Gay marriage bans are faith flexing its muscles
BY NEIL STEINBERG firstname.lastname@example.org May 13, 2012 10:48PM
Television screen shot of President Obama giving an interview about his policy on gay marriage, photographed Wednesday, May 9, 2012 | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: June 15, 2012 10:48AM
Sometimes it is better to be lucky than be good. Good can get crushed under the grindwheel of fate, while luck stumbles along, whistling through the earthquake.
Last Wednesday President Barack Obama announced, after years of soul searching, that he finally decided gays are human beings after all, and as such they fall in love and should be able to get married. The very same day found me sitting in a living room in Skokie, talking to two women who committed to each other in Vermont and are now raising their four young children.
At the heart of a hot national story! By complete accident. My boss had suggested I write about the hard work that goes into raising children, to run on Mother’s Day.
“Okay,” I said. But how to find the ideal mother? I wanted a big household with lots of small children. Rugrats running rampant. Bless Facebook, the hive intelligence. “Attention Moms!!!!!!” I wrote as my status. “Are you (or do you know) a mother with three, or four (or more) young children?”
Many volunteered. Most had older children, and while older children are a challenge too, they aren’t the whirling, pooping, crying, jam-my-hand-into-the-toaster-if-you-let-me challenge of very young children. Such as the challenge faced by a Skokie mom with 15-month-old triplets and a 3-year-old, volunteered by a friend. Perfect.
I phoned her first, to make sure she wasn’t too shell-shocked to speak in sentences, and I said something like, “I want to be there when your husband goes off to work.”
“Partner,” she replied. She is married (whoops, civilly united, mustn’t steal the holy term) to another woman.
And though I’ve written supporting gay marriage for, geez, nearly 20 years, my immediate, unedited thought was a wincing, forehead-slapping, aw gee! The story is supposed to be about all the hard work that goes into being a mom, I worried, and now I’ve bumbled into the culture wars and will end up writing “Kimmy Has Two Mommys” and on Mother’s Day yet. Readers will smell conspiracy, the liberal media undermining our cherished national institutions.
What choice did I have? “Oh, you’re a lesbian? Never mind. I’ll go find a straight mother so as not to irk any readers.”
That would be wrong. So I watched the family from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The only abnormal thing I saw was an excess of calm. The two moms never snapped at those children, not once. That seemed so strange to me, but I accepted it. Some people are like that.
I wrote the story without political spin. That I saved for today. Since half the campaign is going to be wasted on this, I want to state the truth as clearly as I can: Opposition to gay marriage is a religious scruple. And on that level, I accept it. Follow your faith, reject any gay marriages you might be tempted to enter into. I’m with you. It’s a free country.
However ... it being a free country for you means that it’s a free country for others, too. Shocking, I know. Not only for people who are gay, but for straight people who don’t subscribe to your view of faith. People who realize that our culture’s steady march toward recognizing traditional subhumans as actual individuals with rights, starting with women, then blacks, then people with disabilities, is finally coming around to homosexuals.
And while your faith screams that this is bad, there’s still nothing in the fact-based world to justify trying impose your view on non-believers. Rep. Joe Walsh, if you recall, made one of the more popular lunges: claiming that gays make bad parents. That isn’t true. But even if it were true — are we now not letting people marry based on what kind of parents they’d be? Because meth addicts and senior citizens can marry. Deflating one false argument only leads to the next. Not worse parents? How about tradition? The marriage-is-unchanged-for-millennia argument is also popular, also untrue, and a particularly laughable stab at reasoning. You wouldn’t accept that logic from your doctor. “Calm down — leeches are a medical tradition going back centuries!” You want tradition? Buy a butter churn.
I believe most people opposing gay marriage are not bigots — they’re just immersed in their own insular worlds and don’t know any better. As I sat in that small house in Skokie, the thought grew: If only those religious folk could see this family living, reading, loving, praying, tickling together, they wouldn’t try to set their faith as a stumbling block before them. That’s inhuman, and it’s changing. Many religious folks have made the leap; the rest will. Or they’ll die off and their kids will. Like science, like most things, religion can be put to good or bad uses. It is our servant, it’ll do what we like, though lots of people pretend it’s the other way around.