Wednesday, May 27, 2009


This morning my husband and I were talking about the CA supreme court's decision yesterday to uphold the legal status of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. And then the topic shifted to gay marriage more generally.

We both agree that gay marriage should be legal as marriage between a man and a woman is legal, but for slightly different reasons. His philosophy is that a plethora of issues should be legal unless there's a compelling reason for them not to be. Thus, since he can't see how letting two men or two women marry would hurt society, he is not opposed to gay marriage. In contrast, he would be opposed to marriage between adults and children, because there's a compelling argument that such an arrangement would cause undue harm to the children in question. For me, it's about equality; if I get the right to marry the person of my choosing (who happens to be straight), then I believe everyone else should get the right to marry the person of their choosing. Our arguments are very similar, and obviously come to the same conclusion. Additionally, I don't think either of our arguments are necessarily tied directly to the issue of gay marriage. For my husband, if actions are not hurting society, then they should be legal (whatever those actions are); for me, if I'm legally allowed to do something (whatever that something is), then others should also have the right.

I think opponents of gay marriage are also seeing a larger picture behind this particular issue. Their arguments may revolve around the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, but the driving force of such sentiment is about god's will. So again, the particular issue doesn't matter (it could be gay marriage, abortion, etc.), but whether the outcome fits within god's will does.

As someone who grew up in California, and attended a fundamentalist Christian school for two years while I lived there, I am not surprised that there is so much disagreement about gay rights in the state. Not all Californians are the same. There's extremely liberal regions in CA, and extremely conservative regions. It's a huge state, and there's bound to be severe disagreements.

What strikes me as more interesting than debates within CA are the three states where gay marriage has been legalized: Maine, Vermont, and Iowa (please correct me if my information is incomplete). We're not talking about states with large urban centers (traditional hotbeds of liberalism)...we're talking about states with large rural populations. So what is going on here?

My first response was to claim something about the culture of the Northeast (where quite a few other states have given legal rights to same-sex civil unions). Perhaps the ideals of two important religious traditions in the Northeast (Quakerism and Unitarian Universalism) supporting equal rights for all people have infused the general culture to a great enough extent that the populations are willing to push for equal marriage rights. But this leaves me not understanding Iowa. I confess I haven't spent much time in the Midwest, but I was somewhat shocked when Iowa legalized gay marriage. Is there a similar tradition (perhaps based on religion, or otherwise) of equal rights in Iowa? Or is Iowa the outlier to the pattern we've seen in the Northeast (and to a limited extent in the Northwest)? What do you think?

Monday, May 25, 2009


I have always believed that the person you marry should challenge you to be your best self, and to grow and change when necessary.

Through knowing my husband for the past eight years, there are numerous ways I have grown, but today I'm reminded of how my views of the military have changed.

I grew up hearing stories about the huge fights my mother and father used to have with her family about the Vietnam War. My mother and my father, who grew up Quaker and did alternative service during Vietnam, did not believe in the war. In contrast, Uncle Jack (my mother's oldest brother), had enlisted in the Navy when he was 17 (I'm not sure how), had served in WWII, and was then serving in Vietnam. My Uncle Sonny (my mother's middle brother) had served in Korea as a radio technician, and my Uncle Jim (her younger brother) was drafted to serve in Vietnam as an airplane mechanic.

Although I knew that all three of my uncles had been in the military, I always leaned more towards my father's views of war. In fact, since I didn't believe in war as a good outcome to conflict, it didn't occur to me to think of the soldiers as separate from war, until I met my husband.

My husband, who has no family members in the military, but whose best friend was in the Marine Corps for quite a few years, has a tremendous sense of gratitude for the service of military personnel. This gratitude may be the result of growing up male and being a history buff, both of which have exposed him to the awful realities of war. Whatever the source of his gratitude, my husband has helped me to separate the wars from the individuals, and that has helped me to grow.

I still do not fundamentally believe in war as a solution to political problems (although I do realize its necessity, from time to time), I have come to have a deep appreciation for the men and women who serve in the armed forces. I may not understand why they choose to join the military, or endorse their beliefs (especially the ones who join because they want to further god's will), but they all put their lives on the line for their country, and for that I have immense respect.

On Saturday, my husband and I shook hands with two veterans collecting donations for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation. I'll admit, it was hard for me to step beyond my revulsion for war and thank them, but it was worth it.