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Thu November 20, 2003
The M Word; Marriage
The land-mark ruling from the Massachusetts courts this week has Paul considering the M-Word; marriage.
By Paul Wilkes
Wilmington NC – [Click the LISTEN button to hear Paul's commentary.]
Morality. Biology. Politics. The common good. Sometimes they align almost perfectly in our American lives. Sometimes, the lines intersect and present us with a dizzying picture. This week, that dizzying picture is what to do about gay people and their unions. Massachusetts has just judged that they have a right to them.
Let's take morality first. We could go back to the bible and hear that acts between people of the same sex -- men mostly, as women weren't considered significant enough to be condemned -- were heinous and sinful. And today, my Catholic Church is not alone in condemning such acts.
Then comes biology. Egads, the Enlightenment had to happen didn't it? When we were dragged out of secure, hermetically sealed beliefs -- the sun revolving around the earth and creation being effected in just six, neat 24-hour days are just a couple of them -- dragged in a brave new world. Of facts and findings. Where we found out more about the human condition and how that swirl of hormones that courses through every body caused some of us to be attracted to the opposite sex. And others to the same sex.
And how biology has continued to prove -- rail as some might against homosexuality -- that for many people, it is not a choice or option, but a reality. That is the way they are wired, hormonally, emotionally, really.
As for politics, we'll catch plenty of that in the days ahead. As those who support gay rights will delicately try to avoid the attacks of those who do not. As a constitutional amendment declaring marriage as an act reserved to one man and one woman is debated.
And the common good? Will gay unions further erode what some think is an already slippery slope that is leading to the complete dismantling of the family and family values. What about those studies that show gay couples make just as good parents as the rest of us? Well, anyhow?
Perhaps there is a way, though. And it's not that this is being heard here for the first time. Perhaps the M word, marriage is making this more difficult than it has to be.
I doubt if there are too many of you listening right now who do not have a relative, close friend, or fellow worker who is openly gay. And that you want them to have a good, wholesome life, with love and stability and dignity. You don't wish a renegade status on them where their affections and need for intimacy are simply dumped overboard into this vortex of morality, biology, politics and the common good.
So, perhaps we can provide a simple, legal approach. Where gay people can hold things in common -- besides their love. Where they have rights, individually, and as a couple. Why not get the state and federal governments out of the marriage business and let them stay with the legal aspects of relationships, instead.
Couldn't this hot button term "gay marriage" be set aside and instead allow binding, same sex covenants to be created. Covenants that can offer stability to millions of lives that want what most of us want. A loving, committed life with another human being. To deny this to our gay and lesbian friends and relatives is to condemn them to a netherworld where all the worst fears that people may have about them might actually come true.
Paul Wilkes is an adjunct lecturer in the English Department at UNCW.