Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Throughts From A Third

This was written by my friend Melissa, a person I consider to be extremely bright:

For generations, there has been a very particular Order of social and romantic interaction. Boy meets girl. They become friends. They go through a courtship. They get engaged. They get married. They move in together. They have sex. They have a family. This is the proper Order of things. There are a number of variations on this theme; different lengths of time for each step, different customs associated with each step, different rituals. But the Order has always remained constant. This Order of things is vitally important to foster and maintain committed, steady, loving, and enduring relationships and families. Those families, in turn, create stable societies.

Over the past century, individual agency and social movements have come together to sanction a rearrangement of this proper Order of things. Some couples choose to go straight from boy meets girl to having sex, which can result in an unwanted pregnancy and then pressure to wed. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think a one-night stand is something to build a marriage on. Some couples go from courtship to moving in together and having children and bypass the engagement and marriage steps all together. Some couples court and court and court without ever making any kind of commitment whatsoever. These rearrangements have done nothing but leave adversity and tragedy in their wake. At every step, people are doing things they aren’t ready for, leading to broken hearts and ultimately a detached and emotionless view of romance, relationships, and family. Such casualness is devastating to our nation’s social fabric, which is manifest is the rise of teen pregnancy and children born out of wedlock (“Teenage birth rate rises for first time since ’91,” New York Times, 12/6/2007), and the catastrophically high divorce rate (www.divorcerate.org), all leading to the tragic breakdown of the family, and subsequently, of society.

Despite these horrible outcomes of our moral depravity, we seem insistent on continuing down this dangerous path. We have rearranged the steps in the Order in every conceivable way, but now, the very foundation of the Order is under siege. The initial step, where boy meets girl, has been warped to include alternatives: “girl meets girl” and “boy meets boy.”

There is currently an item up for vote before the citizens of California. If Proposition 8 were to pass, it would overturn the California Supreme Court ruling that a marriage between homosexual couples is legal and recognized by the State. The proposition would further define marriage in the California Constitution as being between only one man and one woman. As we consider the implications of this monumental proposal, we must first contemplate the institution of marriage.

There are many reasons a couple may decide to get married: legal, social, and economic stability, formation of a family unit, legitimizing of sexual relations, and a public declaration of love are chief among them. As we consider the legalization of gay marriage, I believe it necessary to check against this list.
1. Stability: Gay and lesbian couples already have the same healthcare and death benefits of married heterosexual couples.
2. Family Unit: Traditional procreation is impossible within a homosexual union. The reality of bearing children is unreachable. If God or science wanted same sexes to breed, it would have worked out that way. I am aware that adoption, surrogacy, and en vitro fertilization have offered homosexual couples an alternative route to a family. With that in mind, I assert that gender is an essential characteristic of individual identity and purpose. Men and women have different attributes and strengths that when combined in a family unit, contribute to the well-rounded rearing of children. The absence of a male father figure or female mother figure in the home leads to an unbalanced upbringing and distorts the children’s views of men and women and their proper roles in society.
3. Legitimizing Sexual Relations: This concept has religious underpinnings. The religions that have abstinence before marriage standards are the same religions that consider homosexual relationships to be a sin, thus making the legitimization of sexual relations a non-issue here.
4. Public Declaration of Love: There are as many ways to publicly declare love as there are sands in the sea. These declarations in no way have to involve a marriage license.

After carefully weighing this insight against my own experiences, something has become exceptionally clear. This issue and in particular this Proposition boils down to an issue of rights. According to the detractors, Proposition 8 in California would strip people of their fundamental right to marry. I searched high and low all over the Internet, and failed to find anything anywhere stating that homosexual couples had a right to marry. In reality, supporters of Proposition 8 aren’t taking any rights away from homosexual couples because they never had the right to marry in the first place. They want to be treated just like everyone else and have the same rights as everyone else, but they aren’t like everyone else. They have made a conscious decision to adopt an alternative lifestyle, and just like all choices, it has consequences, some that may be unpleasant. Perhaps I would rather live in a state that doesn’t have sales tax, like Oregon. I claim that I am just like those living in Oregon, except that I’m not. I don’t live within the boundaries of the state of Oregon. I have made a conscious decision to live in Utah, and thus, I don’t get to take advantage of the things in Oregon that I may like better. Likewise, homosexual couples have made the decision to live a homosexual existence and should not be able to cherry pick the rituals they like from the heterosexual one.

After further consideration, I concede that there may be something else at stake for the gay community. Legitimacy. Everyone – gay, straight, tall, short, fat, thin, black, white, and everything in between – seeks acceptance and understanding from their peers. The gay community wants to be able to stand up and say to the world they are just as mainstream as anyone else, and they want us to agree with them. They want us to validate and approve of their choice. Maybe that would make their lives somehow easier, if they could be different and still feel normal. Experts say that gay, lesbian, and bisexual high school students have greater risk of dropping out of school, abusing alcohol and drugs, and attempting suicide (“Proposed high school for gays isn’t likely to open before 2012,” Azam Ahmed, Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2008). Those same experts claim these risks stem from harassment, volatility, and intolerance toward gay and lesbian students within the high school setting. I feel impressed to offer an opposing explanation. Living a life contrary to the proper Order of things will bring nothing but hardship and heartache, as previously stated. We get to choose the choices we make; we don’t get to choose their consequences. Mainstream society can coddle and placate the gay community until we’re rainbow in the face, but all that appeasement isn’t going to bring solace. No amount of litigation, legislation, or semantics can help someone come to terms with individual lifestyle choices and their consequences. Each must find that peace within themselves.

The proper Order of things is there for a reason. Following its steps gives us our best chance of achieving a successful relationship and loving family. Rearranging the steps has proved to be counterproductive to the progression of society and redefining those steps will be catastrophic. Any culturally observant individual can deduce where we’re headed; a direction that inspires worry, apprehension, and fear. I hope that society is bright enough to protect the Order, to protect marriage, and to protect the family. Vote YES on Proposition 8 in California.

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