Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gay Rights

Okay. I'm going out on a limb again. I will probably offend someone here, though I know that most of my friends are on the same page.

On May 1, 2013, the State of Colorado started allowing civil unions for gay couples. A dear friend of mine and his significant other of more than 15 years were among the first to make their relationship official. I am so happy for them both, except . . . I still think that they should be allowed to get married.

What is marriage, really, when it comes down to it? It is a civil union to make sure that the couple has legal rights on many issues, such as shared property and inheritance. It covers any progeny that the union may produce, etc., etc., etc.

While many people add God into the institution, it is really a covenant created by man, not God. Historically marriage has been used to create and cement political and economic alliances. It has been an institution for survival. Marrying for love is a fairly new concept and that, too, took a great deal of arguing to be accepted.

The musical "Fiddler on the Roof" was about this struggle set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. Tevye is a poor dairyman with daughters he must marry off. Even though it is the early 20th Century, the characters are still living in a culture where they believed that young people were incapable of deciding such important things for themselves. So Tevye sets out with the best intentions to make the best possible match for his eldest daughter, with no real consideration of her feelings. He made a choice to make sure she would be economically well-off. Never mind that the man was old enough to be her father.

She protests, begs her father to let her marry the poor tailor she loves. He relents and has to convince his wife that the original plan would have been a horrible mistake. Why did he relent so easily?

The musical did not tell the entire story. If you go back to the original short stories from which the musical was taken, Tevye had another daughter, older than Tzeitel. He had tried to arrange her marriage and he had been completely intractable about her personal feelings and he insisted that she would marry the man he and the matchmaker had chosen for her. So she drowned herself in the lake.

Not exactly the stuff of Broadway musicals, so they left that particular story out of the equation. However, it does explain a lot. Tevye was not a man without feelings and he couldn't face losing another daughter in such a horrific way. So his beliefs began to change.

Marriage is not a static state. It has been evolving for centuries. A wife is no longer considered chattel (the legal property of her husband). The right to marriage dissolution has become commonplace.  Interracial marriage is increasingly accepted and unquestioned. It is now thought of as an institution of love instead of a contractual arrangement.

Allowing same-sex couples to marry is the natural next step in this evolution.

Heterosexual couples have often made an even greater mockery of the institution of marriage than any gay couple anyway. Marrying for a few hours is the first to come to mind. Marrying and divorcing seven or eight times also doesn't help. Religious sects forcing young girls to marry old men is right up there. It goes on from there.

Where is God in all of this? God is love. If you don't believe me, check your Bible. These people love one another. God loves "them" as much as she does you. (Yeah, I went there too.) God doesn't make mistakes, least of all in the creation of sweet, beautiful people who may just happen to be a bit left of center to you.

The problem, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I behold gay people to be people first and the gay part to be as incidental as the fact that I am not. Their sexuality is not a definition of who they are as individuals.

If we cannot accept this, then what happens to women's rights? Does this mean that we have to go back to the whole barefoot and pregnant thing? We have spent years learning to not judge women by their gender, that this is not the full measure of their identity.

Gay rights ARE human rights. It is the right to be who we are and as we were meant to be. Gay or straight. Right or wrong. Love or hate.

I choose love.

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