Thursday, July 11, 2013

My words to straight people regarding DOMA

Back in March (?) April (?) … Oh, let’s just say “earlier this year,” shall we?

Earlier this year when the Supreme Court was hearing the cases against Prop 8 and DOMA, I “tuned in” for the first time. And, I mean, literally, tuned in. I’m sure that this is not news to the lawyer-ly folks who read my blog (OK, maybe one person, IF she is still reading this), but I was unaware that the average person could actually listen to the Supreme Court proceedings. Huh! Thanks to some exceptionally active groups (Equality Utah, Equality Federation, HRC, Campaign for Southern Equality, Family Equality, Freedom to Marry, and more), I – and thousands of others – was made aware of this face via FB.

So, I tuned in.

Being able to listen to the proceedings is one thing. It’s an awesome thing – I’ll give you that.

Being able to UNDERSTAND the proceedings is something else entirely.

I’m not a lawyer. I have very little desire to become fluent in the legal jargon. These details were completely lost on the highest court in our nation as well as on the best legal minds in the country. Luckily, there is a SCOTUS blog that us plain ‘ol hillbillies can follow that spells everything out in less confusing terms. (Still a bit confusing, but not as bad as the courts.)

By the way – bless my little lawyer friend’s heart. She’s such a smart woman, and I’m so proud of her for finally chasing down her dream. And, bless the heart of the lawyer that I will eventually need to hire for some reason at some time in my life. Someone needs to understand all of that legal-ese, and I’m happy that it won’t need to be me.

Back to my DOMA story. Ha! Back to it? I just realized that I never even started it! Well, now that all of that yammering is out of the way…

So, I’m sitting at my desk, and I’m listening to the DOMA and Prop 8 proceedings. (Relax. They are spreadsheets, people. I can listen and “spreadsheet” simultaneously until the cows come home. I’m awesome like that.) In between all of the jargon being flung around, I kept hearing stuff like “social experiment” and “alternate family structure” and the like.

I got mad. Then, I got madder. Then, I wanted to throw something. It was, literally, hours worth of blathering on about this “social experiment.”

Here’s the thing: I AM NOT AN EXPERIMENT.


Got me? A human frickin’ being.

A social experiment is, oh – I dunno – a group of people who all speak completely different languages being forced to live as naked vegans in a bio-dome that is surrounded by a moat filled with toxic sludge and no access to clean water. THAT is a social experiment. (And, a pretty good proposal for the next hit reality show, if I do say so myself…)

Straight people: I understand that you don’t “get” me sometimes. Know what? I don’t always “get” you, either. And, that’s OK. It makes us interesting. It makes us each worth getting to know. The truth is, I don’t always “get” all of my LGBT peeps! I’m sure that you can relate, right? Just because you are straight (and, likely white, Christian, and middle-class) doesn’t mean that you “get” Rajesh because he is straight, too – especially if Rajesh is Hindu and lives in a wealthy city in India. Being straight doesn’t mean that you automatically understand each other; being gay doesn’t necessarily understand that I understand all of the other lesbian folks in the world simply because we’re both playing for the same team. In the end, we’ve all got to sit down and talk – really talk - to understand.


So, just because you don’t “get” my committed 17+year relationship does not automatically mean that it is an experiment. Just because I am attracted to a different form than you are does not mean that I am an experiment.

Guess what? Us gays? We’ve been around a LONG time. Just as long as all of you straight folks. It’s true. Oh, some of your straight counterparts try to deny this, but we all know that it’s true. Isn’t there a chance that Eve was actually attracted to Jane (or Mary or Ruth) instead of listening to that snake? It could have happened. But, seriously, the ancient Greeks believed that all people go through life simply looking for their other half from whom they had been separated by one of the gods. Sometimes, they were looking for someone of the opposite sex and sometimes someone of the same sex.

So, yeah. We’ve been around for quite a while. And, we haven’t been living alone for all of these centuries, either. We’ve lived together. That’s right. Oh, call us “roommates” all you want, but the truth is, we’ve been more than that. We have truly loved each other, shared happiness and sorrow with each other, cared for each other when sick, celebrated each other when well, honored each other, and – like you straight folks – dishonored each other, too. Yes – we have our share of screw-ups in our population. It’s a number that is proportionate to the number that you have in your general population.

So, if we’ve been living together and loving each other for centuries, how are our relationships “social experiments?” They are not. They just haven’t been accepted.

Maybe the true social experiment is not so much US and who/how/where we love, but more YOU accepting the fact that we should be legally allowed to do the thing that we’re already doing. Hmmmmm….

By the way, we’re not going to stop. And, guess what? We don’t have to!

Fast forward (what a relative term when it’s your own happiness/equality/pride/self-worth that’s being legislated) to June 27, 2013: DOMA IS DEAD. Dead, I say! Oh, social media was all abuzz! E-mails and IMs and phone calls were going here and there and everywhere. According to the highest court in our nation, we can no longer be discriminated against when joined for life in a state that allows same-sex marriage. We can file our taxes together. We can adopt the children that we’re already raising. We can receive counseling and collect death benefits if our partner has been killed in war (soldiers) or in the line of duty (police, fire, first responders). We can take advantage of the OTHER 1,179 federal benefits that were previously denied us. Yay!!!!

Well, “yay” as long as we never leave the state in which we were legally married or ONLY travel to other states that recognize same-sex marriage…. As for the other 32 states, nothing has changed. Sorry about that. Some of us are equal, but only those of us who were lucky enough to be born in a state like Massachusetts or were bright enough to move to a state like Washington. For those of us who choose to stay in backwards and mean-spirited placed like Utah, Kansas, Mississippi – well, we’re still screwed.

And, by the way, what’s with this “staying put” crap? I get asked by straight folks all the time! “Hey – why don’t you just move to another state?” Dude – why don’t YOU?

Here’s why (and I’ll bet our lists are strikingly similar):
---This is our HOME. This is where we were born and raised.
---Our families are here. I don’t just mean the wife and kids. I mean parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, best-friends-who-are-better-than-siblings.
---We own a home and property, and we quite enjoy our little plot of dirt. We chose it for a reason.
---My job is here. I’ve been at the company for 23 years, and I do ok. I’ll leave it when the time comes, but I can’t just quit and go without something else comparable/better waiting for me.
---Like many parents know (and I didn’t understand until just recently), it’s not easy to uproot your kids from their school – especially when you LOVE the school. LOVE IT. Love the curriculum, love the approach, love the staff, love the teachers, love the other students, love that they are open and willing, love that our kids are happy.
---For all of its backwards politics and exclusionary religious crap, Utah is still a pretty cool place to live. Those of you who live here know how pretty it is and how amazing it is to have opportunities to do just about ANYTHING! Mountains, deserts, red rocks, meadows, forests – the only thing that we’re missing is the ocean (and, technically, the Great Salt Lake was part of the ocean a gajillion years ago).

So, see? I’ll bet a lot of our reasons are on your list, too. We don’t just up and move because some things are hard. We try to change them. We try to change policies. We try to give others an opportunity to change their own minds by showing how we are much more similar than different.

So, when the leader of HRC says that their goal is to have marriage equality in all 50 states in 5 years, well, I sit up and listen. When he says that he is going to start in a state like Utah, I fall off of my chair. Then, I sit back and think about it. Not a completely horrible idea. After all, the tides are changing here.

So many young people (younger than most of our current state legislators and senators) just don’t care. They don’t hang on to this stuff that makes us different from and fearful of each other. They are much more concerned with the environment and ethics and food additives than they are about who is kissing whom. This is not to say that they do not respect and follow their religious leaders, but they seem to be more of a mindset that their church can prohibit same-sex marriage, but as long as we’re not getting married in their church or within their faith, then they will just let it go. Oh, please grow up faster, you whipper-snappers!

So, what if we were to elect more open-minded folks? Is that such a bad thing? What if we actually convince some of the old fogies that we’re not out to destroy all of humanity? What if marriage equality actually happens in Utah? Well, then it is my opinion that the other 32 states will fall into line. After all, who wants to be known as MORE conservative than Utah? Um, nobody, that’s who.

So, DOMA is dead, but we still wait and see. Progress, people. Progress.

No comments: