Sunday, July 30, 2006
This back and forth about CST and the estate tax is getting heated ... and I feel somewhat responsible, since it was my post (of a NYT article) that got the discussion started. So, by way of making amends, let me suggest that we take a deep breath and focus for a while on a less controversial topic: same-sex unions. In that spirit, read on:
New York Times
July 30, 2006
Same-Sex Marriage Wins by Losing
THERE were community meetings in Seattle on Wednesday. Some of the couples who had sued to overturn Washington’s ban on same-sex marriage, a case they lost before the state’s Supreme Court earlier that day, were going to appear. Gay and straight elected officials who support “marriage equality” were going to make speeches. I probably should have been there too.
But I had a previous engagement.
The Seattle Mariners were playing the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco
Field. My 8-year-old son — adopted at birth by my boyfriend and me —
loves the M’s almost as much as he hates the way a breaking news story
can keep me late at work. He would never have forgiven me for skipping
I didn’t feel too bad about missing the meetings. Washington’s high
court rejected same-sex marriage for much the same reason the New York
Court of Appeals did earlier this month. The speeches in Seattle would
no doubt be similar to those made in New York, and I didn’t need to
hear them again.
Basically, both courts found that marriage is like a box of Trix: It’s for kids.
In New York, the court ruled in effect that irresponsible
heterosexuals often have children by accident — we gay couples, in
contrast, cannot get drunk and adopt in one night — so the state can
reserve marriage rights for heterosexuals in order to coerce them into
taking care of their offspring. Without the promise of gift registries
and rehearsal dinners, it seems, many more newborns in New York would
be found in trash cans.
At least the New York court acknowledged that many same-sex couples
have children. Washington’s judges went out of their way to make ours
disappear, finding that “limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples
furthers procreation, essential to the survival of the human race, and
furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where
children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological
parents.” Children, the decision continues, “tend to thrive in families
consisting of a father, mother and their biological children.’’
A concurring opinion gave the knife a few leisurely twists: due to
the “binary biological nature of marriage,” it read, only opposite-sex
couples are capable of “responsible child rearing.”
These stunning statements fly in the face of the evidence about gay
and lesbian parents presented to the court. Similar evidence persuaded
the high court in Arkansas to overturn that state’s ban on gay and
lesbian foster parents.
What the New York and Washington opinions share — besides a willful
disregard for equal protection clauses in both state Constitutions — is
a heartless lack of concern for the rights of the hundreds of thousands
of children being raised by same-sex couples.
Even if gay couples who adopt are more stable, as New York found,
don’t their children need the security and protections that the court
believes marriage affords children? And even if heterosexual sex is
essential to the survival of the human race (a point I’m willing to
concede), it’s hard to see how preventing gay couples from marrying
increases heterosexual activity. (“Keep breeding, heterosexuals,” the
Washington State Supreme Court in effect shouted, “To bed! To bed! To
bed!”) Both courts have found that my son’s parents have no right to
marry, but what of my son’s right to have married parents?
A perverse cruelty characterizes both decisions. The courts ruled,
essentially, that making my child’s life less secure somehow makes the
life of a child with straight parents more secure. Both courts found
that making heterosexual couples stable requires keeping homosexual
couples vulnerable. And the courts seemed to agree that heterosexuals
can hardly be bothered to have children at all — or once they’ve had
them, can hardly be bothered to care for them — unless marriage rights
are reserved exclusively for heterosexuals. And the religious right
accuses gays and lesbians of seeking “special rights.”
Even if you believe that marriage plays a special role in the lives
of heterosexuals with children (another point I’m happy to concede),
can it not play a similar role in the lives of homosexual couples,
whether they’re parents or not? Marriage, after all, is not reserved
for couples with children. (Perhaps it will be soon, if courts keep
heading in this direction.)
When my widowed grandfather remarried in his 60’s, he wasn’t seeking
to further the well-being of his children, who were grown and out of
the house. He was seeking the security, companionship and legal rights
that marriage provides. The survival of humankind was the furthest
thing from his mind.
These defeats have demoralized supporters of gay marriage, but I see
a silver lining. If heterosexual instability and the link between
heterosexual sex and human reproduction are the best arguments
opponents of same-sex marriage can muster, I can’t help but feel that
our side must be winning. Insulting heterosexuals and discriminating
against children with same-sex parents may score the other side a few
runs, but these strategies won’t win the game.
So I’m confident that one day my son will live in a country that
allows his parents to marry. His parents are already married, as far as
he’s concerned, as my boyfriend and I tied the knot in Canada more than
a year and a half ago. We recognize, even if the courts do not, that
it’s in his best interest for us to be married.
And while Wednesday was a dark day, the M’s beat the Blue Jays 7 to 4, so it wasn’t a total loss.
The Seattle Mariners were playing the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field. My 8-year-old son — adopted at birth by my boyfriend and me — loves the M’s almost as much as he hates the way a breaking news story can keep me late at work. He would never have forgiven me for skipping the game.
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