertise.

She is also gay.  Personally, I wish she wasn’t but probably not for the reasons you would think.  I would prefer her life to have been less stressful; I would have preferred to have nieces and nephews.  I would prefer to be closer to her but the 7 years between us and her different approach to life in general simply hasn’t allowed that to happen.

One thing is for sure.  Her sexual orientation and her relationship with her partner have never threatened me or my marriage.  She has managed a longer running relationship than I.  Her 25-year relationship is a marvel to me as I have been married several times before.

Okay, let’s recap.  My marriage ceremony was not religious.  I can’t have more children. I have a civil union that is also a committed loving relationship.  We married because we believe the legalities are important to protect each other and our property and because it a sign of the depth of our commitment.

Now who I am to say my sister doesn’t have the same rights as I to that?  Her partner is a woman; mine is a man.  That is the only difference between the two of us.

Okay, so lots of folks disagree with me – actually polls are splitting the pro’s and con’s down the middle, half for and half against.  Out here in Oglethorpe County that percentage is possibly not realistic since southern rural areas traditionally tend to be more conservative.

That brings me to my next problem.  Legislating against gay marriage.  Georgia already has a law on the books prohibiting civil unions for homosexual partners.  Now, somebody is wasting more time on a state constitutional amendment for the same.  And now, a U.S. constitutional amendment is underway.

There’s such a thing as checks and balances written into our constitution.  This whole amendment push is solely about bypassing the courts.  It’s all about denying a certain class of citizens their civil rights.

They never ratified the ERA amendment that declared men and women to be equal.  The courts and the legislatures had to make it so.  Thank you to the many who contributed to that.  Now I can choose what name I want on my driver’s license – I remember when you had to take and use your husband’s name. No longer can someone tell me they won’t hire me because I’m a woman (yup, said it to my face in 1976!).

I remember when just talking to a black (excuse me, an Afro American – showing my age here) teenage boy in high school meant you were dating and doing all sorts of unholy things with that person.  I remember so vividly Lester Maddox and his axe handles to keep “those n_______s” out of his restaurant.  I remember being just as angry then as I am now.

I also remember when, not that long ago, there were still laws on the books making certain sexual acts within a marriage illegal!  Finally, the courts have acted on those types of laws and the privacy of one’s own bedroom has been affirmed.  It’s none of my business what goes on in your bedroom.  Thank heavens!

It’s all about bigotry. It’s all about “them and us” attitudes.  It’s not about religion since everyone in this country has the right to believe what they want.   It’s not required to be Christian.  It’s not required to have a church sanction a marriage.  It’s not about having children or not having children.  It’s not about what happens in someone else’s bedroom.

It is about giving your partner and your property protection.  It is about letting citizens be responsible and doing the right things to prepare for crisis, illness and death.  It is about giving civil rights to everyone. Nothing more; nothing less.

Yup, now that’s something I believe in – civil rights.