Readers, I want to apologize to you for yesterday’s post. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I completely lost my nerve and caved in to what “people might think” if I wrote about what was really on my mind (“Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day”), so I posted that sweet little music video instead and hoped that by today, my mind would have moved on to other innocuous topics and let me off the hook. But no, this morning my brain is still filled with a buzzing swarm of angry ideas, so I will proceed with the post I should have written yesterday.
I don’t like bloggers who rant and I don’t want to be one, but on this particular topic, I think a rant is the only appropriate response. So here we go.
Chick-fil-A (CFA) is a privately held “quick service” chicken restaurant chain based in Atlanta, Georgia. Its corporate purpose, according to the FAQs on its website, is “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.” Company President Dan Cathy recently took a public stand against same-sex marriage that has sparked a national uproar. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declared yesterday “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” and CFA supporters flocked (pun intended) to the restaurants nationwide to show their support of the chain and apparently of Cathy’s position as well, creating blocks-long lines and traffic jams while setting sales records in nearly every outlet (including the one in my town). I am horrified at this outpouring of support not only for cheap fast food but also for ignorance and prejudice.
A friend of a friend on Facebook captured my thoughts exactly when he posted yesterday, “I appreciate my gay friends. I appreciate their right to be happy and share the same rights I do. I appreciate that gay isn’t going away or back in the closet and that’s called progress. And then there are those that appreciate a sh*tty chicken sandwich more than any of this.” (I’ve never eaten at CFA so I can’t speak to the quality of their food, but it certainly doesn’t appear to be very healthy.)
Supposedly these hungry patrons support what Cathy calls “the Biblical definition of marriage,” which, as a Bible reader myself, I know to be a chimera. This helpful graphic that has circulated widely on Facebook breaks it down nicely (click image for a larger version).
What Cathy and millions of his customers support is a marriage that looks like their own (or the one they aspire to): a man and a woman. Good for them that God made them straight. But God also made some of us gay, and we as a nation need to stop ducking away from that fact with the hope that it will somehow just go away.
People object to what they call “gay marriage” (what I prefer to call “equal marriage,” or just “marriage”) for several different reasons. In first place appears to be the procreation argument, that two men or two women “cannot reproduce” and therefore should not be allowed to marry. This is clearly just discrimination because straight people who cannot or choose not to reproduce are still free to marry. Procreation is not and has never been a requirement for matrimony. And this is the 21st century, for heaven’s sake; of course there are many other ways to procreate than by heterosexual marriage.
Following closely on the heels of this is the “what’s best for the children” gambit. Two points: 1) Most gay people have straight parents, so clearly the parents’ example does not determine the child’s sexuality at least 90% of the time. 2) Children who are raised by two same-sex parents are likely to be accepting of others’ non-traditional family structures, and how is that a bad thing for them or for society?
Next is the “it’s not what God intended” argument, which is pure nonsense. Read the Bible. Look at the graphic above. The “traditional” definition of marriage is always changing. Just 50 years ago, God didn’t “intend” for the races to mix in marriage, but that’s considered nothing more than ancient, misguided bigotry now.
And finally is the proposition that “the term ‘marriage’ should be reserved for straights only” from people who consider themselves to be tolerant but who just can’t overcome their own antipathy toward the idea of men having husbands and women having wives. These people support “civil partnerships” or other forms of legal unions that would give gay couples certain rights such as hospital visitation and survivor’s benefits but would not have the full protection of the law nor the full societal and governmental sanction of that special, sacred institution called marriage. Because, you know, straight people’s unions really are special and they deserve to have a unique name for their relationship that cannot be shared by anyone else because that would “cheapen the institution.” Or even destroy the foundations of civilization, to hear some people tell it.
It is this last argument that riles me the most. Consider this anecdote from Dan Savage:
ANY heterosexual couple can get this license, assuming they are not already legally wed to someone else or too closely related and are of age to consent (or have their parent[s] consent). And once they wed, that union is instantly and automatically recognized in every municipality in every state and every nation of the entire world–except in certain specific legal situations, perhaps, they never need to show a marriage certificate or any proof of any kind of this civil contract between them. The don’t even need to wear rings. They simply have to say “we’re married” and they are accorded all kinds of rights and privileges as spouses that they never would have enjoyed as singles no matter how deep their commitment to each other or how longstanding their relationship. Just a few dollars and a few signatures on a piece of paper and they’re wed before the world.
Gay couples can approximate some of the legal protections granted by the civil marriage ceremony, in some states, if they have a good lawyer and a lot of time and money to devote to sorting out matters of inheritance, child custody and so forth. But even with pages and pages of legal contracts, there is no guarantee, for example, that when one is hospitalized, the other won’t be prevented by the patient’s biological family from visiting. Waving a left hand with a ring on it isn’t always enough, let alone saying “but I’m his/her husband/wife” anywhere that equal marriage is not recognized. Without marriage, the best a same-sex couple can hope to achieve is long-term cohabitation and perhaps joint ownership of property while remaining complete strangers to each other in the eyes of the law. Marriage makes two people a family. Anything that strengthens the family is good for society, so anyone who claims to support “family values” should also support equal marriage on principle alone.
Civil unions impose not only a denial of equal rights but also an economic penalty on one class of citizens for reasons having more to do with fundamental prejudice than anything that can be legally justified. Simply because people don’t like the idea of two men or two women loving each other and having sex and living together does not give them the right to deny those men and women equal protection under the law. If you don’t believe in same-sex marriage, don’t have one. It really is that simple.
A short film called “It Could Happen to You” tells the story of a young man named Shane who lost his lover of six years, Tom, to a tragic accident, and was prevented by threat of death from Tom’s family from attending his funeral in 2011. This heartbreaking video illustrates all the prejudice and challenges gay people face every day, even from those who claim to love them most, their own biological families.
Would legalizing equal marriage erase these prejudices and challenges? Of course not, at least not immediately. But it would be a huge step toward full equality for gay Americans. We deserve nothing less.