On Monday we watched with intense interest as the attorneys both for and against the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in California argued before the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. It was exciting to hear the three judge panel grill the lawyers as they tried to sway the court in their favor, and fascinating to hear them argue whether they believed that gay and lesbian people should have the same rights as others.
It was also somewhat enraging to witness attorneys’ efforts to make the case that marriage is a special right reserved exclusively for straight people. They tried the line that procreation and protection of children is the main reason for marriage. One judge shot back that if protecting children is the main goal of marriage, then divorce should be banned. Point well taken.
They tried the line that history is on their side — that marriage has always been a unique bond between one man and one woman. That, of course, is simply not true. The history of marriage is as complicated as the people who have lived it, including variations like multiple wives, same-sex marriages as far back as the Middle Ages, cross-generational marriages, and of course, serial monogamy. In fact, the institution of marriage has always been more a reflection of the society it exists within, rather than a definer of that society.
We believe that same-sex marriage is as sacred, as serious and as permanent as opposite-sex marriage. We believe that the right to select one’s spouse is a fundamental right of all people, including people who may chose a same-sex partner, and that the state has no rational reason to disallow it. We agree with our unlikely champion, attorney Ted Olsen, who said that the reason proponents of Proposition 8 have proffered to justify their ban on same-sex marriage is “nonsense.”
The fact that such basic rights would be argued on TV, in a federal courtroom is a testament to how far we have come in our struggle for equal rights in America. But even taking that historical context into account, it is still unnerving to hear educated, respected lawyers say out loud and in public that gays and lesbians are lesser-than everyone else, and that the state should exclude us from one of modern life’s most important and personal experiences. It is insulting.
Perhaps the essence of LGBT pride is to feel the insult when someone attacks our basic humanity. If that is the case, we are feeling hopeful, motivated – and insulted.
Perhaps that’s just the right mix.