Gay marriage. If you happen to be a right-wing, evangelical Christian who gets all a-flutter when Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher talk about "protecting" marriage, the words "gay marriage" probably evoke horrible images in your mind. There are several arguments being made against gay marriage, including the school of thought that gay people want special rights '" just because they're gay. If the phrase "gay marriage" makes you shutter in disgust, you're not alone. I don't like it much, either.
As a lesbian, here are a few aspects of "gay marriage" that I contend with on a daily basis.
Money. With the current issues facing our country, like high unemployment (for gay people) and gas prices hovering in the stratosphere (for gay people), we have to budget ourselves very carefully. We've cut back on frivolous extras and our children have chosen classes for next school year that don't cost extra fees or need a lot of supplies to complete. This is, I am sure, a distinctly "gay" issue, as straight individuals don't get laid off, and they are having no problem finding jobs.
Parenting. I have 3 children from a previous marriage. All of my children are grown and on their own. My partner has 4 children, all of them under the age of 18 years. They all live with us, and because we're gay, we must manage curfews, grades, parent-teacher conferences, as well as the issues surrounding the children of gay parents: like puberty, bullying, teasing, and homework. The children of straight couples do not have to face these issues, from what I've heard.
Romance. Straight couples have this one easy. Keeping the romance alive in a marriage is a huge problem for gay people. We must make time for each other is busy work schedules while still maintaining a parenting role with the kids. Straight people wake up every morning and just fall in love all over again. Not so for gay couples. We must work every day to make sure our partners understand how much we love them.
Sounds fairly ridiculous, doesn't it? If any of the above examples were exclusive to homosexuals, which obviously they are not, then certainly "gay marriage" would be different than "traditional marriage". But they are not. Straight couples have issues concerning money, parenting and romance, just like anyone else. So do gay people.
What is Marriage Equality, then?
I do not want gay marriage. I have no desire to have special rights that all Americans aren't free to enjoy. I don't believe that gay people are any better, or worse, at being in long-term committed relationships, nor do I believe we should have "separate but equal" status in our society. The phrase "gay marriage" implies that marriage between homosexuals is somehow different than marriage between heterosexuals. This is simply not the case.
Marriage equality means that we are all able to get married and be happy, or miserable. We have the right to pursue happiness with a committed spouse at our side. We have the right to get divorced and share in the assets of the marriage. Currently, if two people combine their lives and later decide to separate, the issues of spousal support, child support, and property division become far more convoluted because there was no "legal" connective tissue between the parties.
The argument has been made that a few simple contracts could establish that legal bond. This only goes toward the current inequality concerning loving relationships. Straight couples can enter into a pre-nuptial agreement if they like, of course, but they are not forced to contact an attorney and pay several hundred dollars per hour in order to have the basic rights of a marriage laid in place. Straight couples simply go the courthouse and buy a license. Once they are married, they file the certificate and all of those basic legal agreements are established. No muss. No fuss.
If two people live together for fifty years and one of the partners passes away, the other is not entitled to pensions or social security benefits like someone who was legally married. This is, of course, true to those heterosexual couples who choose not to marry, as well. The difference is that the straight couple chose to not be married. The gay couple had no choice.
If a gay person wants to have access to pensions, he or she must work in a job that provides a pension for them. This damages marriages in the instances (like mine) where one of the partners in the relationship is a stay-at-home parent. A straight "wife" or "husband" can be a stay-at-home parent and not worry about whether they are contributing to social security. They don't have to create their own pension from several decades of employment, because they can share in their spouse's pension after their spouse's death. If the gay couple does choose for one of the parents to remain at home to "keep the home fires burning" and tend the children, then the couple separates, the stay-at-home parent has no claim to the rights of spousal support, and they've spent sometimes 20 or more years not contributing to their own support later in life.
How are the situations I've described here good for anyone? Gay people are going to be in long-term, loving relationships. We are going to raise families and we are going to live next door to you, work in the same offices as you, and we are already teaching your children, defending your country and your constitution. By not "allowing" gay people to get married, the entire nation is robbed of the benefits marriage brings.
Marriage equality is good for families. Marriage equality is good for the economy. Marriage equality will not change marriage the way it is right now. Creating marriage equality in the US is simply the right thing to do.
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