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It's not a 'legal institution,' except for the fact that it totally is

by Jeremy Hooper

Picture 5-53NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer has issued this statement as part of a gay marriage-supportive memo that he presented to the state's legislature:

"Granting legal recognition to these relationships can only strengthen New York's families, by extending the ability to participate in this crucial social institution to all New Yorkers"

In response, Focus on the Family's Jenny Tyree has this to say:

"Homosexual marriage proponents want marriage to do something for which it was not intended — affirm homosexual relationships," ..."Marriage is not a legal institution for equality; it's a social institution with children at its heart."

"Governor Spitzer does not have to redefine marriage to demonstrate his concern for the citizens of New York."

Uhm -- Marriage is not a "legal institution for equality," but rather a "social institution with children at its heart"?! If this isn't a complete bastardization of concepts, then we don't know what is! Because you see, Ms. Tyree, marriage is, in fact, a legal-based social institution. That's non-debatable! None of us are saying it's "for equality"; we're saying we want equal access to this legal, social institution. Marriage is for love, commitment, benefits, and the ability register at Williams-Sonoma for that cappuccino maker that you've always wanted but could never justify the cost. Our pushes to obtain those rights (and perfect frothy beverages) are what are motivated by equality!

And none of us are saying we want marriage rights to "affirm" our relationships. The vast majority of us need no affirmation -- we simply need the LEGAL protections! The jury is not out for the major portion of the LGBT community. We know who we are and we know what we deserve. The "pro-family" kids are the ones who can't get over their problem of non-acceptance!

And then you have that oh-so flawed children argument that the religious right likes to trot out. Hell, we've even seen some courts use that as a basis for their ruling. And of all of the anti-marriage talking points that are trotted out, this might just be the most offensive. And not offensive just to child-less gay folks, but also to gays with kids, heterosexual couples who don't want kids, hetero couples who can't have kids, and single parents who are quite capable of child-rearing outside the confines of marriage. If children as a marriage requirement is TRULY the issue at play for the "pro-family" community, then THAT is the marital stipulation for which they should be fighting! But until you obtain such a piece of kid-requiring legislation, stop making it sound like "with this ring and promise to procreate, I thee wed" is the common marital refrain!

What gives groups like Focus on the Family the right to define what marriage IS for the whole of society? The arrogance is almost more astounding that the intolerance! It would be one thing if we were seeking to alter the state of Christian, hetero marriage in any way, shape, or "I do." But we are not. We are not talking about the religious, conservative, "traditional" church services when we speak of gay marriage. We sincerely hope all gays of faith would have the ability to marry at the altar the way they'd always dreamed, but that would be between them and their religious leadership/sects. What we are talking about is CIVIL MARRIAGE. You know -- a LEGAL CONTRACT!!

Ms. Tyree goes on to assert that "Governor Spitzer does not have to redefine marriage to demonstrate his concern for the citizens of New York." Well speaking as a bonafide New Yorker, Ms. Tyree, this writer is here to tell you that GOv. Spitzer DOES have to show concern for the legal recognition of this tax-paying, long-commited, social-contributing, citizen's relationship if he wants my respect. But you are right in saying he doesn't have to "redefine marriage." The definition that we as a society are recognizing in ever-increasing numbers is perfectly suitable:

 Good As You Images Web

N.Y. Governor: Gay Marriage Would Strengthen Families [FOF CitizenLink]

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Your thoughts

Interesting definition in the Mirriam-Webster there. I checked a Dutch online dictionary briefly (the widely recognised standard 'Van Dale') and it manages to define both 'to marry' and 'marriage' without referring to the genders of anyone involved.

The Compact Oxford English doesn't achieve this (yet?), it just refers to the 'husband and wife' arrangement. I wonder how other languages where gay marriage has been a fact for some time define the word. :)

(Perhaps the Dutch are helped by the words used in the discussions about same-sex marriage (or civil unions, which is what they actually got in the end). The headlines were always about the "homo-huwelijk", a wonderfully alliterative construction meaning literally "gay marriage". (Note: "homo" is not a slur in Dutch, it just means gay).)

Posted by: williehewes | May 10, 2007 10:06:52 AM

I find it hard to believe that Ms. Tyree's concern is really children.

As a gay parent, I see this more as a children's issue than a gay one. I am like a mama bear. Hurt me, but don't hurt my kids.

Quite frankly, not only do gay people have less rights, but the children of gay people to continue to have less rights than the children of straight people.

When parents can't marry, many things become far more complicated for children. Let me list a few for Ms. Tyree.

1) Taxes - Simply by not being able to file jointly, gay families of the same size and income pay a thousands of dollars a year more in taxes. Having to file as head of household means paying a higher rate. Moreover, the limits are different for things like the Child tax credit, Hope college tuition credit to name a few. These things are supposedly there for the benefit of the children, so that parents can use the money for their benefit. They could use the money for food, clothing, college tuition, medical bills, etc. But the children of gay parents lose out. The children of single parents lose out on a lot of this too.

2) Health insurance - If a gay family chooses to have a stay at home parent, it could make employer provided health insurance very complicated. If the stay at home parent is the only "state recognized parent" health insurance may not be available for the kids or the other parent.

3) Medical Decisions - In the case of an emergency, one parent may not be allowed to make medical decisions for the child.

4) Divorce - In the unfortunate event of a breakup, the children of gay parents have far less protections than the children of straight people. One parent can basically end the relationship between the children and the other parent. One parent can skip out on any financial responsibility for the children.

5) Financial Security - In some states, the parents of gay children can lose their jobs for being gay. Ms. Tyree likes it that way I'm sure.

6) Additional costs - In some states, some, but not all of this issues can be overcome by spending on thousands of dollars in legal fees for two step adoptions, complicated wills, etc. That is all well and good, but perhaps this money could be put to better use for the benefit of the children.

So Ms. Tyree, if you really care about children, then please lay off mine.

Posted by: Steve - Geneva, IL | May 10, 2007 10:42:03 AM

Is marriage a religious institution?

I feel at times I am the only gay person that is not satisfied by the term “civil union”. To me it feels like a consolation prize given as a means of pacifying gays. Throw them a few crumbs as their used to and they’ll shut up. Truthfully, I hope that we gay men and woman will not stop at gay unions and go after what we truly deserve, that being gay marriage. I am saddened but not surprised that many gays are willing to accept second class citizenship after all it is what we are accustomed to. Our entire gay civil rights movement that is being courageously fought by a very few, has been about equal rights, not just some rights. This of course means marriage as well.
We should not be satisfied by civil unions. Unions are not equal. It’s unfortunate that this issue has become so politicized as did the civil rights movement back in the 60’s. Even the politicians that are privately in favor of gay marriage are afraid to speak openly about it with the exception of a few impassioned politicians that have a strong sense of integrity and a clear view of what is right and wrong.

We cannot look to the bible for any answers regarding equal rights. Those laws were written at a different time and for an ancient culture. It may surprise many to know that gay marriages were widely accepted by the Romans and the Greeks. We also must understand that many of the ancients were a very superstitious people that made many of their laws in regards to those superstitions. We therefore cannot be influenced by scripture. The many books within the bible vastly contradict themselves on issues to numerous to mention here. Which ones should we believe? Many religious institutions have the belief that sexual relations is solely for the purpose of procreation. This is an affront to childless marriages. Are they any less valid? Should they therefore not have sexual relations knowing full well that there will not be any children produced? I wonder why God would make sexuality so very pleasurable if it were only for the purpose of procreation. It wouldn’t need to be enjoyable. The mechanics of sexuality would be all that is necessary to create offspring. Beside don’t we live in a country that has a law about separation between church and state?

Somebody please help me understand why marriage by many is considered a religious institution. For the sake of discussion I would like someone to tell me why atheists are then eligible for marriage? It seems to me that heterosexual marriages are afforded just about any opportunity and environment they choose to take their vows. Even those damned heathens.

Straight men and woman can choose a church marriage; they can get married underwater, on a mountaintop, by a justice of the peace or even by a ship captain. However, the most romantic and holy place I can imagine to pledge ones vows of love and fidelity, is driving through a drive-in chapel in Las Vegas, as one would order a happy meal. Don’t get me wrong, I do love happy meals. The best part is no one even has to bother to get out of the car. How can one compete with that kind of service? I’ve heard that they even change your oil while waiting but that may be just hearsay.

Has it dawned on anyone that the constitution of the United States says very clearly that all people shall be treated as equal? There are no clauses added to that, such as, except for gays. What was stated in that document still rings very clearly yet today and likely for many years to come. We don’t have to look too awfully far back into our history to find examples of how we ignored the constitution for selfish heterosexual Anglo-Saxon citizens so we could still own people. It wasn’t until the early part of the nineteenth century before woman were allowed to vote. Not so long before that, slavery was legal. It wasn’t until nearly fifty years ago that African Americans weren’t allowed to marry whites. If we are to learn anything from our nation’s history, we should then know that whenever we veer off from what that beautifully crafted document for whatever convenient reason, it is eventually overturned and changed for reasons of being fairer. I have still yet to hear a valid reason how gay marriage could negatively impact modern society. I’ve heard that if gays were allowed to marry it would have the potential of destroying traditional marriage. We only have to look at the statistics of the success of “traditional marriages to discover that more than half end up in divorce. Gays did not cause that. Fidelity within marriage has a terrible track record as well. Therefore I would truly like to hear some reasonable argument posed that would make sense why gay marriage ought not be allowed. Thank you, Aaron Jason Silver www.aaronjasonsilver.com; Fennville, Mi 49408 for more information on issues within gay culture please read; “why gay men do what they do”, an inside look at gay culture.

Posted by: aaron jason silver | May 10, 2007 3:01:22 PM

Aaron: You're not going to get any argument here regarding civil unions being unequal.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 10, 2007 3:24:53 PM

I didn't know about that definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary! Thanks for that--you've made my day!

Posted by: Kevin | May 12, 2007 1:08:34 PM

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