...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Thursday, January 22, 2004
      ( 10:27 AM )
Let's Talk Marriage

Ever since I heard about Bush's new $1.5 billion plan to help "strengthen marriage," I have been thinking about this issue. I don't really know why the conservative right has chosen this subject as its new divisive theme, but it's set to displace abortion as the one issue that will emotionally divide this country in the coming years. They sure can pick 'em.

I've only been married 4 1/2 years, so I'm no decades-long expert, like my folks are (going on 37 years of marriage). But I chose to enter into marriage, and I didn't make that choice lightly. I intend to see it through for the rest of my life. It helps to be married to someone who also has the same intention. I have many friends who are not married, some who have domestic partners of many years, and some who have gay partners of many years. Some of those folks have children, some don't. Not one of these relationships, no matter how different from my own, threatens my marriage. The health and state of my marriage is up to me and my partner, and other people's choices of how they will live does not put either the future of my marriage or the prospects of anyone else who might ever get married in the future in jeopardy.

The conservative right and the Bush administration are using code words like "strengthen marriage" and "marriage protection" as thinly veild disguises for their intention to discriminate and deny equal rights and access to couples who also choose, just like I did, to be committed to one person for the rest of their lives - except they are not heterosexual. I understand people's fear and dislike of homosexuality comes out of a belief that the Bible condemns it (that is another subject to deconstruct at another time) - but years ago, many people believe the Bible supported slavery, and later, folks even used religious beliefs to lobby against interracial marriage. Whether people like homosexuality or not, the fact of the matter is that there are homosexual couples that are committed to living their lives together until they die. That they should be denied the basic civil rights of union that I receive automatically when I sign my marriage certificate is a crime. That is my own opinion.

I am going to take the Bush administration to task right now for its false claim of wanting to "protect" and "strengthen" marriage, and for alluding to the idea that it supports a constitutional amendment sealing heterosexual marriage as the only option for Americans who want to live committed lives with another person. But the reason this new policy is so false and unsubstantiated is because it does not address at all the true reasons why marriage, as an institution, could be in danger.

The widely agreed upon and researched top reasons for divorce among American couples are, in order of frequency:

Poor communication
Financial problems
A lack of commitment to the marriage
A dramatic change in priorities

Nowhere in the Family Research Council's "Marriage Protection Pledge" are any of these issues raised. This so-called pledge was drafted for political candidates to sign - it says they are for the "protection of marriage," yet nowhere in the document does it mention that they are going to work towards eliminating the top causes of divorce in this country.... or that if they have been divorced, they should not seek higher office because they are a bad example of "healthy marriage" in action.

The divorce rate in this country has hovered around 50% for years. Many researchers have found that amongst practicing religious people, it is very near that same average.

I can't criticize without offering solutions. How can we actually help marriage succeed and be healthy in this country? How can we truly defend the institution as one that is not only healthy, but desirous for young couples? Why not eliminate some of the top causes of divorce? If the government is so intent on "protecting marriage," then shouldn't most of that $1.5 billion go into programs that, for instance, require at least two sessions of couple's counseling before a marriage certificate can be signed? In this counseling, issues like communication, children, goals and finances can be thoroughly explored by the couple before they make the committment.

Instead of using money to promote marriage in communities where the welfare moms are most populous, as Bush's plan proposes, why not use that money to provide child care and education assistance to those same mothers? Insisting that their lives are better by being married doesn't solve the basic problems they face on a daily basis. Couples split up more frequently because of financial disputes and strains that almost any other reason. Teaching financial skills is nice. Providing a way for the women who are struggling as working mothers to be lifted out of their poverty is an entirely NEW way to not only make this country better and stronger, but it even might give the women a chance to have time to meet someone they could marry! Right now, all they're trying to do is get by.

I find the claim to want to "protect marriage" a hollow one by this administration. If it truly cared about marriages, sustaining them, making them more appealing for younger folks, then it would be working on the root problems that cause people in this country to despair and break up their marriages. Sure, it sounds good to tromp around the inner cities promoting marriage. But does it truly solve the root issues in this country? Maybe a program to help find jobs, provide child care or health care for our children, or even provide food for our most poverty-stricken families might be a wiser use for that money.

But let's be serious. This program and this issue isn't truly about marriage, nor is it about us as citizens, our welfare, our children's future, or even about the rights of couples who aren't heterosexual to be able to chose the stabilizing lifestyle of marriage - it's about political power. And to this administration, no one's marriage is more important than that.

(Sorry this was so long - I just had to get my thoughts out.)

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