Archives for posts with tag: Civil union

Lady Rizo in Kokon To Zai

Sunday 23rd 2012.

New Harris tweed trousers.  They are so thick and keep the cold wind from whipping around my legs.

I had two very different experiences on Friday.

1.

The first, an unfortunate spat on Facebook with a Canadian writer called Michael Rowe.

I think you know, those of you who read this regularly, that I struggle with marriage as the means by which gay and straight people find parity.

That marriage in of itself doesn’t seem to work for many of the people who sign up for it… so why do so many men and women in the LGBQ community want it so badly?

Is it just because they want the ‘benefits’?

I thought about it a great deal this week.

For those of us gay men and women who are now in our early fifties marriage was never an option.  I never hankered after it, nor cared to think about it.

I read this in a British newspaper.

British MPs are planning to create an “exception” in marriage law for same-sex couples and will not alter the definition of adultery.

Either they don’t take us seriously or we don’t take us seriously?

Perhaps gay marriage is indeed separate from straight marriage because we can’t be trusted with monogamy?

Those I respect seem to value marriage equality… so I have been posting thoughts and feelings on my Facebook page.

I am perturbed by how many angry responses I get whenever I write about my marriage equality concerns.

If marriage equality was all we needed or wanted are we selling ourself short? Are we like any cultural minority that lives side by side the majority needing to be tolerated rather than nurtured? Do we need to be understood? Do they need to learn our language? Or, like Hasidic Jews do we evolve separately once we are ‘equal’. Somehow this is not attractive to me.

This question incensed Michael Rowe.

Where are you getting “all we needed or wanted” from? It’s a basic right. That’s not “tolerance,” that’s equality and strength.

The conversation continued privately.

Talking to Michael was like talking to a Zionist.  Realizing that his problem with what I was saying was more about me than the conversation I decided to tread carefully.  He is the sort of man who believes that any gay who comes out of the closet is an unqualified hero.

I’m not an intellectual, nor am I particularly bright… but I am willing to listen… and I am desperate to understand why I am so conflicted about marriage equality.

Because, I think,  it doesn’t seem like equality at all.

So, why am I bothering to fight for something I simply don’t believe in?

It feels like another way to join another elite gang.  A gang that will, if given half the chance, bully you mercilessly.

I’ve seen straight women do this.  Brag about their married status to their unmarried friends.  Causing those unmarried women to burst into tears when they are far enough away from their persecutor.

I asked Michael what he thought marriage would do to our gay culture.  I said, I really want to understand your position.

Not sure what there is to “understand.” Until there is no foundation of complete legal equality for LGBT people, the rest of it, worrying about “our culture,” is frosting with no cake. That’s my position.

Our gay culture is very important to me.  Even if it is on a separate page, in it’s own section at the book shop or the video store or on Netflix.   I enjoy the separation.   You see, I’m not very interested in what straight people make of me or the culture that has sprung up around me.

What will marriage equality do to the gay community?

How will these huge changes affect us and our behavior toward other gay man and women.

If a gay man tells his straight friend that he is getting married will his straight friend feel a flush of envy?

I asked if Michael felt ‘more equal’ than his American friends? He said:

Of course I do. I have approximately 300 more rights than American gay couples whose relationships are not legally recognized, rights that have financial and legal implications.

And no, I don’t feel sorry for gay couples who aren’t married by their choice, but I do feel sorry for those who don’t have that choice.

I don’t think that screaming about how proud you are not to be married carries a lot of weight when that right isn’t even on the table.

Like employment protection. Or do you also feel that a law that protects LGBT Americans from being fired also hurts “our culture?”

Oh dear, Michael was watching the NRA press conference at the time so his irritation may be excused.

He is, as you know, a very important Huffington Post blogger.

A ‘gay voice’.  In the separate but equal ‘gay voice’ section of the Huff Post.

There is a great deal in this last quote that may make you wince… as I winced.

I come from England where Tony Blair gave Waheed Ali carte blanche to equalize the lives of hetero and homo sexual people.

I remember eating lunch in Malibu with Waheed who explained to me how the legislation was written.

He explained that the word Marriage may have been attractive to some but perhaps a little too divisive. They chose civil unions as the way forward.

Total equality (excluding the word marriage) was a great incremental step in the right direction and one that the majority of my gay friends in long-term relationships were happy to embrace.

Michael is not so sure.

“Civil unions” aren’t marriage, and they’re not equality.

He continued inaccurately:

They weren’t “chosen,” they were all they could get because no one would allow them to be married, with full marriage equality, including the rights of citizenship for spouses.

Just to be perfectly clear: the British do have rights for citizenship for spouses and UNMARRIED partners.

Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

After many years of legal parity, the British gays… from a position of strength are asking for the word marriage and asking a very conservative government to boot. They are certain to succeed.

Civil Union may be the best incremental baby step on offer?

What are the incremental baby steps that seem to get American gays no closer to federal recognition of same-sex marriage?

Married Michael Rowe is very proud of his life.

He has achieved what his parents probably wanted for him all through his childhood. The dream of a heteronormative existence.

The rest of the conversation disintegrated into name calling. He called me tiresome, I ended up calling him a cunt and he blocked me on FB and that was that.

If I were in my early thirties I might think that this is a golden age for gay men and lesbians.  That I could enjoy a fully ‘out’ existence,  meet the man of my dreams, marry him, buy some surrogate children and live happily ever after.

That is a perfectly lovely dream to have.

But I am still in two minds.  Shouldn’t we all be fighting for something more than marriage, that marriage should not allow those who are to have so much more than those who are not?

This is not equality.

Some married gay men (like Michael)  are already behaving like my mother and grandmother behaved toward their spinster/old maid/barren friends.  Looking down their married noses.

Do I feel cheated out of different sort of gay life?  If I had grown up around gay men getting married would I have thought differently about the men I dated and the future we could have had?

I have, undoubtedly, missed the man/man marriage boat.   Joe and I talked about it briefly.

When I was growing up the thought of marriage (one man to another) was simply not a consideration.  Like an orthodox jew would never think about eating bacon.  I didn’t really think anything of not being married.

Being brought up in a small town where the majority of my straight peers had children but no marriage… marriage seemed Victorian and absurd.  The people who were getting married were not… cool.  They were… boring.

My straight friends who remained unmarried with many children did very well for themselves.  They ran successful businesses. Their children went to great universities.  They struggled and excelled equally along side those children who came from married families and broken homes.

There really was no difference between them and any other child.

The emphasis on family values seems to have gripped the gays as firmly as the straights.

What ever family means we don’t want to be left out of the explanation.

We all have a family of sorts.  Some have blood relatives, others have an extended family of strangers.

Obviously, I have invested in the latter and have never been let down.

Which brings me to the final part of my blog today.

2.

Sitting with the dogs on Franklin outside my coffee shop of choice I met a young Rabbi.

Charming, Cambridge educated and very enthusiastic.

He invited me to Shabbat the following Friday night.

I had, of course, enjoyed many a Friday night with the Cohen’s in LA.   David, his wife and their 6 children.  40 people for pot luck dinner around a huge table on the lawn then talking about world events with a talking stick.  It was perfect.

This Shabbat was very different.

There were several rabbinical students.  I arrived mid prayer.  For an hour we prayed.

The most exquisite boy with the most beautiful voice (and a baby) sang something on his own before the others joined in.   When he started singing I began to cry.

They prayed and sang (they sang in Hebrew) and faced East, my rabbi friend was particularly enthusiastic.  I sat beside him and he kept apologizing for everything, as if it were a trial for me to be there… when in fact it was beautiful.

I sat there thinking about the gays.  After my run in with Michael.

I wondered if they would have confused my thoughts about how beautiful the singer was with wanting to fuck him.  That most of my gay friends wouldn’t have just enjoyed him, they would have wanted to fuck him.  “He’s hot…”

We ate a huge dinner.  We washed our hands ritually.  After the dinner and conversations with truly wonderful people (I avoided talking Palestine) we sat together for more prayers and a fascinating chat about the Torah.

The young rabbinical students and scholars discussed in a really modern and interesting way what I had been taught was the Old Testament.

Jacob, Joseph and the blessing of the Pharaoh:

My years have been few and difficult.

They talked about other things.

A young man with thick, raven black hair told us he had just visited Sandy Hook.  To offer ‘solace’.

At first I was irritated by the apparent intrusion, it seemed so arrogant.

I was wrong.

He explained that the town was packed with people from all over the world.  That he had witnessed a funeral of one of the murdered children and the parents of the dead child were holding up signs in the car that said, very simply:  “THANK YOU.”

I found him after dinner and thanked him for reminding me that it’s easy to let other people do the difficult tasks.

If Sandy Hook had been an isolated incident then I might have felt differently but Sandy Hook is part of a macabre American theme and we must all, collectively… own it.

It is our responsibility.

That young Jewish man and his five friends had taken responsibility and travelled to Sandy Hook.

By doing so, they had a spiritual awakening.  They were thanked by the parents of dead infants.

They understood (unlike those of us who did not go) something more about America, about bravery, about priority, about consequence.

The two parts of my day could not have been more different.  The childish spat with an entitled gay man and the spiritual warmth of new family offered me by a group of heterosexual strangers.

Inclusion versus exclusion.

Last night Lady Rizo and I had dinner with Winston Churchill’s granddaughter.  I was not the only gay at the dinner for 50.  I avoided the other gays.

I have nothing to say to any of them.

Human Rights defender Peter Tatchell today writes in favour of gay Marriage and, after much soul searching,  I find myself agreeing with his argument.

Same-sex marriage is an idea whose time has come. It is the growing trend.

Political support for ending the ban on gay marriage is growing rapidly. London Mayor, Boris Johnson, and Conservative Party Vice-Chair, Margot James MP, have both come out in favour of allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry in a registry office, on the same terms as heterosexual partners.

This view is also endorsed by the leader and the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes. Indeed, Hughes has predicted that the ban on same-sex marriage will go within five years.

All five Labour leadership contenders – Ed Balls, Diane Abbott, Andy Burnham, Ed Miliband and David Miliband – now back marriage equality, regardless of sexual orientation.

Public attitudes have also shifted strongly in favour of allowing gay couples to marry. A Populus poll for the Times newspaper in June 2009 found that 61% of the public believe that: “Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.” Only 33% disagreed.

Some people say that civil partnerships are sufficient for gay couples. This is hypocritical. They would not accept a similar ban on black people getting married.

They would never agree with a law that required black couples to register their relationships through a separate system called civil partnerships.

It would be racist to have separate laws for black and white couples. We’d call it apartheid, like what used to exist in South Africa. Well, black people are not banned from marriage but lesbian and gay couples are.

We are fobbed off with second class civil partnerships.

Personally, I don’t like marriage. I share the feminist critique of its history of sexism and patriarchy. I would not want to get married. But as a democrat and human rights defender, I support the right of others to marry, if they wish.

That’s why I believe that civil marriage in a registry office should be open to everyone without discrimination.

Don’t get me wrong, civil partnerships are an important advance. They remedy many – though not all – of the injustices that used to be experienced by lesbian and gay couples. But they are not equality.

They are discrimination. Separate is not equal.

In terms of the law, civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid. They create a two-tier system of partnership recognition: one law for heterosexuals (civil marriage) and another law for same-sex couples (civil partnerships).

This perpetuates and extends discrimination. The homophobia of the ban on same-sex civil marriage is now compounded by the heterophobia of the ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships.

Just as a gay couple cannot have a civil marriage, a straight couple cannot have a civil partnership. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Sadly, the official policies of the Conservative and Labour parties do not support same-sex civil marriage. They oppose it. They support discrimination.

The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats are, so far, the only parties officially committed to giving same-sex partners the right to civil marriage – and heterosexual couples the right to civil partnerships.

In a democracy, we are all supposed to be equal under the law. The Con-Lib coalition‘s professed commitment to gay equality cannot be taken seriously while it upholds the ban on same-sex marriage.

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