Sunday, March 12, 2006

You Don't Have to be Coupled to Want Marriage



By Steve Charing

Senior Political Analyst

Many, if not most, in the lgbt community are not involved in long-term relationships at any given point. Some have foregone any notion of having a boyfriend or girlfriend, much less a committed partner. They either cannot find someone to their liking or they don’t want to bother. There are those who have had bad experiences and are apprehensive about entering into another relationship. Then there are folks who enjoy the freedom of being single. Regardless of the reasons, a large number of lgbt people are single, and some may even remain that way.

Setting aside the pros and cons arguments of such a status, one thing is very clear: supporting same-sex marriage, or at the very least, opposing the opposition, is in every lgbt individual’s best interest.

Those of you who find marriage to a partner to be the furthest thing from your mind, the push for marriage equality will benefit you as well. "Marriage and marriage equality is not directly applicable to my life right now," said 19 year-old college student Stephen McCarthy. "But I understand the importance of it in our community's struggle for equality and respect and the specific opportunity it may offer me someday in the future."

If lgbt couples were legally recognized as married, they would enjoy about 1,100 benefits and rights, including medical decision making rights, that are conferred upon their heterosexual counterparts. These would add to financial and emotional stability and security to themselves and their families—areas whose importance cannot be overstated. And most people, I believe, still aspire some day to be involved in a long-term relationship. In that situation, they would materially gain from these added rights.

But the quest for same-sex marriage isn’t only about securing benefits that heterosexuals take for granted. It is about equality.

The opposition folks in the General Assembly and in the Governor’s Mansion have reared their ugly heads in the wake of the Baltimore Circuit Court decision in January (the ruling was stayed pending appeal) that said the existing marriage law in Maryland is unconstitutional. They are mobilizing to amend the Constitution so that marriage would be limited to heterosexuals. After such a move failed in the House, the effort is still alive (albeit on life support) in the Senate with SB 690.

These vile people want the issue of our rights put up for a popular vote in November. If minority rights were routinely voted on by the majority, do you think the equal rights of African-Americans, women, the disabled and other minorities would exist today?

And with the GOP floundering right now and Republican officeholders scurrying like rats on a sinking ship to escape the Bush effect, don’t be surprised if "gay marriage" is again injected into the fall congressional (and Maryland) election campaigns as a distraction from their pitiful records and to re-energize their bigoted base.

As I have written numerous times in this space, the opposition isn’t about marriage; it is about homophobia. Why else would some state constitutional amendments (including the original one proposed here by homophobic Delegate Don H. Dwyer, Jr.) go beyond marriage in their scope and try to eliminate domestic partnerships and civil unions as well? Their intent is to prevent lgbt individuals from reaching any equal status with heterosexuals.

This opposition transcends both political parties as even most Democrats are loathe to address the issue, let alone stand up for marriage equality. Democrats fear the political consequences of such courage produced by the GOP smear machinery that attaches "anti-family" labels to their candidacy.

They further understand the issue has been framed as "gay marriage," which embraces all the religious associations and trappings as opposed to civil marriage equality for same-sex couples with no obligation on the part of religious institutions to sanctify the union. In fact, approximately four marriages in ten in Maryland take place at county clerk offices or city halls. The electorate is probably not be aware of that.

When they diss gays and lesbians as they are wont to do, they are slamming all lgbt people—not just those in relationships. Single people, and even those who have no intention of marrying if the opportunity existed, are also being told they are inferior to our straight counterparts.
Didn’t we hear that enough when we were growing up?


Don’t they defend the horrendous "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy in the military by saying we’re not worthy enough to defend our country? (Never mind that they have kicked out key gay and lesbian Arabic linguists who would have been significant in the war on terror.)

Don’t they tell us that we are immoral perverts and should not be teaching in schools? (Never mind we are paying taxes to educate other people’s kids.)

Don’t we hear all the jokes and homophobic subtext concerning "Brokeback"? (The poor, poor religious right saw their comfort zone shattered by non-stereotypical gay characters in a multiple award winning film that is experiencing a huge box office bonanza.)

The last thing the homophobes want is for lgbt people to achieve equal status. Same-sex marriage would do just that. Their arguments are increasingly less compelling. Even the use of the Bible is being discredited more and more as passages are conveniently selected to support their bigotry. Resentment is steadily building against those who are forcing their archaic religious beliefs on others while a broadening theocracy is taking hold in our government.

Columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. also sees the transparency of some of these so-called people of faith. He wrote, "They're so panicked at the thought that somebody accidentally might treat gay people like people. They run around Chicken Little-like, screaming, 'Th' homosex'shals is comin'! Th' homosex'shals is comin'!’ Meantime, people are ignorant in Appalachia, strung out in Miami, starving in Niger, sex slaves in India, mass-murdered in Darfur. Where is the Christian outrage about that?"

The assault on same-sex marriage is an assault on all lgbt individuals. Even if one does not want to be married, it is difficult to imagine why one doesn’t want at least to have the option.
There is no shame in receiving the same rights and benefits as others; we should all strive for equal footing. We should NOT accept being looked upon as inferior as we’re NOT less than anybody else.


And that applies to single and coupled lgbt individuals alike.

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