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

Wednesday, March 03, 2004
      ( 6:30 AM )
Wedding Bells Around the Corner

We heard the news last night that our County Board of Commissioners here in Multnomah County would begin granting marriage licenses to same sex couples today. They did so after a huge mail and email campaign from Multnomah County residents. I am very proud of my county for recognizing that there is neither a law in Oregon prohibiting civil granting of marriage to anyone, nor is there a reason why certain couples should be denied that right. There's bound to be tons of controversy today and over the next days as conservatives scramble to try and stop the issuing of the licenses. I put myself squarely on the side of the supporters of this action, for personal reasons and for political reasons.

Personally, I know and love several people who are denied the rights of marriage simply because they are gay or lesbian, and thus they are denied the same equality my husband and I enjoy. In one example, I find myself wondering if two of my neighbors may take advantage of what the County offers today. They are two women who have been together almost 30 years. They have children and grandchildren. They are going to retire this summer to live in their beach house on the coast and grow old together. But despite the fact that they have faced life together this long, they still have no spousal rights in sickness, in death, in the sharing of benefits, assets or children or any of the things we married couples take for granted.

Politically, I support my County's action today because indeed, Oregon law does not prohibit it and codifying discrimination and unequal treatment is not what this country is about. I have a feeling that after a few years, this issue will go the way of interracial marriage - people will wonder what the big deal was. For now, it is in the headlines, and especially here in Oregon today.

What gay marriage is: a civil union that is a right, not a privilege and should be viewed as an equality issue; a state's perrogative to decide based on the feelings of its citizens. There are more marriages in this country that have nothing to do with religion or "sanctity" than do. I myself was married in a courthouse. So either we do away with "marriage" altogether and everyone gets a civil union, or we grant marriage in its current form to all couples who want to enter that union. What gay marriage is not: a federal issue; something that will threaten the fabric of society or threaten heterosexual marriages, nor is it a valid campaign issue for 2004. Outside of cities and counties that are allowing the issuing of licenses, this issue is a non-issue. It has nothing to do with the state of the nation, the reasons why we need new national leadership, or the things that are most affecting American families - which are jobs, the economy, the lack of healthcare, and poverty and hunger. President Bush put this on the national agenda when he announced support for a Constitutional Amendment denying rights to a portion of our citizenry. He did so in a very calculating way: to take the nation's eyes off his screw-ups, his lies and the way he has driven our country into the ground. Sure he wants to solidify his religious-right base. But more than that, he wants people divided and talking about something else other than what a horrible president he is. We need to rise above that tactic and hit him where it really hurts: the true issues.

So while I fully support the step my County takes today, I put it in perspective with all the other pressing issues we face in our country, and especially here in my state. Oregon leads the nation in hungry people, and that is not a distinction worthy of this great state. Hunger is an issue that should create havoc in our headlines, but of course it doesn't. Oregon leads the nation in unemployment and our previously enviable statewide healthcare system is in a shambles. So let's just let people get married if they are consenting adults and as willing to enter the state of matrimony as any couple in history that has done so before them. Meanwhile, let's talk about the things that really ARE important to the fabric of our society.

UPDATE: My fellow Oregonians are already blogging on this today. The Portland Communique has already visited the Multnomah County Offices where people have been lining up since last night. The One True b!x also mentions a very crucial point in this action, and that is that the County attorney said it would be illegal not to issue the licenses. Also, Emily is thinking of going down with some flowers and cake, and Alas A Blog gets a little intellectual about it. I'm sure there will be more as the day progresses.

UPDATE 2: Over at Notes on the Atrocities (another Oregon blog), a link to the four new anti-gay initiatives that may be on our ballots this November.

UPDATE 3: Courtesy Lakshmi Mama (another Oregon blogging Mama), we now have insight into the terrible, awful GAY AGENDA! Watch Out!!

UPDATE 4 (Final): I have now heard what the "protesters" have been yelling at the folks getting married today. One protestor interviewed on our local NPR affiliate declares that it is obscene that these people are making a mockery of the sanctity of marriage and that God destroyed Soddom and Gomorrah for actions like this. The only thing I have to say about this "sanctity" issue is that the government is not in the sanctifying business. Thus, marriage as defined in our laws and recognized in our courts and for other official purposes is a civil union, not a religious one, and the only authority over it is the state. If "sanctity" were protectable by the state then we would not have a separation between church and state. And if that were the case, I would venture to guess that many religious folks and churches would not like it so much if they were governed by the state. So screaming at people who are getting married in order to have the recognition from the state that the rest of us married folks have is not an effective way to argue your case, in my view. Some people are always going to subscribe to the idea that gay folks are disgusting and that they have some kind of sick agenda to drag us all down into the muck of deviancy. But the force of such people's belief doesn't make them right.

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