Several weeks ago, before the election, I read an article written the day after the NJ Supreme Court ruled that gay couples were entitled to the same legal/financial rights and benefits as heterosexual couples. President Bush's quote caught my eye. He reiterated his stance that marriage was a union between a man and a woman and said:
''Yesterday in New Jersey, we had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage. . . I believe it's a sacred institution that is critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families, and it must be defended."
Sacred? Defended against what?
I started thinking about this from my vantage point of 28 very happy years in a heterosexual marriage. When we got our marriage license at our local municipality, there was nothing sacred about it, just an exchange of paperwork, money and blood test results. Come to think about it, I'm not even sure we're legally married! A friend came with us as our required witness. She had to fill out a form where she had to put down how long she knew us. She put down ten years. I just gave her an incredulous look and we finished up. Out of earshot of the county clerk's office I asked her WHY she had lied and put down ten years when she had known us for four years. She said she was afraid that they wouldn't give us the license if she didn't put down that she knew us for a really long time. We were all hysterical laughing! To this day, we kid her about it. The next week our civil union was followed with a church ceremony.
But back to serious matters - the president's use of the word sacred bothered me. Merriam-Webster Online shows multiple definitions for "sacred," three being related to religion and one meaning "highly valued and important." I wonder which version of "sacred" President Bush meant? As the leader of this diverse nation, with separation of church and state part of the fabric of our country, I hope it was not any of the religious meanings. If he meant that marriage is "valued and important," well, yes, I agree with that. What I don't understand is, if marriage is "critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families," then why not try to include as many people as you can?
I also don't understand the part about how marriage "must be defended." Against what? I have read and heard people talk about how allowing gay people to marry will change their own marriages. I can't see this at all. My marriage is between my husband and me, thank you - it is certainly not going to be affected by what someone else does with their relationship. Could anyone seriously think that any of the following could possibly be true:
"Oh, Honey, a married gay couple just moved in next door - I can't deal with it, I'm going to have to divorce you."
"Dear, that married gay couple looks happier than us - I'm going to try being gay for awhile."
"Oh, no, a married gay couple in the neighborhood, keep the children away, it may be contagious!"
I really don't get it. Defend against WHAT? I'd appreciate it if someone could tell me how someone else's loving and committed family could be a bad thing for me or my family. I can't even imagine a scenario where a gay marriage would affect my own.
As for the school situation where a child has two "mommies" or two "daddies" - teaching tolerance and respect for all other people can only be a plus. Having a child who needed special education services because of learning disabilities, I am aware that there is far too much taunting and bullying that goes on in schools. If tolerance and ethical behavior were taught in every classroom, it is my opinion that this country would be in much better shape.
I would love to see a system where the government issued only civil union licenses, giving all couples the same legal and financial benefits. Then, if a couple wanted to pursue a religious marriage ceremony, that would be for them to work out with their own religious institution.
So for the record, President Bush, my husband and I are doing quite well. We really do not need any defending from gay couples, families with gay parents, or any of the gay people legally married in Massachusetts. Maybe you can concentrate on more pressing matters that we do need defending from - things like terrorists, the cost of healthcare, or the tax structure that favors the very wealthy.