Friday, April 24, 2009

Defending Tradition

It occurred to me recently that Gay Marriage is an issue I feel strongly about. As a far left liberal whack-job, of course I believe that marriage should not be limited by gender, just like I believe that abortion should remain legal, the rich don’t pay enough in taxes, environmental protection should be a priority, and we need more gun control.

But, emotionally, none of those issues effect me the same way gay marriage does, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

It’s not really personal: I’m straight and happily married. And it’s not a need for universal equality, either. While I feel for gays and lesbians here, the rights they’re denied are fairly minor compared to various groups over the world. Homosexuals in Iran, for instance, face the threat of execution: objectively, the situation here seems somewhat trivial in comparison. If I was only driven by “fairness,” I’d have to put this on the back-burner until a lot changed worldwide.

I gave the matter some thought, and here’s what I’ve come up with. The reason this bothers me so much is simple: it’s because I believe “America” should mean something.

There’s been a lot of talk about “tradition” coming from the right. Well, I agree that tradition is important. In fact, I think it makes us who we are. With that in mind, let me tell you about a tradition I deeply believe in.

For hundreds of years, the United States has continuously revised the definition of marriage to strive towards equality.

There was a time when women were treated as property in a legal transaction: now we have a union of equals. Women weren’t always protected from abusive husbands: now legal recourse is available. Marriages between partners of different races weren’t always permitted: another inequity we’ve corrected.

Of course, these changes didn’t happen quickly or easily. But… aren’t we past this? This isn’t the kind of fight anyone should need to go through anymore: we should be better than this. If a group in America is being denied certain rights, they shouldn’t have to fight anyone. Pointing out the inequity should be enough. Haven’t we learned that history doesn’t look kindly on those who fight against equality?

Apparently not. Conservatives are still fighting for what they call a “traditional” definition of marriage. I’m not buying it: the definition of marriage in this country has “traditionally” changed and evolved. What they want is a static definition.

And that, frankly, is un-American.


Nils T. Devine said...

Twitter version: In America it is a tradition to be progressive when it comes to equality.

Of course my own emotional response to the issue comes from having grown up with gay couples in our Quaker meeting. That and a belief that the government should have nothing to do with marriage at all. All unions when it comes to rights & taxes should be civil, leave the ceremonies and baggage to religion.

Erin Snyder said...

Civil unions all around would be an ideal solution, but I find it highly unlikely.

Pity, though: it would certainly be more in line with the separation of church and state.

DrNightmare said...

Well, damn, good stuff here! Thanks for this, I'm gonna go throw this in the face of my friend's parents who complain from the same "tradition" standpoint.