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Can This Marriage Be Saved?

 

The religious right’s stalwart objections to same-sex marriage beggar not only logic, but also compassion.

 

In short, marriage, when it functions as intended, is good for everyone — for men, for women, for children, for the community, for the nation, and for the world.

—Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman, Focus on the Family and author of Marriage Under Fire

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments . . .

—William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

 

OK, I just really want to make sure I’ve got all this right.

Marriage is under fire. Although as far as I can tell it has been under fire for the entire length of my life, so this is not a new thing.

Feminists started it, I’m told. They didn’t like marriage because marriage subjugated women to men politically, economically, educationally and socially. Feminists were anti-marriage. That meant they were anti-family and therefore pretty much anti-American. After all, a lot of those early feminists were Frenchwomen! To put it in a nutshell: “Feminism, partnered with sexual freedom and the homosexual movement, resulted in the breakdown of families, escalation of sexually-transmitted diseases and millions of fatherless children.”

That’s Bill Tam, writing in America, Return to God. Tam is the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area Traditional Values Coalition. America, Return to God, is the free book mailed to me at my office just because I am a pastor and therefore assumed to be an American man of God which makes it part of my job to help Christianize America. (Being an American woman, my biological accoutrements make me a less-than-ideal man of God.)

But enough about me. We’re talking about marriage here.

According to America, Return to God it was the feminists who launched the first assault on marriage.

You see, we women are fickle, so easily led. For a couple thousand years we went around stocking hope chests, vowing to obey and living without property and voting rights. Then the feminists got hold of our malleable little minds.

First there was Betty Friedan (“she’s had several failed marriages and problematic children,” Bill Tam notes). Then there was Patricia Ireland (“she led [NOW] to become a radical, homosexual-dominated club”). Next thing you know we’ve got Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court and Hillary Rodham Clinton—no baker of cookies—in the Senate.

Gone were the days when the peroxided blonde with the big boobs was the home wrecker. Now it was the feminists.

Because if America, Return to God, and Dr. James Dobson and other voices on the religious right are reading history right, it was those harridan feminists who led gullible women down the garden path, influencing us in such a venal way that we came to see marriage as a choice and not a duty, a partnership and not a patriarchy.

Clearly, you can see how that kind of thinking would undermine marriage.

So, given the obvious logic, as well as the longevity, of this theory (feminists have been whipping boys for ages), it strikes me as odd that those same loud voices are now claiming that gay and lesbian persons, by virtue of their wanting to marry, are guilty of undermining the institution of marriage.

Does this make sense? I mean, there are still people out there who believe in commitment and love and fidelity and family life—in marriage, for crying out loud. If they are brave enough to buck the much-ballyhooed, anti-marriage trend, don’t they deserve as much support from as many different places as possible? Thanks to a growing number of forward-thinking gays and lesbians, maybe the institution of marriage could be saved, strengthened—made kind of stylish, even. It needs a little panache.

But oh, what fantasy world of logic do I live in?

Gay people can’t strengthen marriage. Feminists can’t strengthen marriage. Marriage is one thing and one thing only: the commitment of one man and one woman. One at a time, anyway, since certainly the divorce and re-marriage rate among Americans, Christian or not, suggests that very few of us, when we get married, get life without parole. (That’s a joke—I’m not a very good feminist.)

Still there isn’t really anything funny here. The religious right’s stalwart objections to same-sex marriage beggar not only logic, but also compassion. I don’t care if they blame feminists—by which they are referring to some kind of cartoon character of misogynist projection, anyway. That’s an old song-and-dance.

But when gay and lesbian people seek the right to marry, to publicly commit their whole lives, to one another, I cannot fathom the hardness of heart that would deny it. Nor can I even begin to imagine how such a desire for commitment does anything other than honor and esteem the institution.

I perform marriages all the time, serving not only as the minister, but also an agent of the state. The wedding is a matter of a guest list, a caterer, a minister and some bridesmaids. And people marry blithely, taking the right—and often the rite—for granted, as one more option on a menu of options in their lives. Some people figure they don’t want to bother with it. Others break their marriage vow with ease.

It is not necessarily something they would break the law for, though. Or fight for the right to do. Or wait, and wait and wait to see if the law of the land or the will of the people will give them their blessing. They don’t have to. They can’t imagine what it would be like to have neither the right to marry nor the rite for marriage. For those accustomed to plenty, it is hard to imagine having a blessing withheld.

—Jo Page

jopage@graceniska.org


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