I’m starting a movement today—Grandmothers for Marriage Equality. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and 12 states now allow same sex couples to marry.
I’ll get to why I believe grandmothers should work for marriage equality but first a little bit about how I arrived at my belief that same-sex couples have the right to marry.
Several years ago I was very unsure about how I felt about gay marriage or the more neutral term—marriage equality. But in the last few years I have become a supporter. Here’s why:
First, I have been fortunate to have close friends and family who are gay and in committed relationships. The old saying—familiarity breeds contempt—is wrong. Spending time with my friends and family made realize their relationships were much like the one I have with my husband—highs and lows, tears and smiles, good times and bad but love, respect and mutual support at the heart of the relationship. So in this case, familiarity bred understanding, respect and acceptance.
The second barrier I had to overcome was what I thought were the biblical prohibitions. The oft-quoted verse from Leviticus 20:13: “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” This verse is part of ancient Israel’s holiness code, which is part of the first five books of the Bible. This code also commands death by stoning for people who work on the Sabbath, for adulterers and for stubborn and rebellious sons, among many other taboos that would not be accepted today. At the same time, the code permitted selling one’s daughter into slavery or buying slaves from neighboring countries.
Opponents of marriage equality pick and choose the bible verses that support their position when they cite their objections. Instead, these verses must be viewed in historical context. In ancient times, child mortality and death from war and disease were prevalent. A high birth rate was necessary; hence marriage between men and women was a necessity.
The not-so-slippery slope
The third objection—and one that gave me pause—was the slippery slope argument. The argument goes: first comes gay marriage, and then comes acceptance of polygamy and other forms of non-traditional marriage. In reality, as a society, we define what is acceptable. Until 1967 interracial marriage was illegal in many states. In the 19th Century, it was commonplace for married women to have their legal and economic identities subsumed by their husbands.
Our societal values changed and the laws change to accommodate those revised values. The same goes for societal attitude towards same-sex marriage. The first comes from the public’s growing perception that homosexuality is not something a person chooses. Today, 47% of Americans believe that sexual orientation is determined at birth, according to a May Gallup Poll. And according to a CBS poll, 53% of people in the US now support same-sex marriage. I
Finally, I don’t think gay marriage is going to threaten the institution of marriage. In fact, I think it strengthens it. Massachusetts passed its law to permit same-sex couples to marry. It might just be a coincidence but the divorce rate drop dropped. Instead, I believe same-sex marriage will strengthen families. No longer will children whose parents are the same sex feel their family is inferior. Their parents will have the same benefits—the right to visit their partner in the hospital, preferential tax treatment and inheritance rights,
Grandma already knew
I have heard this story several times from different people so I think it’s apocryphal. The story goes like this: a man in his thirties (or in some versions a woman of similar age) finally decides to announce to his/her family he is gay. They’ve hidden it for years. Finally the young man decides to tell his grandmother. She turns to him with a smile and says, “Of course. I’ve always known.” How sad for the many gay people who have hidden from a grandparent their essential nature.
If you believe, as I do, that people are born gay, then we should not deny them the rights we enjoy. Same-sex couples are asking to have their relationships recognized as equal under the law. Full marriage equality is the true measure of our success in this area.
I am asking grandmothers to consider the arguments for marriage equality and lobby to change the laws in their states. I don’t know if any of my grandchildren are gay and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is we don’t deny a portion of our population equal rights.
If you share my feelings, please repost this article.