Posted tagged ‘marriage equality’

Texas, Jake

May 22, 2013

How’s this for a catch 22:

A judge has ruled that a North Texas lesbian couple can’t live together because of a morality clause in one of the women’s divorce papers.

The clause is common in divorce cases in Texas and other states. It prevents a divorced parent from having a romantic partner spend the night while children are in the home. If the couple marries, they can get out from under the legal provision — but that is not an option for gay couples in Texas, where such marriages aren’t recognized.

This is another one of those laws in which both rich and poor are enjoined from sleeping under bridges:

[Texas District Court Judge] Roach said the clause doesn’t target same-sex couples, adding that the language is gender neutral.

“It’s a general provision for the benefit of the children,” the judge said.

Cassatt_Mary_Jules_Being_Dried_by_His_Mother_1900

And, of course, the husband’s attorney talks the same line — we’re only in it for the kids:

Paul Key said his client, Joshua Compton, wanted the clause enforced for his kids’ benefit.

“The fact that they can’t get married in Texas is a legislative issue,” Key said. “It’s not really our issue.”

Just remember:  the state can’t touch our guns (or require tornado shelters) because of freedom…but adults’ private decisions about whom to love must suffer the full brunt of state power.

Feh.

Image: Mary Cassat, Jules Being Dried by His Mother1900.

 

It Is What The Holy One Did For Me When We Came Out Of Egypt

March 28, 2013

It’s Passover, as I’m sure y’all know, and tonight we’ll be heading over to a friend’s house for a distinctly unorthodox (and late) second seder.

The seder — the ritual Passover meal — actually follows a Hellenistic form:  it’s a symposium, a feast in which the gathering converses into the night on some topic of interest or importance.

Tiepolo_Last_Supper

When a symposium is a seder the focus is on liberation, on justice, on the meaning of freedom and on the obligations that such a transformation imposes on those who are no longer slaves.  Most important, by long tradition and, in the best of my family’s customs, the Passover story is one to be told and re-imagined in the present tense.  That’s the meaning of the phrase in the traditional text (the Haggadah) cited in the title to this post.  Every year we are enjoined to tell the tale and to discuss its meaning understanding that we ourselves took part in the exodus.  We talk through the ritual of getting up on our own hind legs and moving (fitfully, incompletely) along that long arc that bends towards justice — us, ourselves — with no “as if” caveats involved.

I thought of all this reading Tom Junod’s post over at Charles Pierce’s shop on the gay marriage battle.  In it, he writes of his 28 year marriage, and his understanding that no one else’s nuptials constrain his own.  He writes, rightly, “like anyone who has ever been married, I understood that whatever threat there was to my marriage came from within rather than from without.”

That’s true — or rather, it’s a commonplace, obvious, the baseline of a humane understanding of love, connection and commitment.  But Junod is after more than a well-spoken penetrating glimpse of the obvious.  The meat of his piece lies with his account of the way in which his straight family is, in the eyes of those fighting the bad fight against same-sex marriage, gay as the day is long:

 

…my wife and I are not of the same sex; I am a man and she is a woman. But we are infertile. We did not procreate. For the past nine years, we have been the adoptive parents of our daughter; we are legally her mother and father, but not biologically, and since Tuesday have been surprised and saddened to be reminded that for a sizable minority of the American public our lack of biological capacity makes all the difference — and dooms our marriage and our family to second-class status.

…..before long I started hearing an argument based on biology or, as groups such as the National Organization for Marriage would have it, “nature.” For all its philosophical window dressing — for all its invocation of natural law, teleological destiny, and the “complementary” nature of man and woman — this argument ultimately rested on a schoolyard-level obsession with private parts, and with what did, or did not, “fit.” There was “natural marriage” and “unnatural” marriage, and it was easy to tell the difference between them by how many children they produced. A natural marriage not only produced children; it existed for the purpose of producing children. An unnatural marriage not only failed to produce children; it resorted to procuring children through unnatural means, from artificial insemination to surrogacy to, yes, adoption.

To be clear:  Junod is not pulling a Portman.  He makes it plain that his conviction in favor of gay civil rights derives not from his personal skin in the game as discovered in the “gayness” of his family, but from the idea limned above, that one’s marriage is one’s own business, and the opportunity to experience marriage is a universal right.

No, the point Junod makes here is that the recent arguments have distilled the anti-civil-rights position to its most craven and ugly core. To those seeking to bar same-sex civil equality, the only acceptable form of marriage is one in which children emerge the old fashioned way.  It is one in which the core function for the woman involved is as an incubator.  It is one which denies every other possibility that two people could form a lasting commitment to each other centered on affection, on daily business of making a life across all the dimensions we traverse in this world.  As Junod re-articulates, the campaign against gay marriage is not mere selective disdain for one class of people.  It is (as all civil rights battles are at the root) an affront to everyone‘s claim to full humanity.

 

Mademoiselle_de_Clermont_en_Sultane

Again, that’s the nature of civil rights:  when you deprive people of rights to their own labor, their own person, those slaves suffer the worst of the damage by far — but no one gets out of that relationship unscathed.  Masters and indifferent bystanders suffer diminuition too.  When you deny access to the vote, and hence to power, and hence to practical autonomy…well, hell.  It’s not as if Jim Crow brought the south a dynamic economy or cultural life.

And, as Junod writes, when you demand that some among us must do without the full emotional, spiritual and public benefits and obligations of marriage because only baby factories need apply?  The contraction of human possibility is obvious, and universal.

This all struck home the more because like Junod, my wife and I are adoptive parents.  I try never to discuss personal matters on the ‘tubes unless they belong to me exclusively.  My wife’s life and that of my son are theirs; I try not to trespass there in any matter of substance.  So I’m not going to provide any context, any further information, nothing, except that one fact, and it’s bearing on this issue.

I confess, I hadn’t been paying close attention to the “marriage-must-produce-children” nonsense until reading Junod just now.  First — it seemed purely risible, just monumentally stupid.  Menopausal women and low sperm-count-men shouldn’t marry?–and so on.  The claim reduces itself to absurdity without any external effort.  And second, who needed that deep foolishness to be persuaded of the case for marriage equality?  If I had a damascene moment, it came years ago, in the nineties, when I was working on a book in Berlin, and passed every day the unobtrusive triangular plaque on the side of the Nollendorfplatz U-bahn station, memorializing the 25,000 gay men transported to the camps under the Nazis.  If anything can wake one to the implications of any denial of full civil status, that one does. And there’s always the my-enemy’s-enemies test to fall back on too.

But Junod’s post reminded me of the deeper point.  It’s not that by virtue of being an adoptive parent I share in the stigma that anti-marriage-equality are trying to paint on my gay friends, neighbors, fellow-citizens. Rather, this is what the Hagadah said to me this Monday; what it will say again (eccentrically) tonight.  The fact that my son came to me from beyond the walls of biology is my joy, and it reminds me that this is happening right now — to me as I leave Egypt.

Try to deny that, try to diminish me to some fraction of myself, my procreative possibility or whatever, and I need to demand justice for me and my family.  And, as always, it can’t be justice unless it is not for me alone.  To paraphrase again the words of the old text:

This year we may all be slaves.

Next year may we all be free.

Images:  Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, The Last Supperc.1750

Jean-Marc Nettier, Madame de Clermont as a Sultana, 1733.

In which I Godwinize myself: Prop. Eight: Vote No…

November 1, 2008

Another unsought endorsement .

But even if it is or ought to be obvious where this blog and blogger stand on California’s Prop 8 and marriage equality (and civil rights universality in general), it bears witnessing in public.

Many others over much longer periods of time have made the case for marriage equality and for the defeat of the California initiative attempt to roll back that state’s recent championing of the, to-me obvious, recognition of the ethical imperative involved.

Here I’m going to offer no particular science — no arguing about the evolutionary genetics of homosexuality; no reference back to animal studies of sexual preference and behavior — no personal connections either, like the memory of the bar mitzvah I attended last year of the wonderful son of my closest married gay friends, none of that.

Rather, I’m just going to tell an anecdote:

When I was working on my book about Einstein, I borrowed a friend’s apartment near Nollendorfplatz in Berlin.  The U-bahn stop next to the plaza is an elevated one, with an arch piercing the track right-of-way to serve as the street underpass.  On the left hand limb of the arch there was a small plaque, topped by a triangle made of pinkish cut stone.

The explanatory inscription reads, in translation, “This memorial plaque at Metro-station Nollendorfplatz in Berlin-Schöneberg is to commemorate the Pink triangle. It was one of the Nazi concentration camp badges, used by the German Nazis to identify male prisoners in concentration camps who were sent there because of their homosexuality.”

It is the most modest memorial I have ever seen, demure, almost embarrassed to remind passers-by of the particular viciousness which it seeks to preserve in historical recollection.

The Nollendorfplatz station is a minor one in the Berlin system.  Not that many people climb the stairs just to the side of the plaque.  It is just there, waiting to be noticed.

And when you do — when I did on a grey February morning hurrying off to trace the progress of National Socialism in the newspapers housed in the state archives — the question of marriage equality, of full civil rights and social unconcern* for same-sex couples becomes extraordinarily uncomplicated.

When you can’t count Adolf Hitler as your enemy, you count me as your friend.

There is no real argument that needs to be made, I think, or rather, the implications of the Nazi search for markers through which to define people as less than human make an overwhelming argument for marriage equality, for social and legal indifference to sexual preference in general:

If we do not accept that human beings living their humanity must be equal in the eyes of the law and the state we open the door for all kinds of inhumanity, as Nollendorfplatz oh-so-gently reminds us.

I grew up in California; I wish I lived there now, just so I could vote against Prop. 8.  If you have that opportunity, seize it.

Update: minor corrections to fix the inevitable by-products of late-night, post canvassing blogging.

Image:  Michael F. Mehnert, Nollendorfplatz memorial, 2006.  Licensed under a GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.