Thursday, February 3, 2011

The gay marriage "catastrophe"

Note: This is a guest commentary by Zach Wahls, of Iowa, printed here with Zach's consent. You may remember he spoke out at Republican-sponsored anti-gay hearings to strip gay relationships of any and all legal recognition. Zach was raised by two gay women and spoke of his experience and his family, a family Republicans try to demonize. Zach spoke passionately and clearly about this and that video can be watched here.  Our comments will be below.

A recent study on same-sex marriage confirmed my already strident pro-equality view on the issue.
The nonprofit Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, led by University of Iowa journalism Associate Professor Stephen Berry, found that nearly a year and a half after the unanimous Iowa Supreme Court ruling — surprise! — marriage in Iowa remains strong. In fact, since the Varnum v. Brien decision, divorces have declined to their lowest level since 1968, at 7,286.

I'm just going to take a moment to revel in that.

One more second.


The Varnum decision directly affected my family. My mothers were married for the second and third times last year. (The first time was a commitment ceremony in 1996, the second time was the legit marriage in early October 2009 — so Mom 2 could get on Mom 1's health insurance after she lost her job — and the third time included the whole ceremony, with family and friends, later in October.)

And 14/one year(s) later, they're still going strong, despite having to deal with a debilitating disease (multiple sclerosis), a brief period of unemployment, and raising my younger sister and me. And, believe me, that last one is the real testament to the strength of their marriage.

Still, all is not well and good in the heartland. Since Bob Vander Plaats, a candidate for GOP nomination for governor, was defeated, he has turned his focus to the retention votes of three members of the Iowa Supreme Court.

Now, Vander Plaats is a good guy. He worked as a high-school principal, managed a nonprofit, and has been endorsed by Chuck Norris. I really wish I could sit down with him and talk to him about why he is so vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage.

On the campaign trail, he said that were he elected governor, he'd issue an executive order to halt gay marriage, even if it meant he'd be impeached. Do social conservatives really feel like their own marriages are under assault? Are they trying to protect us, the kids produced by these relationships?

Last fall, I had the opportunity, courtesy of Iowa Public Radio's "The Exchange," to talk with a Tea Partier about this very topic. When I mentioned that two lesbian women raised me, her face turned to shock and then concern. She asked if I ever had yearning to meet my father — an anonymous sperm donor.

My answer was — and remains — "no." And no, I don't feel damaged or that my childhood was somehow scarred. Maybe I have, in some way undetectable to me, been permanently harmed by having two moms. I guess I can't be sure.

The truth is though — and this is something that the aforementioned study also reported — we live pretty boring lives.

We do chores. We play board games. We get bored. We celebrate Christmas. We mow our lawns and sweep our garages. We have fights, and we have catharsis. We have faith. And, as I pointed out to my mom (the biological one) the other day, the addition of a marriage certificate to our family doesn't really feel a whole lot different. (She agreed.)

Like our fellow Iowans, we want only to live and let live. At the point that 92 percent of Iowans say that same-sex marriage hasn't affected their lives (as a Des Moines Register poll found last fall), when Iowa divorce rates have reached a 42-year low, and social conservatives have yet to produce a single argument that demonstrates why civil marriage isn't a civil right, you have to wonder what's motivating these people.

Beats me.

MSI Comments:  One of the things that baffles me about conservatives, one of just many things, is this comment about "not knowing" one's father. Children definitely, in general, do better in two parent homes.  They might even do better still in three parent homes, but no one is checking. But there is scanty evidence that the two parent home has to be one of opposite sex parents. Conservatives pull a bait & switch tactic in that they quote studies contrasting two parent homes with single parent homes. They don't show any studies comparing two parent straight homes versus two parent gay homes. They know the studies they are quoting are only comparing two parent families versus single parent families. And then they argue that the families with "mom and dads" do better. But the study didn't actually look into that matter at all.

Second, they often speak of the right to have a dad. There is no such right, and no such right can be enforced.  Many of us faced the reality of a fatherless home because of death. If a child has a "right" to two parents, and an "act of God" deprives the child of one of those parents, then against whom is that right enforceable? Can we sue "God's representatives" on earth for an "act of God?"  It is true that many children are not raised with father's for many reasons. To say that violates the rights of the child implies legal action can be taken, but that is an impossibility. It is such a bizarre theory of "rights" it would plunge the legal system in even more chaos than is normally imposed by the politicians. 

Finally, it appears this bogus "right to a father" argument would imply that thousands of children have legal options that they can take against—wait for this—conservatives! Conservative quite literally advocate pro-war foreign policies. As a result of those wars, such as the one in Afghanistan and the one in Iraq, tens of thousands of children in America, and perhaps hundreds of thousands in those poor countries, are rendered fatherless.

I would think that if conservative really felt fathers were so damn crucial that they wouldn't be so happy to send them off to foreign wars to die. Of course, today they are also sending some mothers off to die for their interventionist foreign policy. 

I can't fathom why conservatives would be so willing to make children fatherless, while lamenting the lack of fathers in some lesbian households. Of course, when they face a male couple with children it is the absence of a mother they lament.

War isn't the only conservative policy that strips children of their "right to a father." The war on drugs has not only "accidentally" killed numerous people who were wrongfully targeted, but it has incarcerated people whose only crime was to smoke some pot. Finding a joint in a car ashtray, in the minds of many conservatives, is sufficient reason to take a father away from his children—for years. 

Conservative policies certainly do strip children of their "father" on a rather regular basis. So it appears they really aren't worried about young men like Zach "not growing up with a father." What bothers them is not the absence of fathers, something their own policies encourage, but growing up with lesbian mothers, something that deeply offends their prejudicial and bigoted views. 

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