Same-Sex Marriage: A Response

I originally posted this on my political blog, Big Tent Revue in 2011.

On September 15, 2007, I got married.

It was a pretty normal, run-of-the-mill event as weddings go. I was held in a small picturesque Episcopal Church just outside of Minneapolis. The sanctuary was decorated with flowers. The families of both parties were there and beaming with excitement. The only thing that might not make this event the typical wedding is that I was getting married to another man, my partner, Daniel.

At that wedding, we pledged to be faithful to each other and our relationship was blessed by the Episcopal priest and those gathered including both of our parents. Our wedding (and Daniel was insistent we call it a wedding) was soley religious since Minnesota doesn’t allow for same sex marriage. At some level, it didn’t matter that we were not married in the eyes of the state. It was important that we made a committment to one another in front of the gathered community and in front of God.

However, a year later, it did matter.

One October morning, Daniel woke me up saying he had some kind of chest pains. So, we got in my car and headed to the closest hospital. After a few tests, it was determined that Daniel was having a gallbladder attack. Surgery was scheduled the next day.

At Daniel’s request, I called his brother and sister who live in North Dakota. His sister and family decided to make the five hour trip from Grand Forks to Minneapolis to join me. I can remember as clear as day, Daniel asking me to bring the legal documents we had drawn up that would allow me to see him should anyone get snippy with me.

You see, because Daniel and I were not legally married in Minnesota, I didn’t automatically have hospital visitation rights. His sister automatically has those priviledges because they were immediate kin, but I had to have papers on hand should someone decide that my word wasn’t good enough.

Now, living as we do in Minneapolis where there is a large gay community, there was a good chance I would be let in to see Daniel. But I coudln’t say that with certainty and if I were in another part of the state, I might very have had to produce those documents.

John Vecchinone’s post on against same sex marriage is the standard argument fond in many Republican circles: he is angry that in New York same-sex marriage is called a marriage, he talks about how he and others like him who disagree with the idea will be hounded by elites and he talks about how the recent decision by four GOP Senators to vote for the same sex marriage bill in New York will doom the state party.

So, let’s take them one by one. Vecchione is opposed to calling a same-sex marriage a marriage. Fine. I’m okay with using the term “civil unions” and several states have gone that route. I’m willing to get half a loaf instead of none. But if that alone were the issue, you’d think Vecchione would talk about the importance of the state at least giving some legal status to people like Daniel and I and while he doesn’t support same sex marriage, he would support civil unions. (Sociologist Peter Berger did so in good essay earlier this year.) But Vecchinone doesn’t do that. He talks about why he doesn’t like same sex marriage which seems to include any type of relationship of two same sex persons. So I can only conclude that isn’t just upset about gay people using the name “marriage” he’s upset the state is daring to even recognize any form of same sex relationship.

The other interesting point to be made is Vecchinone’s assertion that this vote will doom the state GOP. “We could have been the ‘27 Yankees. We are shaping up to be the ‘62 Mets.” he said.

Frankly, I don’t know how he makes this connection. For one thing, one only has to look at the dwindling number of Republicans representing the Empire State in Washington. Even into the late 1990s, there were a substantial number of New York Republicans in Congress and Senators like Alfonse D’Amato also common. Today, Republicans hold six of the 29 congressional seats and increase of the all time low of two representatives in the 111th Congress. The GOP lost one earlier this year where Medicare, not gay marriage was the factor. In 2009, partisan infighting led to the GOP losing the 23rd congressional district, which had been a Republican district since the civil war. What could have been an easy win, became a pick-up for the Dems because some conservatives couldn’t support a gay friendly GOP candidate. Ironically, the recent increase in GOP representatives included two gay-friendly Republicans: Nan Hayworth and Richard Hanna.

In my own work through Log Cabin Republicans, I have noticed how many young Republicans just don’t understand why people are so afraid of same sex marriage. It could be that they see more and more gay people in their lives and they count many of them as their friends. Why in the world would they want to block their friends from having the same rights that they themselves have?

Vecchinone might think that defending traditional marriage is key to GOP victory, but as evidenced by David Frum’s conversion, even conservatives can see the handwriting on the wall. Those of us who are gay and want to have the same marriage rights don’t want to destroy marriage or the American society. What we do want is to be able to do what hetrosexual married persons do: to do really mundane things like visit each other in the hospital.

Same-sex marriage is not the end of the world. It’s just allowing that world to get a little bit bigger.

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