Gay Marriage: Why the responsibility is on us.

This is sick and it needs to stop. What am I talking about? The nasty, vile, infectious, bitter, hate-mongering that is spreading itself around our country in the form of anti-gay marriage legislation. I don't care if I sound like I am exaggerating, because this is honestly how I feel about it. As a group we clearly skew left, but we all have seen on this site conservative atheists (maybe you are conservative- hello!). However, I have never encountered anyone here who does not support gay marriage. I would never go so far as to assume it is not possible or does not exist, but I think we can all agree that it is highly rare.

So what's gotten me this worked up? Well, obviously the passing of Prop 1 in Maine this past Tuesday, for one. I was so thrilled as I drifted to sleep Tuesday night. As a New Jerseyan, I was disappointed by my state's election results, as well as many of the results being projected around the country. But! All would be worth it, because on Wednesday I'd wake up and Prop 1 would be a distant nightmare. I did not prepare myself for loss, because I honestly did not think it would happen. Not only had I interpreted an easy rejection of the Proposition based on early projections, I had also counted on the wonderful campaign against Prop 1 to have done the trick and on what I assumed was a majority of voters who valued compassion and equal rights for all. I was wrong. It was California and Prop 8 all over again. I guess I set myself up for disappointment when I surround myself with like-minded freethinkers and forget that the rest of the United States as a whole is not as progressive.

I spent Wednesday in dejected helplessness, planning what I'd do and how far I'd go if the same battle ever came to New Jersey. Then today I realized I needed to get my ass in gear. I saw this. I don't know what I will or can do yet, but I have to do something. We cannot let these people force their will upon us. They seem to be mounting a systemic campaign against those of us who disagree with them, and somehow they are getting the voter support behind them.

Why, as a group, do we resoundingly support gay marriage? As atheists we are forced to look at life through clear lenses. We have no religious tints clouding our opinions, and so our views must be based on rational thought. This is not true for all of us, as nothing ever is, but surely most of us. If we oppose an idea or viewpoint, it must be for secular reasons only, and the secular argument against same-sex marriage is incredibly weak. I am not sure I've ever heard a true secularist make one. It seems to me that any such secular argument is a thinly veiled theistic tactic, and while rational on the surface, it provides very little proof or objective reasoning. When people start yammering on about the deterioration of society's structure, all I can hear is “Wah-wah, I wanna be special! I don't wanna share 'cuz I don't hafta and you can't make me!”

Well unlike the blocks in *kindergarten, there is enough marriage to go around. If you really want to support society, how about we encourage as many families as possible. If a family cannot naturally procreate, all the better, I say. The United States and the world is overburdened by humanity, and there are many children who need a good home. They do not have a single person giving them the attention they deserve at the moment, so how can two fathers or two mothers possibly hurt them? Do these people honestly believe that these children are better off in foster care than in a stable, same-sex parent home?

I do believe that more than fifty percent of United Statesians support gay marriage, but I have absolutely no proof to back me up. I have to believe this, because if I didn't, the fight might feel too overwhelming. The results rest in the hands of the moderates and undecideds. What can we do to sway them to the side of right, the side of progress, and to get really hippie on your ass, the side of peace and love? I think the first step, at least to make the process easier on ourselves, might be to realize that this may take longer than it should. If I could flip a switch and make same-sex marriage legal everywhere tomorrow, I would. All I can realistically do is start lighting fires in individual minds.

My goal right now is my sister. She is sixteen, which we all know is an interesting age. Many of us start to seriously question the ideals with which we were raised. We form our own worldviews, oftentimes very different from our parents'. My parents are right-wing, Republican, Carrie Underwood-loving, mission-trip-to-Mexico-going, fundamentalist, evangelical Christians. When I was sixteen, I became more socially liberal than I had been before, but continued to hold on to my religious indoctrination beliefs. It might have been impossible not to. It took getting out of the house and going off to college to become the fiercely liberal, lefty atheist I am now. However, I see the same wheels turning in my sister's brain as were churning in mine. How do I capitalize on this situation?

Even though my sister still stands behind the Christian notion that homosexuality is a “sin”, she seems to have a clearer understanding than my parents do on the separation of church and state. I am planting the critical thinking seeds in her mind, and she is a very intelligent teenager. The combination should produce great results, and even better ones if she waters them with good company and a rational environment. Happily, she also has gay friends who can help her along. My parents, on the other hand, are a lost cause. I have a closer relationship with my father's youngest, gay brother than he does, and I don't think he sees anything odd about that. My mother holds fast to her opposition to same-sex marriage, even with a gay nephew and brother-in-law. They are very much the “love the sinner, hate the sin,” sort of Christians. How compassionate of them.

My plan is not much of a plan, I know. I would love to do more, but I don't know what I can do other than what I am doing unless the fight comes to my neck-'o-the-woods. In some ways, we atheists are at the forefront of the issue. We alone have the ability to form our opinions regardless of the whim of some sky daddy or daddies (or mommies). Now the responsibility is on us, not necessarily to disabuse our theistic friends, family, and neighbors of their silly notions, but to bring the debate into the realm of the rational. I know, I know, it's what we try to do everyday. But we have to keep trying, because once we get people to think critically, we can't lose.

*This is a completely off-topic story, but when I was in kindergarten, I was not too fond of sharing or playing with others. There is a story I'm reminded of often, in which I was playing with blocks alone and other kids were trying to play with me. Apparently I got so irritated, I couldn't take it anymore, and shouted, "Would you leave me the fuck alone?!" I was four. I've grown up a bit since then.

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Comment by Bill Flowers on November 8, 2009 at 8:19pm
To me the issue is so cut and dried: these legal wranglings are not to GIVE rights to the LGBT members of society, they are to prevent the trampling of rights that already exist.

Marriage is a legal contract. If you deny someone the right to enter into a contract based solely on gender (or race or religion) then you are violating that person's rights. And as long as those who have a marriage contract receive extra benefits both in law and society, then you are causing direct damage to that person as part of that violation of that person's rights.

Within my lifetime laws forbade mixed race marriages. That's gone now. (Hmm... if differing races were "mixed marriages" does that mean that two of the same gender would be a "straight marriage?") Within your lifetime, Christy, I think you'll see this particular legal insanity go the same way as the "Whites only" water fountains.
Comment by Andrea Crain on November 6, 2009 at 9:55pm
I'm not trying to heckle you. Sorry if it came off that way. I'm just interested in whether that argument would work on someone who still thinks the way you used to. :) Do you think, back in the day, you would have listened to that?
Comment by Louis on November 6, 2009 at 7:58pm
In fairness, I used to believe marriage was a pre-requisite for being a good parent -- then again I used to be a Catholic.
Comment by Christy Gonzalez on November 6, 2009 at 7:45pm
@Louis: I agree that some people can't be changed, and with these people we have to accept our losses and move on. My parents are examples of this. My focus is on members of the younger generations, like my sister. I think she gets it. She just doesn't get that she gets it yet.

@John D: I hate to admit this, but I once thought the same way you did. I don't remember thinking this way since I was young and it was so long ago, but I know my religious views poisoned my reasoning skills. Even the best of us get it wrong, :). This is something that gives me hope, though. People CAN change and DO change. As I said to Louis, of course, not everyone does. But you and I have, and if we do our parts, more and more people will.

@Laura, Andrea, and Duane: Thanks!

@JeffFlyingV and Duane: I guess I don't have a "stake" either in the issue inasmuch as I am not gay and will not have to worry about not being able to marry someone I love (presumably :) ). However, sometimes I feel guilty about wanting to participate in an institution that not everyone is eligible to participate in. Opponents of same-sex marriage like to make the claim that it would somehow invalidate their marriages. To them I say, "If that's all it takes to invalidate your marriage, then you shouldn't have gotten married in the first place." I feel the opposite; to not allow all couples to marry invalidates any marriage I might one day have because it is being used a symbol of inequality and discrimination.

@Vicki Boyd: Legislation like that would sure as hell be more rationally based than anti-gay marriage legislation :)
Comment by Andrea Crain on November 6, 2009 at 12:05pm
John, I'm so glad you now know that gays can be great parents. But that issue aside: do you think previous-you would have responded at all to the argument that people can be parents without marrying? The inability to get married doesn't stop gays from raising kids, it just stops them from adequately protecting those kids in case of death or divorce.
Comment by Louis on November 6, 2009 at 1:07am
If you want my honest opinion, there isn't anything you can do. Honestly. There isn't. Try as we might, and I have tried, the people who think that benign, private behavior should not only be restricted but outright banned have a kind of fractured reasoning process that we cannot even hope to begin to mend.

What they have is either a mental illness or a curiosity so dim and foresight so short that no amount of arguments will convince of that which they do not want to accept.

The only thing we can do is simply wait for them to die -- it is the older generations who, by and a large, think it's okay to impose personal beliefs on popular behavior and, as I often find myself saying, they will die soon. The 2% of CA and ME who have no qualms about robbing others of personal liberty are shrinking. 2% is not a lot, it's not a statement or a mandate. 2% is a margin of error.

They will be stopped. If not by our arguments then by the grind-wheel of life.
Comment by Andrea Crain on November 5, 2009 at 11:56pm
Excellent! Absolutely focus on your sister. And absolutely get together with other like minded activists. Our movement has lots of room for straight activists as well as LGBT. The fight is in your neck of the woods -- the fight is everywhere!

New Jersey is definitely working on marriage equality in the state legislature. I can help you find a group to hook up with if you want.

The vote at the college campus polling place in Orono, Maine was 81.... Only 19% of those young people voted against us. In a couple of generations, the anti-LGBT movement will elicit the same feeling I had when I came across, in my history book, the idea that businesses used to post signs that said "No Irish Need Apply." That form of prejudice was so far in the distant past it was baffling and unfathomable.

We'll get there, but there are elders who cannot afford to wait for all the bigots to die off. I have friends who are in their 60s and 70s. I am in awe of their courage and perseverance and I want them to taste full equality while they're here.
Comment by Laura on November 5, 2009 at 10:52pm
excellent post. Well said! I actually think your "one person at a time" idea is a pretty good one. When we had the legislation in Arkansas to ban unmarried couples from adopting or fostering (a move aimed primarily at gay couples), I had someone write me a note to tell me that I helped her changer her mind. If everyone focused on one person, we could chip away at the problem until it's gone. How do you move a mountain? Brick by brick. I think I am going to do the same thing.
Comment by Jared Lardo on November 5, 2009 at 9:23pm
Maybe it's all those legendary "old people obsessed with voting". You know how people tend to study for finals--religious types do something like that, too.
Comment by Christy Gonzalez on November 5, 2009 at 8:23pm
Yup, we must! I am 23 also, actually. Nearly 24 :)

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