Great op-ed in today's NYTimes ... Savage makes the argument far more eloquently than I could on a good day ... much less a middle-of-vacation-day ... that the recent decisions by the New York and Washington courts against marriage equality based on arguments of heterosexual instability might just indicate the beginning of the end for the heterosexual agenda. (Plus, you gotta love a dad who'll miss a breaking story to take a kid to the ballgame! Now THAT'S "family values" in action!)
Same-Sex Marriage Wins by Losing
By DAN SAVAGE, Seattle
THERE were community meetings in Seattle on Wednesday. Some of the couples who had sued to overturn Washington’s ban on same-sex marriage, a case they lost before the state’s Supreme Court earlier that day, were going to appear. Gay and straight elected officials who support “marriage equality” were going to make speeches. I probably should have been there too.
But I had a previous engagement.
The Seattle Mariners were playing the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field. My 8-year-old son — adopted at birth by my boyfriend and me — loves the M’s almost as much as he hates the way a breaking news story can keep me late at work. He would never have forgiven me for skipping the game.
I didn’t feel too bad about missing the meetings. Washington’s high court rejected same-sex marriage for much the same reason the New York Court of Appeals did earlier this month. The speeches in Seattle would no doubt be similar to those made in New York, and I didn’t need to hear them again.
Basically, both courts found that marriage is like a box of Trix: It’s for kids.
In New York, the court ruled in effect that irresponsible heterosexuals often have children by accident — we gay couples, in contrast, cannot get drunk and adopt in one night — so the state can reserve marriage rights for heterosexuals in order to coerce them into taking care of their offspring. Without the promise of gift registries and rehearsal dinners, it seems, many more newborns in New York would be found in trash cans.
At least the New York court acknowledged that many same-sex couples have children. Washington’s judges went out of their way to make ours disappear, finding that “limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to the survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents.” Children, the decision continues, “tend to thrive in families consisting of a father, mother and their biological children.’’
A concurring opinion gave the knife a few leisurely twists: due to the “binary biological nature of marriage,” it read, only opposite-sex couples are capable of “responsible child rearing.”
These stunning statements fly in the face of the evidence about gay and lesbian parents presented to the court. Similar evidence persuaded the high court in Arkansas to overturn that state’s ban on gay and lesbian foster parents.
What the New York and Washington opinions share — besides a willful disregard for equal protection clauses in both state Constitutions — is a heartless lack of concern for the rights of the hundreds of thousands of children being raised by same-sex couples.
Even if gay couples who adopt are more stable, as New York found, don’t their children need the security and protections that the court believes marriage affords children? And even if heterosexual sex is essential to the survival of the human race (a point I’m willing to concede), it’s hard to see how preventing gay couples from marrying increases heterosexual activity. (“Keep breeding, heterosexuals,” the Washington State Supreme Court in effect shouted, “To bed! To bed! To bed!”) Both courts have found that my son’s parents have no right to marry, but what of my son’s right to have married parents?
A perverse cruelty characterizes both decisions. The courts ruled, essentially, that making my child’s life less secure somehow makes the life of a child with straight parents more secure. Both courts found that making heterosexual couples stable requires keeping homosexual couples vulnerable. And the courts seemed to agree that heterosexuals can hardly be bothered to have children at all — or once they’ve had them, can hardly be bothered to care for them — unless marriage rights are reserved exclusively for heterosexuals. And the religious right accuses gays and lesbians of seeking “special rights.”
Even if you believe that marriage plays a special role in the lives of heterosexuals with children (another point I’m happy to concede), can it not play a similar role in the lives of homosexual couples, whether they’re parents or not? Marriage, after all, is not reserved for couples with children. (Perhaps it will be soon, if courts keep heading in this direction.)
When my widowed grandfather remarried in his 60’s, he wasn’t seeking to further the well-being of his children, who were grown and out of the house. He was seeking the security, companionship and legal rights that marriage provides. The survival of humankind was the furthest thing from his mind.
These defeats have demoralized supporters of gay marriage, but I see a silver lining. If heterosexual instability and the link between heterosexual sex and human reproduction are the best arguments opponents of same-sex marriage can muster, I can’t help but feel that our side must be winning. Insulting heterosexuals and discriminating against children with same-sex parents may score the other side a few runs, but these strategies won’t win the game.
So I’m confident that one day my son will live in a country that allows his parents to marry. His parents are already married, as far as he’s concerned, as my boyfriend and I tied the knot in Canada more than a year and a half ago. We recognize, even if the courts do not, that it’s in his best interest for us to be married.
And while Wednesday was a dark day, the M’s beat the Blue Jays 7 to 4, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Dan Savage is the editor of The Stranger, a Seattle newsweekly.