Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Civil Unions"

This was one of my serious columns, regarding a situation about which I feel very strongly. Living here in Calfornia in the days of the abominable Proposition 8 passing - and the Cali Supreme Court holding up the decision - makes me glad I wrote this 5 years ago.

For the first time, the issue of gay marriages – or civil unions – has been brought up for serious discussion. With the Commonwealth of Massachusetts deciding that they are legal, there is finally real, tangible discussion about this issue. Yes, the State of Vermont allowed civil unions several years ago, but Vermont is a small state with little influence on others. When Massachusetts took this big step, it became major news.

The conservatives’ views on this issue are already well known. In a nutshell, they believe that allowing gay marriages leads to the end of civilization, as we know it. This is not a surprise. A bit more surprising is the mixed reactions occurring in the various liberal camps. Even my man Wesley Clark splits this particular hair, supporting “civil unions,” but not going so far as to call them “marriages.”

Personally, I don’t see the problem. I totally support the idea of gay marriages. And I don’t feel a need to qualify the statement. I don’t think they should be called “civil unions.” I think that if a marriage is recognized in one state, it should be recognized in every state. I think a gay married couple should be allowed every right that a straight married couple receives. Call me crazy, plenty have, but I simply don’t believe that allowing gay men and women to marry will cause the downfall of the American Way.

If anything, it should strengthen it. In a nation where “Family Values!” has become an actual battle cry, the idea of preventing people from forming families is ludicrous at best, discriminatory at worst. If gays wish to form families, and raise children, they should have the same rights as those who are not gay.

What we have to lose in this situation are our prejudices. What we have to gain is much more important: an understanding that one need not be a part of a mother-father-two-point-two-children family, to be part of a family.

But what we have come to, as we so often do when dealing with the conservative mindset, is a case of hypocrisy standing in for policy. As usual, the right-wingers claim that they are the ones who stand up for everyone and support equality for all. This is true, unless of course you are different.

The conservatives can give all sorts of reasons for why this discrimination is acceptable, from the irrational “the Bible says so” to the rational, if selfish, “I just don’t like it.” I believe it’s actually a little simpler and far more insidious than that. I believe that they are afraid. Not afraid of what these “wicked” people will do to the American Ideal, but afraid of change.

Our society remains in a state of flux, constantly evolving and changing. Fifty years ago, women were expected to set aside their own personalities, dreams, and desires, to become stay-at-home mothers and wives. One hundred and fifty years ago, it was legal to buy and sell black men and women at will. Two hundred and fifty years ago, the concept of America didn’t even exist.

It’s time to take a step forward, ignoring the crusaders of the status quo; those who would prefer to force their prejudices on others – those who, in the past, also supported the ideas of sexism, slavery, and crown rule. Those were bad ideas then. Fighting a change to create a more tolerant society is a bad idea now.

Show me some spine, folks, and tell me what you think. All responsible viewpoints are welcome at: ed@planetweekly. Incoherent ramblings will probably be okay, too.

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