Thursday, December 29, 2005

What's a "Larder", Anyway?

As he has a habit of doing, Blog Ally Robbie of The Malcontent put up a provocative post about the relative lack of new subjects in the "gay community", basically stating that we're down to two things -- hating the Pope and demanding gay marriage. This has spawned some interesting comments and got my own wheels turning on the topic.

Relative to gay marriage, Robbie first points out that many gays, married ones included, have not exactly latched onto the concept of "monogamy" as associated with "marriage". Several commentors have pointed out that that is not necessarily reason for ditching the idea, and I would agree with that. But I would also point out that the fact that it exists is going to butt heads with the existing heterosexual idea of the two being inseparable, Desperate Housewives notwithstanding.

As I've alluded to previously, the root of the "gay community", its business, its expression, its very existence when you get right down to it is sex. However, the historical and cultural root of marriage is commitment for mutual benefit, NOT sex. There are plenty of examples throughout the centuries of people getting married and not having sex, or having sex without being married and suffering no cultural or religious penalty.

In my opinion, gays have benefited in terms of relationship and sexual maturity from the fact that our unions have not been historically recognized by culture or by laws. Because we don't have artificial constructs to make the decision easier, we've had to deal directly with the attitudes and behaviors that hold people together or tear them apart, and as a result, have progressed much more deeply into the fundamental issues involving the interlocking of two peoples' lives.

What have we found? Marriage is a one-size-fits-all box, while the relationship of two people is anything but.

Does that mean we shouldn't be working for legal recognition of same-sex relationships? Absolutely not. On its most basic level, banning that is perpetuating the idea that private conduct between two adults, involving no one else, is somehow grounds for denial of public protection or benefit. That is both unconstitutional and unworthy of our country's ideal of liberty.

However, what needs to go along with gay marriage is a good public discussion and scrubbing of what exactly ALL forms of marriage constitute and what is really best in terms of legal protections/benefits. We as a country and society need to confront directly the fact that the vast majority of the benefits of marriage exist to a) encourage people to get and stay married using financial and legal "carrots" or b) make it easier and cheaper to have and afford kids. Those aren't necessarily right or wrong, but whether or not they should be applicable or even used should definitely be reviewed in light of our current culture and laws.

The problem is, though, that in order to do that, we have to get rid of two stumbling blocks to this whole discussion that seem ingrained in the "gay community"'s psyche; one, that the "intangible benefits" of marriage are conferred by law and not by the commitment of two people to each other, and two, that there is something WRONG with changing or expanding the definition of "marriage". Instead of harkening to what we know is an inferior model out of fear of the wingnuts or a quasi-socialist view that human behavior must be governmentally recognized to be validated, why not just appeal to peoples' logic and existing opinion, which is that gay couples do warrant some legal protections/benefits and not others? We need to take that, find out WHY people think we don't warrant certain ones, and be willing to ask the question if it makes sense to apply those to all heterosexual couples as well -- and doing that will both get us what we NEED and destroy the fundies' arguments against our legal rights.

For instance, if in doing so we find out the reason that married couples get tax breaks is to make it less expensive to have children part and to give a financial incentive encourage people to get married, we may decide we want the kid part, but not the payola, meaning that the tax breaks associated with marriage will only apply to couples with children. Instead of gays doing it, let's put Falwell and the fundies in the ridiculous position of arguing that relationships are not valid unless you get a bigger tax refund and that more money in your pocket is a good reason for getting married (think, "Anna Nicole Smith").

This is not rocket science. However, it IS a huge attitude change, and I honestly question whether our so-called "gay leaders" can make it -- or if our community has to make it without them.

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