Two court cases related to marriage equality were heard this week (Proposition 8 and DOMA) and left behind good and bad discussion: discussion that brought people together and discussion that further divided. At least that’s how it has been for me. I have family and friends in Utah where the majority of people are against marriage equality. And I have co-workers and friends here in Maryland where the majority of people are in favor of marriage equality (and if they’re not in favor of marriage equality they are at least willing to share in my happiness). This means my news feed on Facebook has been full of all different types of political discussion, which raised questions for me:
How do you respond to people you disagree with? Do you try to see their point of view? Do you try to get them to see your point of view? Do you try to convince them your point of view is good?
I’d like to believe good people can be convinced to do things by people in authority even when the things they do hurt others. So part of me thinks it’s worth a shot to convince them of my point of view. Something like, “Hey, when your leaders tell you to put money into campaigns like Yes on 8, Protect Marriage, or Preserve Marriage, (or to otherwise speak out against marriage equality) you’re sending the message to me that you think it’s fair Dan and I pay more in taxes (somewhere around $3000 per year) and health care than we would if one of us were female.” But that doesn’t really seem to help.
And then I stop and think, “Hey, maybe I’m being selfish. Maybe I need to stop and think about them and their point of view.” Well, I used to be one of them and so I did think like them. What ultimately changed my opinion on the topic of marriage equality was understanding that I could maintain my system of beliefs while others enjoyed legal benefits. This doesn’t seem to help as much as it should though. I can’t do the thinking for them. They’ve got to do the thinking, learning, and stretching outside of their comfort zone, which typically involves going against authority — and that just ain’t gonna happen.
And then I remember what happened when I tried to engage people in discussions about Proposition 8 back in 2008: lots of feuds, divisions, he said she saids, and “unfriending”. So maybe I shouldn’t speak up.
And then I remember what happens when people don’t speak up: absolutely nothing. I want something to happen. I don’t want to be held to the standards of others when it comes to the legal rights I should enjoy. I don’t want your religious beliefs to dictate what my employer’s insurance company charges me for health insurance nor how much my government taxes me (to name a few things). And I actually think it’s what you (those who disagree with marriage equality) want too: freedom from the religious beliefs and practices of others and government recognition of the marriage your [insert religious person here] performed.
And that leads into something I find interesting. A lot of religious people have been saying the solution to the marriage equality problem is for government to step out of marriage. That would essentially place them in the same position I’m in: if the government doesn’t recognize a legal union or contract between two people then the union doesn’t exist, and this means no one can recognize your union (because it doesn’t exist). So… if y’all are really for government stepping out of marriage, I just want to make sure you’re okay with paying more in taxes and health insurance, or not having visitation rights at the hospital. This would look something like you going to the hospital to visit your wife and the hospital saying, “Oh, we don’t recognize [insert religion] marriages. You’ll need to provide legal documentation of your union.” And then you’ll walk away or present a legal document you paid a lawyer $3000 to $4000 to write up for you. Is that really what you want? Or let’s say you want to marry that latina girl you met while serving as a missionary and live in the U.S. You can’t do it if the government won’t recognize your religious union.
And just because it’s a cat that looks almost as handsome as Mishaand he’s in a bag and the bag is an HRC bag…
See the resemblance? Here’s Misha with his pride beads on.
So how do we have this conversation about the things that matter most to us in a way that’s productive?