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Marriage, the Military, mofic and Other Things That Start With the Letter M - Mo's Journal
March 31st, 2006
02:59 pm

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Marriage, the Military, mofic and Other Things That Start With the Letter M
I've been discussing same-sex marriage on blue_braces's journal and also on a lesbian mothers' list. This post expands on and adapts things I said in both.

First of all, I'm in favor of legal recognition of same-sex marriage. I was married for over a quarter century and had three kids with my then spouse. I feel like we have all (me, my ex, the kids, and society as a whole) been disadvantaged by discriminatory marriage laws. I think it's a huge mistake society has made to exclude same sex couples from the rights of marriage even as we voluntarily take on the responsibilities of marriage. I think the fact that so many of us do choose to take on those responsibilities without the attendant rights is testament to marriage's appeal to many of us. I for one think a committed partnership with responsibility for each other and for children born or adopted during the partnership is a really great way to live.

I'm thrilled with the developments in Canada, in parts of Europe, in parts of the U.S., and even in South Africa that we've seen in recent years. I fully expect that in my life time legal recognition of same sex marriage will be granted on the federal level in the US. I expect to look back on this time much as we view inter-racial marriage pre-Loving, i.e. shaking our heads and saying "What were they thinking?"

That said, I have sympathy and understanding for those who express reservations about the emphasis we've seen on same sex marriage of late, and the kind of enshrinement of marriage as a goal of lesbian and gay civil rights. There’s a good article from The Nation from a couple of years ago that I think expresses the “anti-marriage movement position” (for lack of a better term) very well (and I thank blue_braces for reminding me of it). Lisa Duggan in “Holy Matrimony!” argues against jumping on the same-sex marriage bandwagon and in favor of pushing for “a flexible menu of choices for forms of household and partnership recognition open to all citizens, depending on specific and varying needs.” She argues that it’s not in society’s interest to privilege married couples and their children over other arrangements – single people with or without children, polyamorous arrangements, relationships of friendship or kinship of other kinds than marriage. You can read the article at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20040315/duggan if you like.

I think she makes some good points. I don't think that marriage is the only or best way to rear children and I don’t think other kinds of relationships should be viewed as inferior to marriage. I also don't think that marriage is without value if it's childless, so the emphasis on marriage as a method for child-rearing can be off base. I think to the extent that marriage has become less tied to biological parenthood, the better it is as an institution - I'd like to see that trend continue. I think we need better supports in our society for people who aren’t married - single parents, in particular.

I agree with the critiques of marriage that show how it has historically not been a good deal for women and I agree with the critiques of marriage that say it should not be privileged over other relationships where people take responsibility for and care for each other. I think those critiques need to continue to go on within the GLBT community. OTOH, I don’t think these kind of critiques have a place in the move for marriage equality, which I continue to think is an important one. I’m not surprised that the legal documents and the persuasive essays and so forth that have been part of the campaign to gain us equal marriage rights talk up marriage. If we want this right – and many of us do – we want it because we feel that legal recognition of our marriages is something of value. Not value for everyone, but a valid choice and one we feel diminished by not having access to. So our attempts to persuade courts of law and courts of public opinion will stress what we find valuable in the institution as well as our exclusion from it.

I do think that legal marriage is not going away. IMNSHO we do better to mold it into an institution we can live with than to hope for its demise. I can live with it if it's open to same sex couples as well as mixed sex ones.

OTOH, I understand a lot of the antipathy towards the same-sex marriage movement, I think, and not just on an intellectual level. I can understand the kind of visceral negative feeling that some feel when they see GLBT leaders seeming lauding marriage as a superior institution. I can understand how court documents (see http://www.glad.org/marriage/Kerrigan-Mock/CT_summary_jud_07_28_2005.pdf for an example of one) that present marriage as something special and peerless make those who choose not to marry feel like other arrangements are being criticized by comparison.

I understand this antipathy on a visceral level because I felt similarly during the campaign for gay and lesbian military service in this country (I’m still shocked we lost that one, btw). I have strong antipathy towards military culture and I have strong negative feelings about how the military has often been used in this country. Yet I do believe this country ought to have a military and do believe it should be open to lesbians and gay men on an equal basis to that of heterosexuals. So I’m in favor of ending the ban. Yet I cringed at a lot of the testimony and the articles, asserting that we are just as patriotic and just as eager to serve and just as committed to military service as our heterosexual counterparts. I mean, it’s true. We are just as committed as the rest of society – some of us really want to be in the military, some of us would rather go to prison, and most of us probably don’t want to be in the military but would if drafted and we couldn’t get out of it. But the campaign for the end of the ban on the military focused, of necessity, on those segments of our community who are strongly pro-military.

Some of the rest of us felt a little silenced and a little uncomfortable. I know I did. But I kept my discomfort under wraps by coming back to the idea that if it’s an option it should not be an option for straight people and not for us. Simple fairness. So I supported the campaign to end the ban, even though it wasn’t my issue and it made me a little uncomfortable. I think that’s all we can ask from people in the queer community who have negative feelings about marriage, too. But I don't think it's too much to ask. I think the discussion on whether marriage is of value should continue, intramurally.

I think in GLBT community we have people with a huge variety of attitudes towards marriage and we don't want to present marriage as the only way to form a family or have children. I do think those who are against marriage can still support the right to legal marriage, and those of us who do see value in the institution can still benefit from listening to and engaging with others on the critique of it. I think we're better able to listen to that critique if we believe those who disagree with us still support us in a move to gain this civil right.

Okay, I need another M thing. Monogamy – I’m for it. I respect the views of those who aren’t and I don’t think it should be the only option available, but I find it the most satisfying one. Oh, and milk shakes. I think there should definitely be more milk shakes in the world.

My thanks to the one person who read this far. I’ll know who you are when you offer to buy me a milkshake (vanilla, coffee or strawberry, please. I’m allergic to chocolate).


Obligatory X-Men fanfic reference - if legal marriage had been an option for Jean-Paul and Adam in the U.S., they wouldn't have had issues regarding Adam being the sole adoptive parent.

Current Mood: pensivepensive
Current Music: Daisy Daisy

(21 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
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From:clex_monkie89
Date:March 31st, 2006 08:31 pm (UTC)
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*Buys you a vanilla milkshake*
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From:mofic
Date:March 31st, 2006 09:19 pm (UTC)
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Why thank you. It's delicious! Let me do the same for you some time.
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From:clex_monkie89
Date:March 31st, 2006 09:49 pm (UTC)
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You're very welcome! Make mine chocolate and you've got yourself a deal.
From:inathunderstorm
Date:March 31st, 2006 08:50 pm (UTC)
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MMm. Vanilla milkshakes are good :)
I really liked your discussion here. I'm all for gay marriage, but mainly because of my Libertarian leanings I don't think the government should be involved in marriage at all. An individual has a right to decide what sort of partnership works best for them; whether it be heterosexual monogamy, homosexual monogamy, polyamory, or whatever. As long as people are living happy and healthy, then I'm all for it. I have a lot of friends in "non-traditional" relationships, and I really like what you said about how hearing marriage lauded as "The best thing ever" could be rather tiresome.

I'm married and childless by choice, and I know that it irks me on occasion (only a little, I'm fairly irreverent about everything mostly) to be hounded with the "when are you having kids?" thing, as if just because I'm married I *have* to have them because that's the "order of things." It also leads to what i feel are really invasive questions--"Well, is something the matter that you can't have kids?"--(like who wants to answer that!?) when people find out I'm not having any.

This was an excellent discussion. I really enjoyed reading :)
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From:mofic
Date:March 31st, 2006 09:22 pm (UTC)
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I'm not totally a libertarian, but I do agree that individuals should be able to decide on what kind of arrangements they want. And really, they can, within certain parameters. We're no longer in a society where a variety of sexual and interpersonal arrangements are illegal. Where we are, though, is where one is privileged in a way that others aren't.

I understand the irkedness (is that a word?) at the assumption that if you're married you'll have children. FWIW that's one problem gay men and lesbians tend not to have. Nobody assumes we'll have children and they're mostly shocked when we do!
From:inathunderstorm
Date:March 31st, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC)
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I like living in a society where things are varied and different. I'd be so bored if everyone was the same. *yawn*

I agree completely with you about the privileged thing.

What there should be more of in the world is bosses who allow their employees to leave at 3:30 on Fridays when the weather is nice. *nods* Just throwing that out there.

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From:mofic
Date:March 31st, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC)
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What there should be more of in the world is bosses who allow their employees to leave at 3:30 on Fridays when the weather is nice. *nods* Just throwing that out there.


LOL! What kind of work do you do?

It's 4:30 here and I shall be heading home soon. One extra kid for the night, so far...
From:inathunderstorm
Date:March 31st, 2006 09:30 pm (UTC)
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Ah, yes. Friday night sleepovers! I never really appreciated how nice it was of my parents and my friend's parents when I was a kid to allow those after a week of work!!

I work in fundraising at a private women's liberal arts college. I run our volunteer network and "friend-raise", mostly, but I do a bit solicitations (doesn't that sound naughty? Hee! It's so not that interesting) on the side.

This week, I've been a total slacker and reading/writing fanfiction at work. Because it is my firm belief I should be paid for that. And my volunteers have been driving me batty.
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From:mofic
Date:March 31st, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC)
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Cool! Women's liberal arts colleges figure largely in my fanfic. Well, one anyway. I have a friendship circle of women mutants who met at Bryn Mawr and are tangentially connected to the X-Men. They call themselves the Mawrter Mutant Underground.

And I totally agree you should be paid to read and write fanfiction. Would you like to give me your boss's contact info so I can explain this to her/him?
From:inathunderstorm
Date:March 31st, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)
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Hey yay! That's neat. Sometimes I think if our girls were mutants they'd spend a lot of time walking around going, "Um...like, what?" But I only say that because some of them are idiots. *giggles*

Many of them are bright, talented, and exceptional women and I'm proud to raise money for them.

Then there are some, like our work study student who needed an atlas to use Mapquest (O.o) that make me despair for today's youth.

Haha, that would be awesome! "Sionn needs to be able to research and write her fanfic, which features; dark erotica, slash, violence, angst, and alpha-male sex. It is very important she be paid for this." Could you get me a raise, too? That would so rule!!

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From:eveningblue
Date:March 31st, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)
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I will buy you a milkshake!

Having been through the past year with my dad, and learning about what privileges spouses have that others in a family (no matter how close) do not, I can say that the practicality of advocating gay marriage far outweighs whatever theoretical arguments you may have with the institution of marriage. Fine, live together because you are "against" marriage, but then see what happens when your loved one becomes incapacitated and you have no right to make decisions involving their care because he/she was not your legal spouse.

That's my two cents.
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From:mofic
Date:March 31st, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC)
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I think for some people the privileges that come with marriage are either

- not worth the responsibilities that go with it
- not worth engaging in a form of relationship they object to.

OTOH, as you allude to, some people remain outside of marriage because they don't really understand what's tied to it legally.

Thank you for the milkshake!

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From:mofic
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:15 am (UTC)
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I'm technically not allergic, but "sensitive" - I don't have an immune system reaction. But I think most people understand "allergic to chocolate" to mean "get sick when you eat it."

Interesting about the US/Canada differences. When I was first coming out (mid 1970s) the US - in places - was a better legal climate to be gay than Canada. That remained true for quite a while. But now it's totally in the other direction. OTOH, when my Winnipeg relatives are here, they comment on how much easier it is to be gay (and to be Jewish, for that matter) in NYC. "But you have legally recognized marriage" I say. "Laws aren't everything," they reply. That I can live in a lesbian neighborhood and my kids can know lots of other kids from queer families that they meet through school and swimming and whatever (i.e. not my friends' kids) is something beyond their ken. And when I was involved with a lesbian mother in TO her kids had never known others with two omothers except as introduced by their mothers...

Anyway, your point is a good one - if what marriage offers is societal benefits in exchange for taking mutual responsibility, then why limit that to sexual/romantic partnership?

I need a CanCon icon, but for now I'll use a Canadian superhero instead.
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From:ringthebells
Date:April 1st, 2006 05:27 am (UTC)
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When I was growing up (in Halifax, Nova Scotia) I got the sense that "vegetarianism" was one of those things that you don't talk about in polite company. Like "divorce."

Heh.

Otoh, now I live in Montreal, a city which has official tourist pamphlets proudly explaining about our distinctive cultural enclaves: Chinatown, Little Italy and the Gay Village!
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From:mofic
Date:April 1st, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC)
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Isn't Church Street considered Toronto's gay village? QAF US is filmed in TO but it's supposed to be Pittsburgh. I've never been to Pittsburgh and I know it's filmed in TO. Still, I'd find myself saying things when I watched it like, "Oh look! They have those bike racks in Pittsburgh on the street, just like in Toronto. Isn't that interesting?"

And my son would roll his eyes at me and I'd say "Oh yeah. I forgot."

They did an episode where they played with that - had a bike ride from Pittsburgh to TO to raise funds for AIDS research (like the rl NYC-to-Boston AIDS ride). And when they get there, they're all "Hey, it's like we never left home. It looks exactly the same here." Good self-referential humor.
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From:mofic
Date:April 2nd, 2006 02:19 am (UTC)
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It is. I had no idea Church Street was known outside TO!

It's not. I just spent a lot of time in TO for a couple of years, when involved with a woman there.
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From:mofic
Date:April 1st, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC)
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LOL! Have you seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"? The bride's aunt has a somewhat...Canadian view of vegetarianism, from what you say here. And actually she's played by a Canadian actress. Can't think of her name, but she's from the Toronto Second City troupe.

And I got me a CanCon icon.
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From:marag
Date:April 1st, 2006 03:52 am (UTC)
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Allergic to chocolate? Huh. I have a RL friend who is, too. Anyway, the milkshake of your choice, coming right up ::grin::

And I want to get back to blue_braces LJ and see the discussion, but I don't have time. But I did want to say that I agree with you. I think marriage should be an option for those who want it.
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From:mofic
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:17 am (UTC)
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I'm just awash in cyber-milkshakes!

What did you have for shabbos dinner, Mara? I made this good mustard chicken Doran invented, and tofu for the vegetarians in the bunch. Salad, rice. Challah (well actually it was a sourdough bread and we called it challah - I didn't get to the bakery in time). Two extra kids - Kendra's friend Rosie who is a Methodist was singing along with the blessings. I guess we've had her over for shabbos more than a few times...
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From:marag
Date:April 1st, 2006 05:19 am (UTC)
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We went to the in-laws (because two of Yael's cousins are visiting) and my MIL made corned beef, chicken schnitzl, couscous, butternut squash, mixed veggies, Israeli salad, cucumber salad, okra...and some other things I'm forgetting ::grin::. My MIL can be a bit over the top.

But we had a fabulous time with the babies toddling around and stealing toys from each other and whatnot. They simply could not be any cuter, even if a cuteness fairy came and hit them with a cute stick.
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From:mofic
Date:April 1st, 2006 09:22 pm (UTC)
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LOL! Well, glad it was fun. They're cute when they're big, too :-).
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