As Connecticut prepares to be the third state to recognize same-sex unions, The Hartford Courant ran an insightful piece on attitudes toward civil unions and same-sex marriage. This article confirmed something that I have long believed — that there are many people who oppose calling same-sex unions marriage, but who are clearly not anti-gay. Many opponents are supportive of gay issues, a healthy number even favor some form of state recognition of same-sex couples. But, as the title of the article indicates, they draw the line at gay marriage.
“Marriage and gay rights are two different issues,” says Bob Utley, a retired insurance industry employee from Burlington. Utley has a gay nephew and supports civil unions, which he believes would address most of the problems facing gay couples. “If they’re after legal rights, they can have those,” he says.
“But when you talk about changing the definition of marriage, it just raises a whole bunch of questions,” says Utley, who has been married for almost 40 years. “The term `marriage’ means `marriage between a man and a woman.'”
As I have said repeatedly on this blog (e.g., here, here and here), we need to understand why people like Utley oppose gay marriage. Voters in 18 states have voted to amend their state constitutions to preclude gay marriage. A host of other states are preparing similar initiatives for future ballots.
Reporter Daniela Altimari has done a good job of helping us understand the success of these initiatives. She has collected the thoughts of a number of Americans, many sympathetic to gay men and lesbians, who oppose gay marriage. Every gay leader, particularly those who advocate gay marriage should read her piece.
Some opponents believe “a family works better with both a mother and a father” while others “are just not ready to endorse so profound a rethinking of one of society’s bedrock institutions.” They oppose gay marriage for a variety of reasons, more often than not unrelated to any antipathy towards gay people.
Altimari notes that, just like some Republicans in Texas, many opponents of gay marriage “disapprove of the religious right’s aversion to civil unions as emphatically as they reject gay marriage.”
Many straight people have wrestled with the issue of gay marriage. As we ask that straights be understanding of us, of our difference, we need to show a similar concern for their views. They may welcome us and our partners into their lives, treat gay couples as they would treat any straight couple, yet hesitate to call us married. That’s not bigotry on their part. Perhaps it’s a recognition that a same-sex couple is different than one composed of individuals of different genders, or perhaps it’s that they’re just not ready to call such a union marriage.
Whatever the case, we need to do, as this reporter has done, and ask straight opponents of gay marriage why they are opposed. And engage them in dialogue on the issue. Perhaps that conversation will not yield the result that some of us want, but it will go a long way to better understanding the views of nearly two-thirds of Americans. And will help see that even many of those who oppose gay marriage have a generally positive view of gay people.
So, read the whole article and realize how much things are improving for gay people in America. And how, if we respect the sincere and heartfelt objections to gay marriage, things will continue to get better for all of us.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com