Friday, August 31, 2007

My Friends' Gay Ceremony, Things I Know

Tonight, I am going to a committment ceremony for two women. I thought it appropriate, considering my posts of the last week or so to talk about a few things.

Here is what I know:

1. Yes, they are two women. Today, they are having a marriage-like committment ceremony that represents the loving, sexual, monogamous, familial relationship that they have together. Neither this ceremony nor their relationship will have any bearing on that of anyone else's relationship. And, any subsequent dilution of someone else's relationship is probably due to the failings of the two people in that relationship.

2. Because they are two women, they have the same sexual parts. Some people believe that because they have the same parts, they should not or cannot have the same type of marital relationship that a man and a woman can have together.

To that, I say this: While I applaud your knowledge of rudimentary anatomy and your reminders that, yes, boys have a penis and girls have a vagina, some people, gay and straight alike, believe that mere anatomy does not prevent people from having loving, sexual, monogamous, familial relationships with another human being. And, as God, whatever It is, has blessed us with the intellectual ability to transcend our pure animal instincts we find that humans are not limited by mere biology in how we relate to other human beings.

3. Because they will be two people in a marriage-like relationship, they will do laundry, go out on dates, go dancing, celebrate holidays together, lean on each other when they mourn the loss of loved ones, have pets, get groceries, have sex, and yes, raise children together. And yes, they are going to raise children for the same reasons other couples, gay and straight, choose to raise children. They are not going to go all Raising Arizona on us and steal babies from other people, they are not going to engage in baby trade any more than male-female couples are when they adopt children, and they do not want to collect children as mere relationship "accessories" the way Paris Hilton, say, collects tiny dogs as fashion accessories.

Some people may say "What about the children? What if they don't turn out okay?" And to that I say, the studies I have seen have said that "the children" turn out fine, and they often turn out more accepting of people different than them, and not as confined by restrictive gender roles that are harmful to both women and men as children not raised by same-gender parents. You may discredit those studies, just as I may discredit the studies you rely on saying children do not turn out okay.

So, if some people want to continue narrowly defining families on the basis of sexual identity or by the number of parents in it, or by the number of people in it of a certain gender, I say to them: get your own families in order before you come knocking other families down. Deal with sexual abuse of children, deal with domestic violence, deal with adultery, and deal with abandonment. Deal with those things within your relationships that are both more numerous and more harmful to children than two human beings of the same gender raising children.

And for those who say, "What about the children? They are the ones who will have endure ridicule about their two mommies," I say this: Stop ridiculing children about their two mommies. If you truly care about the children, you will help create an environment that is accepting of their two mommies. Because families with two mommies are not going to go away.

The purpose of my friends' ceremony today, while conferring no legal benefits on them, is to symbolize to their friends and family, all of whom support them, that they are a family, that they are making a family, and that their relationship is marital in nature.

4. Because they will be two human beings of the same gender in a marriage-like relationship, in order to protect their legal rights and the rights of their children they will have to take additional steps that human beings in opposite gender marriages do not have to take. They can secure some of these rights by paying for a lawyer. If they cannot afford a lawyer, they will probably not secure these rights.

For instance,

a. If one of them dies without a will, the other will inherit nothing. In Illinois, legally married couples automatically inherit from their spouses in the absence of a will.

b. They cannot file their taxes jointly, like married couples can.

c. They are not eligible for each other's Social Security benefits, like married couples are.

d. A surviving partner cannot receive wrongful death benefits for she or their children.

e. Depending on employer, they may or may not be able to be on each other's health insurance plans. If one of them is covered on the other's health insurance plan, the covered partner must pay taxes on the health benefits received. Legally married spouses do not have to.

f. If they do not have a health care power of attorney, the other partner isn't entitled to make decisions affecting the health care of the other partner in the event of incapacitation. Legally married couples are.

g. No entitlement to family or bereavement leave.

There are a host of other benefits and obligations that go along with the legal benefits of marriage. Some of them may apply to this couple, and some of them do not (benefits regarding welfare, immigration, veteran's benefits, and government employment benefits for instance).

In the eyes of our legal system, these two women who will live together for many years as a married couple will remain legal strangers.

Until, that is, they are granted the rights and benefits of marriage. Until, that is, these human beings are no longer dehumanized and infantilized as part of a depraved group that is not deserving of such rights. Until, that is, people stop contriving reasons to deny people these these rights.

That's all. Here's to celebrating all families. Here's to celebrating love in this world.

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