Demand Honesty. Love Your Neighbors And Friends. Vote No On 2.

Commentary

I was walking around Lake Morton with my wife, daughter, and little boy Wednesday evening when we came across a new political yard sign: “Yes on 2: One man, one woman,” it read. It’s in a very prominent location, and you can’t miss it. (In fact, since I first saw it, someone has defaced the sign. I want to make it clear that nothing I write here endorses that type of behavior. It’s important that we respect other people’s rights and dignity even if they seek to deny rights and dignity to others.)

Amendment 2 would change the Florida constitution to ban not just gay marriage and civil unions, but any possible government recognition of the meaningfulness of homosexual relationships. It would reduce them all in perpetuity to one-night stands in the eyes of the law. Here’s the relevant text: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.” Note particularly the part in bold. Organizers say that won’t keep gay citizens from losing health care and other benefits provided through their partners’ employers. But I don’t trust them because their campaign for this amendment reeks of intellectual dishonesty and moral cowardice.

If the (mostly) religious leaders behind this amendment – like Jay Dennis at First Baptist Chuch at the Mall – were honest and serious about protecting the institution of marriage, they would be attacking legal divorce. I would disagree with them, but I would respect their sincerity. However, they know very well that such efforts would explode in their face, politically. They know this would erode their claims to moral power with the public at large. And it would also harm them with their congregations, which are, of course, full of divorcees, because our society is full of divorce. That’s the definition of moral cowardice. Ask yourself, before you deny gay people the chance to marry or engage in any other state-sanctioned civil relationship, if you would pull the lever to restrict your ability to end your own marriage.

In fact, this amendment has nothing to do with protecting marriage. It has everything to do with ensuring that gay relationships remain somehow abnormal and that gay people remain abstractions for some shrinking portion of the public to revile. At the very least, supporters of this amendment should produce campaign signs and other material that don’t lie about their intentions: “Vote Yes on 2: No state recognition of gay relationships.” That would be sort of honorable, if bigoted.

But I want to return to that sign and my neighborhood for a moment. I’m not sure anyone actually lives in the house where it stands. It’s a stately lakefront home, but the grass is sort of untended, and the condition of the house itself – when you stop and look at it – suggests neglect.

If I had the chance to meet whoever put the sign there, I would invite him or her to walk about a half-mile down the road to another home. It belongs to two of my neighbors and good friends, who happen to be homosexual women. A visitor to their home is welcomed by the intimate aesthetic of a classic Lake Morton bungalow. There’s an immaculate front yard – countoured by trimmed bushes and flower beds – that seems to flow seamlessly into an open air front porch. If it’s Christmas, there’s a Santa Claus or a reindeer on display. If it’s Halloween, fake spider webs and goofy witch statues greet you. Today, if you stopped by today, you’d see a large American flag mounted from the roof line.

If you’re a friend, they’ll invite you to the backyard, which they spent hours and hours crafting into a sort of outdoor living room, with a deck and tiny fountain and self-laid pavers and a tiki bar they built from scratch. And inside, man, it’s one giant homage to the cliches of gay taste and decorating skill.

In short, there are larger homes in Lakeland, but none I’d be prouder to live in. It is the product of professional success – they’re in the clothing design business together – and personal love -of years spent sweating and bickering and pouring themselves into their property and each other. This is the defintion of marriage.

I challenge the Lake Morton homeowner or Jay Dennis or anyone else who would vote for this amendment in the comfort of the anonymous voting booth to tell my friends to their face in their front yard that their love and commitment is a threat to someone else’s marriage. Spit on their edging. Drop trash on their flowers. Vandalize their home. That’s what you are doing with this amendment. It’s an act of moral vandalism. Supporters of this amendment want me to declare that my friends’ undeclared marriage is an abomination. That my wife and I help society, while my friends harm it. No damn way.

While we’re at it, I’d take amendment supporters to meet the two gay men with whom I work who just got married (not to each other) in San Francisco. I’d tell them about the mini-reception we held for one of them. They would have heard the story of the proposal, how my friend pulled out a ring during a dinner date and placed it on the table. And how his shy husband-to-be looked at it for an hour, saying nothing. “Will you marry me?” my friend asked finally. “Of course,” his husband answered. Tell them, to their face, that the delightful terror that accompanies real love and commitment belongs only to heterosexuals, that it’s a threat to society when homosexuals feel it. I dare you.

And I’d take that homeowner to meet the women who serve with me on a parent board for one my children’s schools, who host our meetings and help plan and carry out our fundraisers. Believe me, they do more work than I do. One of them sweated all day with me recently at a car wash, herding the kids and managing the flow of vehicles. There’s only four of us on the board, meaning an awful lot of social fabric-upholding heterosexuals are doing much less.

Organizers of this amendment would have you believe that gay marriage is a threat to children, that gay parents damage…something. Again, tell it to their daughter’s face. Tell her that her heavily involved parents are a threat to her. Convince her that her family has no more meaning than an encounter at “Pulse” or “Molly’s”.

It takes zero courage to raise a pitchfork against an abstraction. I hope that anyone who is considering voting for this obscenity will take with them into their precinct a picture of the real people they would spit on in doing so. As I said in a different post, beliefs have consequences. For real human beings.

Sex makes up such a tiny sliver of any marriage. (Some slivers are tinier than others, but that’s for another post.) The remainder of the vast expanse of a shared life is filled with washing dishes, making the bed, figuring out what to eat, gossiping, fretting over the behavior of the children, running errands, griping about co-workers, sitting on the porch drinking, worshiping in church, learning to live with each other’s irritating habits, fighting over money, making up, and the millions of other particles of living from which families construct themselves every day. Tell me the Jesus Christ of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes would condemn the massive act of love and faith it takes to embark on that. Again, no damn way.

None of the people I’ve written about here know I’m writing this. I didn’t ask for their permission. They certainly didn’t ask me to do it on their behalf. And I hope they’ll forgive me if I embarrass them. But this is a fundamental question of human dignity, involving the real lives of thousands, if not millions, of real Floridians. I think the amendment will fail. I think there are enough fair-minded, thoughtful people in this state to reject it. If you are one of them, join the battle.

But even if this passes, supporters of this amendment have already lost the war. And I think they know it. Over and over again, polls show their children and grandchildren, even those in conservative churches, realize that gay citizens are no better or worse than anyone else. One day, if necessary, those children and grandchildren will undo what some of their parents and grandparents did. And they’ll ask, “Grandma, what exactly you were thinking when you humiliated my friends?” How will you answer?

17 thoughts on “Demand Honesty. Love Your Neighbors And Friends. Vote No On 2.

  1. But… but… but you need to realize that most of the people who back Amendment 2 are closeted gays, and unless they have strong laws to keep them from yielding to their base instincts, they will all leave their wives for other men.

    (Oh, you think THAT’s it?!) Excuse me. My wife just tapped me on the shoulder to tell me I have it backwards; that male Amendment 2 supporters worry that unless we have strong laws against The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, their (sexually frustrated) wives will leave them for other women.

    In my happily heterosexual household, we need no laws to keep us straight — and we have no desire to harm our friends who are happily in same-sex relationships. I mean, so what? We aren’t going to go to bed with them and they aren’t going to go to bed with us, so why should we butt into their private business?

    I blame the Democrats for all this anti-gay nonsense. They always want government to regulate everything.

    (Huh? What’s that, babe?) Sorry. Wife correcting me again. She says it’s the Republicans, not Democrats, who are homophobic.

    Whatever. I have to go to work early tomorrow. Time for a shower and to hit the sack.

    Heterosexually yours,

    – Robin

  2. But… but… but you need to realize that most of the people who back Amendment 2 are closeted gays, and unless they have strong laws to keep them from yielding to their base instincts, they will all leave their wives for other men.

    (Oh, you think THAT’s it?!) Excuse me. My wife just tapped me on the shoulder to tell me I have it backwards; that male Amendment 2 supporters worry that unless we have strong laws against The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, their (sexually frustrated) wives will leave them for other women.

    In my happily heterosexual household, we need no laws to keep us straight — and we have no desire to harm our friends who are happily in same-sex relationships. I mean, so what? We aren’t going to go to bed with them and they aren’t going to go to bed with us, so why should we butt into their private business?

    I blame the Democrats for all this anti-gay nonsense. They always want government to regulate everything.

    (Huh? What’s that, babe?) Sorry. Wife correcting me again. She says it’s the Republicans, not Democrats, who are homophobic.

    Whatever. I have to go to work early tomorrow. Time for a shower and to hit the sack.

    Heterosexually yours,

    – Robin

  3. Trust me, homosexuals ARE a threat to heterosexual marriage, because they seem so much better at it. While divorce rates are skyrocketing between hetero couples, homosexuals are struggling for just a taste of what us heteros take for granted. They’re a threat to our current state of marriage because they actually seem to appreciate it, and that makes us look bad. How can we justify cheating on and dumping our wives if those homos are still committed to each other?!? Best to treat them like alley-trash so we’ve got someone to look down on.

    Besides, since when in history has deciding to treat someone as less than a person become something later generations regret? ……Oh wait, that whole slavery thing……riiiight…..

    I’d like to share your optimism in this bill being rejected, but any hope I may have had for the “masses” being open-minded and tolerant of others has long since passed – much like this bill, and probably with upwards of 70% of the vote.

    Sure would be nice to be wrong though!

  4. Trust me, homosexuals ARE a threat to heterosexual marriage, because they seem so much better at it. While divorce rates are skyrocketing between hetero couples, homosexuals are struggling for just a taste of what us heteros take for granted. They’re a threat to our current state of marriage because they actually seem to appreciate it, and that makes us look bad. How can we justify cheating on and dumping our wives if those homos are still committed to each other?!? Best to treat them like alley-trash so we’ve got someone to look down on.

    Besides, since when in history has deciding to treat someone as less than a person become something later generations regret? ……Oh wait, that whole slavery thing……riiiight…..

    I’d like to share your optimism in this bill being rejected, but any hope I may have had for the “masses” being open-minded and tolerant of others has long since passed – much like this bill, and probably with upwards of 70% of the vote.

    Sure would be nice to be wrong though!

  5. It doesn’t have to be so hard if you keep the church and state separate. Let the state issue “domestic partnership” licenses to create a legal civil union called “marriage” to all couples. You can already be married by a judge or a licensed notary if you want a non-religious ceremony.

    If you believe marriage is a religious matter, find a church to perform a religious marriage ceremony. The baptists don’t want to recognize same sex civil unions – fine. If you want your civil union sanctified by a church, find one who recognizes same sex civil unions as valid marriages.

    Just don’t make other people do things your way. Christians are supposed to love God first and love their neighbors as they love themselves. You don’t get to pick your neighbor.

  6. It doesn’t have to be so hard if you keep the church and state separate. Let the state issue “domestic partnership” licenses to create a legal civil union called “marriage” to all couples. You can already be married by a judge or a licensed notary if you want a non-religious ceremony.

    If you believe marriage is a religious matter, find a church to perform a religious marriage ceremony. The baptists don’t want to recognize same sex civil unions – fine. If you want your civil union sanctified by a church, find one who recognizes same sex civil unions as valid marriages.

    Just don’t make other people do things your way. Christians are supposed to love God first and love their neighbors as they love themselves. You don’t get to pick your neighbor.

  7. Thank you … for giving me hope … that perhaps, Polk county is not filled to the brim with intolerance & bigotry. Last month, after 12 years of love & commitment my partner & I traveled to the state of California to be legally wed. Our desire, to have our relationship recognized in the eyes of the law so that we might protect our commitment, our persons, our property. An acknowledgment to the State of our responsibilities, to each other AND society. As tax paying, law abiding citizens we expect nothing more, nothing less. While I understand that DOMA gives states the right to deny us recognition (as Florida ALREADY does) it is our hope that in the event of a tragedy our obvious commitment to each other will be recognized & respected. Years ago, we spent a few thousand dollars to put in place legal documents that would afford us some protection. Amendment 2 threatens even these. While tonight, should I choose to, I could meet a total stranger, take him to the courthouse tomorrow and for a mere $100 or so give him all the rights, duties and privileges my partner & I have been striving for for the past 12 years. It simply doesn’t make sense – where’s the “sanctity” in that?

  8. Thank you … for giving me hope … that perhaps, Polk county is not filled to the brim with intolerance & bigotry. Last month, after 12 years of love & commitment my partner & I traveled to the state of California to be legally wed. Our desire, to have our relationship recognized in the eyes of the law so that we might protect our commitment, our persons, our property. An acknowledgment to the State of our responsibilities, to each other AND society. As tax paying, law abiding citizens we expect nothing more, nothing less. While I understand that DOMA gives states the right to deny us recognition (as Florida ALREADY does) it is our hope that in the event of a tragedy our obvious commitment to each other will be recognized & respected. Years ago, we spent a few thousand dollars to put in place legal documents that would afford us some protection. Amendment 2 threatens even these. While tonight, should I choose to, I could meet a total stranger, take him to the courthouse tomorrow and for a mere $100 or so give him all the rights, duties and privileges my partner & I have been striving for for the past 12 years. It simply doesn’t make sense – where’s the “sanctity” in that?

  9. Thanks, Billy. My marriage might not be legal in Florida, but at least I know some Floridians will respect it.

    After reading your post, I’m sure that my best friend won’t mind having to step aside temporarily because for the next 24 hours you’re my favorite straight person in the whole world.

  10. Thanks, Billy. My marriage might not be legal in Florida, but at least I know some Floridians will respect it.

    After reading your post, I’m sure that my best friend won’t mind having to step aside temporarily because for the next 24 hours you’re my favorite straight person in the whole world.

  11. Pingback: Demand Honesty. Love Your Neighbors And Friends. Vote No On 2. at Lakeland Local « Wells Written

  12. Billy, Britt and I couldn’t have asked for a better wedding gift than this column. We’re proud to have you as a friend, and we’re happy you’ll be celebrating with us on Nov. 1.

  13. Billy, Britt and I couldn’t have asked for a better wedding gift than this column. We’re proud to have you as a friend, and we’re happy you’ll be celebrating with us on Nov. 1.

  14. I’m realistic enough to know that I live in a world that does not accept me.
    I’m idealistic enough to hope that someday it is the same world my loved ones who have supported me my entire life would be proud to raise their children in.
    I’m hopeful enough to believe that my partner of nearly 15 years is protected by the mounds of legal documents that we have purchased and lamented over whenever she needs to use them.
    More than anything I’m tired of being the focal point of hate mongers and political parties that have run out of unique and relevant ideas.

    Thank you Billy, for reminding me that I am more idealistic and hopeful than realistic and tired.

  15. I’m realistic enough to know that I live in a world that does not accept me.
    I’m idealistic enough to hope that someday it is the same world my loved ones who have supported me my entire life would be proud to raise their children in.
    I’m hopeful enough to believe that my partner of nearly 15 years is protected by the mounds of legal documents that we have purchased and lamented over whenever she needs to use them.
    More than anything I’m tired of being the focal point of hate mongers and political parties that have run out of unique and relevant ideas.

    Thank you Billy, for reminding me that I am more idealistic and hopeful than realistic and tired.

Comments are closed.