04 November 2009

A Modest Proposal

So the election is over and it appears that No on 1 has lost this battle. I am, of course, angry about this - angry that some people still think it's okay to put other people's rights up to a vote, angry that they find such glee in purposefully and maliciously hurting other people's families - but it's not a hot, weepy, tearful anger. No, this anger is cold and calculating and resolved that this war is far from over.

What this campaign has really done is to gel and confirm my belief that it's time to use their playbook against them. Bishop Malone has at least intimated that he's not opposed to civil unions, per se, and that his big problem was using the word "marriage", which he sees as a religious sacrament, for same-sex couples. Fine, then. If the word is his hangup (It isn't, really, but he needs to be hoisted on his own petard), then I say we let the word "marriage" be the exclusive province of the churches.

I was married in a church by a minister, and that makes my union a marriage, as far as I'm concerned. If what it takes for my relationship to be legally recognized is for the state to call it a "civil union", then so be it. The only way for that solution to be fair and equitable, though, is for the state to stop using the word "marriage" altogether and apply the term "civil union" across the board.

I propose a campaign that we call "Preserve Religious Marriage". We talk a lot about God and allowing churches to exercise their traditional values unencumbered by the state and throw in a lot of talk about "no special rights". In short, we completely co-opt their language, then change all the language in state law to use the term "civil unions", which are the same as marriages under current laws in everything but name and their availability to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. It is completely constitutional and it basically renders all the arguments they used in this campaign moot.

"Marriage" won't be taught in schools at all because it's a religious institution. We don't talk about the fact that there are some churches which are perfectly comfortable calling a union between same-sex couples a marriage. Maybe we don't even show any same-sex couples in any ads at all. Basically, we use their language and their imagery to defuse their message and completely fuck with the minds of their supporters.

It is, admittedly, a cynical approach, but at the moment I simply don't care. What they did in this campaign was completely cynical and mean-spirited and hateful, and they deserve to have that turned back on them.

25 comments:

sprboston said...

Mel, I'm sorry. It's difficult for me to articulate how I feel about this because I don't value the word "marriage" like others might. I don't need a word (but then, I'm not married). I'm looking for equal rights under the law in a legal union when I get married no matter what it's called. It's funny how people can get stuck on semantics and "words." But there's a little voice in a corner of my mind that says by denying us the right to equal status, by denying us the right to that word, they're still keeping us separate...keeping us the "other."

However, I'm willing to take small steps and get the legal protection under a state and federally recognized civil-union no matter what "word" is used now. Things are changing, albeit slowly.

Carole Knits said...

I am so sorry that this happened. I really hoped the people of Maine were smarter than this. And I hoped they cared about social justice and equal rights. I hear what you're saying about civil unions but I do think that's sort of like a "separate but equal" arrangement. And we all know how that worked out.

Julie said...

I was so disappointed when I woke up this morning to discover that the Yes on 1 people had won; I thought the people of Maine were better than that!

Chris said...

I was disappointed when I checked the election results a few minutes ago, too. It's frustrating how far there is to go still.

JoVE said...

absolutely. And maybe make it necessary to do some civil thing (even a short thing in a civil office) to make it legal even if you are married in a church. Like they do in Germany and other European countries.

Why is it that churches are doing the state's work in a country that values the separation of church and state so highly?

But yes, equal rights. The other option is to stop giving married people rights other relationships don't have but to recognize family in all its diversity and support everyone in supporting others that way.

Melissa said...

Mel I had this same conversation at work yesterday. It's not about the word, it's about having access to the same legal rights.

Jo, you are so right on about the churches doing the state's work. Even that last president we had would often drag the bible into his justifications...the government should not be using the church's definition of what a marriage is. It's time to redfine this for ALL..

Wendelene said...

During a recent conversation with a large group of friends, this same suggestion came up. (marriage being only through a church - all else civil union) I think it's a perfectly reasonable compromise, but you should have heard the screams and yells from the same sex couples who did not have a church ceremony. "But we are married!!!" Gee, you'd think someone was trying to discriminate against them or restrict their rights!

tornwordo said...

The sanctimonious bastards win again. I feel your pain and anger. It makes my mind think crazy thoughts like it's time to bomb the catholic churches. Hugs and keep on living the example.

Meg said...

Actually that is not a bad idea ... not a bad idea at all. But I am sorry that it will have to go to a vote again.

anne marie in philly said...

I echo julie and chris and carole...I am so sorry the voters let other people do their thinking for them.

but don't give up...the redumblicans want you to roll over, play dead, and go away...show them who's boss!

Rachel said...

So sorry, I hoped the people of Maine will vote differently, it was the only vote that really interested me. It is so sad these mean spirited evil people get to so many voters, disgusting.

I like the idea of making marriage a religious thing we don't need. I will be very comfortable with a civil union arrangement in my life but I think the word is too strongly seeded in all our minds to be able to achieve that.

kmkat said...

Mel, I am so sorry about how the vote came out. It was the first thing I checked this morning -- what a bummer of a way to start the day.

I say do whatever it takes to gain equal rights under the law. If that means giving up on the word "marriage", then so be it. Go out there and do what needs to be done with my hearty blessing.

Kathy said...

I'm so sorry, Mel. I thought of you this morning when I heard the news. Maybe I'm naive, but you'd think that all the money spent on this by the "yes on 1" people could be spend feeding people at a food bank or some other worthwhile cause -- to me, that's more of a "family value".

Miranda said...

I agree with your idea -- I think it's the only way to level the playing field. Any union between two loving individuals should be recognized as such, with all the acompanying rights and privileges under the law. By removing the hot-button "M" word, you take a lot of steam out of their engines, and place the focus where it should be -- on legal equality -- rather than on the particular religious views of any group. If a couple is determined to be "married", then by all means do so in the denomination of your choice, but make it separate from the legal aspect. Seems like a pain, but if we want this to succeed, then we have to be very specific in terminology and tactics, and bypass them at their own game. Well said, Mel.

Lisa/knitnzu said...

My Maine friends in Bergen, Norway tell me that same sex marriage is legal there AND they have Universal Health Care. So civilized, no?

I was NOT married in a church, but the Yes group has no trouble recognizing my marriage. So hypocritical.

Don (DH) was going on about your idea many weeks ago. Make it all civil union. I think you may be onto something here.

I thought that marriage was first a legal contract, then co-opted by THE CHURCH. But the yes group is saying the opposite. Which doesn't necessarily make me believe they are correct, I mean they've lied about so much already.

GACK GACK GACK.

Lisa/knitnzu said...

I also really think that your campaign idea should hammer home the separation of church and state idea... and talk about the rise of Islam and what that will mean (even if it isn't true-the rise, why not scare everybody-play on their fears). Or worse, Wicca, or some other Pagan thing as Church. What's the Dalai Lama have to say? Or doesn't the religious "right" care what one of the most respected religious figures in the world has to say????

Sheepish Annie said...

Well said. A "legal" union is a civil one by definition since church and state are separated by law. I don't think you are being cynical at all. You are pointing out the flaw in the "yes" argument that they feared being recognized and hid behind fear-based tactics.

I'm thrilled to know that I won't have to teach Marriage 101. It's not in the curriculum, never has been, was never going to be and we don't have anyone certified to teach it anyway...

Yarndude said...

Oh, Mel, I'm so sorry... what an awful thing to have happened. I agree with you about the use of terms.

FugueStateKnits said...

Mel, I like your idea - really, when you think about it, making the sacrament of marriage a state act is a violation of the prohibition against the Establishment Clause of the 1st amendment. And the state regulating which (1) adult gets to marry which (1) adult should be considered a violation of the prohibition against people freely exercising their faith (next clause in the 1st Amendment). Sooo, we should do it the way they do it in Europe: You get a civil union through the state, then the religious ceremony, if you so desire, shall be in the church, synagogue, mosque or beach or whatever of your choice.
the idea that the "majority" gets to vote down the civil rights of a minority makes me nauseous. I'm not so young that I don't remember the horror stories of Nazi Germany, or even more recently, some other nations today where it can be a capital offense.
Who will be next?
irst they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Pastor Martin Niemoeller

Robin said...

As a Californian, I understand your anger. I contributed to the No on 1 campaign because of your blog. Thank you for educating us all. Robin

james in washington said...

I think it is a good idea and I wouldn't be surprised if some states move to something like that. In Maine is that there are now more than 400 references to "marriage". As I was canvassing central Maine, I explained to a LOT of Yes voters that marriage right now is a LEGAL term, not a religious one. I think the bottom line, as you state so well, is that we need to get this clarified and that separate is not equal.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you know that in Canada now, same sex marriage is legal. Well, today on CBC radio (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), there was a delightful interview with David Hein who has written a musical called "My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding" based on the true story of his mother's wedding. Here's the website to listen to some of the original songs in the musical: http://174.143.72.90/mmljww/
The show is playing in Toronto. Yes, anything is possible.
jill in Ontario

Anonymous said...

Mel - I was outraged that your state bowed to the ranting and passed this travesty. Your thoughts are right on and I hope it gains favor. The irony is that even if a couple marries in a place of worship, the ceremony isn't valid without a license from their local government. So, to have them deny the same to the rest of us is extremely hypocritical. Fight on. -- Joe-in Wyoming

Sam said...

We all hope someday we can stop trodding these well worn cow paths and move the *uck on. Just another example of the destructive bent of the church, if you ask me. Hey kids, it's not just for crusades, witch burnings, exorcisms anymore! Extend the hate to your friends and neighbors!

I think your idea has merit and is daring, Mel. Why aren't think tanks like the one Joe Solomnese fronts thinking in such a way? Wish that we all could make the same idea happen with other pesky, inadequate words such as "church," "christian," and "god."

I have so much respect for the French, who realize that nearly every generation's bureaucracies, values, institutions, and self-government itself must be burned down, reexamined, debated, reformed, rethought, and remolded to maintain relevance to the exigencies of life.

We Americans can't seem to come to terms with this kind of wisdom and instead cling to the old, outmoded and cruel like lemmings with no vision for the future. More than so many other cultures, we seem to cling to our past with so much more anger and pain, while the rest of the world moves way beyond us.

Laurie said...

I can't believe (still) that people think like this. Or that something that is none of their business matters so much to them, that they would compromise the happiness of others.