November 5, 2008

What Kept Me Up Last Night

Along with much of the country, I stayed up late watching (and in my case, celebrating) the Presidential election results. I was excited about this election in a way I have not been excited by politics in decades. And yet, there was a sadness about California's Proposition 8 and other similar measures that passed around the country.

Proposition 8 is about banning gay marriage. The final count isn't in, but so far it seems that the Ayes have it.

I'm privileged to live in a very liberal town, one where homosexuality is seen as a flavor of being human. Most people here would not wish to revoke the rights of gay people any more than they would seek to revoke the rights of people with brown eyes. Several close friends of mine here (and elsewhere in the world) are in committed same-sex relationships. Just recently I attended my first gay wedding celebration, a union between two women. It was exactly like any other wedding ceremony, legally conducted according to the then-laws of the state of California, complete with a minister and a marriage license, a ceremony of love and commitment in the presence of God and loved ones, a festive meal and a wedding cake, toasts to future happiness...and much joy all around.

For religious reasons, personal discomfort with homosexuality or whatever else people believe, many want to rend asunder what my two friends have built together. They say that marriage—and the legal protections granted to married couples—can only be between a man and a woman.

So, in spite of my great joy in witnessing a historic moment of a black man from humble beginnings elected President of the United States, I woke up in the middle of the night and felt sorrow.

Today I did The Work on "Proposition 8 should not have passed." I react with severe judgment against the people who voted Yes; I imagine I know who they are, that they are bigots, fearful religious zealots, ignorant slobs who are severely lacking as human beings. I feel I have something to teach them. I want them to change their minds.

I'm upset for my friends who just married and for others who have been making wedding plans. I'm sad for gay youth who may not grow up able to have a marriage and family of their own.

I feel somehow responsible. I should have been more supportive, more pro-active.

I throw away my joy about my friends' marriage; my joy at Barack Obama's triumphant journey to the White House. I project a hopeless future where everyone in the world is not—and will never be—treated with equality.

Who would I be without this thought? Still open and not in a hurry. Available to my friends. Available to work for change. That could be as simple as asking questions, getting to know who the people who voted Yes really are. Not tarring them all with the same brush; no tar at all. And, seeing as I can be a change agent and yet not control people, I would be in my own business about how I should vote...going peacefully on my peace narch.

I would see that this has been an incredible beginning. The entire nation knows about gay marriage now; ironically, this is what parents of young children did not want taught in the schools and yet, unless one lives in a home with no television or newspapers, just about everyone on earth now knows that love, fidelity and the desire for marriage is not exclusively a heterosexual impulse. There is also increased awareness of how the civil rights, the human rights, of gay people are curtailed under our present laws; I am so grateful to have that awareness myself.

Turned around: Proposition 8 should have passed. It should have passed because it did. If the Universe is friendly, why is this a good thing? Perhaps this will light a fire under those who didn't vote on the proposition at all, who felt it wasn't important or that it wasn't about them or their families. Perhaps any backlash against this proposition—which at last count passed by only 400,000 votes—will unify more gay men and Lesbians in California and elsewhere to work harder to realize the right to marry under the law. Perhaps young people of all persuasions will be inspired now to learn more about the issue and move towards peaceful solutions in their lifetimes.

Another turnaround: I should not have passed Proposition 8. While I voted against it, I should notice where the idea of gay marriage makes me uncomfortable. At one time I saw it as silly and unnecessary (a view I have sometimes had of "straight" marriage as well). At this recent wedding between a feminine woman and her "butch" partner, I felt weird about the ceremony referring to them as the bride and groom, thinking they should identify as two brides; in effect I voted internally against them having the marriage they choose to have. Until I am able to see them as good and perfect the way they are, how can I expect anyone else to do it?

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.


Marianne said...

Great post, Carol. I do love to hear why people are afraid to support same sex marriage...what I hear from my mother's generation of friends (and my mother) is that they feel it somehow lessens or invalidates their own marriage vows. Interesting! Why would they feel so threatened?

Corrina Gordon-Barnes said...

Thanks so much for your intelligent, open, personal soul-searching comment on this important topic. It's fascinating to read the 'The Work' take on what can become a polarised issue.

I married my partner of 5 years in July of this year and it was the happiest day of my life. I've cried so much over Prop 8 and the hateful rhetoric accompanying it. To think that young people are growing up thinking it's not okay to be who they are just breaks my heart. Voting NO to Prop 8 would have actually have been truly protecting our children.

I found this speech on the same day as your blog so I thought I'd post it here as it's also inspiring


Corrina, Cambridge, UK