What Hurts the Institution of Marriage the Most?

Opponents of same-sex marriage say that allowing homosexuals to marry would hurt the institution of marriage. I don’t quite see why: if gays and lesbians want to marry, isn’t that reinforcing the idea that getting married is a good thing?

People who use this argument are failing to see the forest for the trees. They freak out over a handful of relationships nationwide and ignore the relationship that may have hurt the institution of marriage more than anything other kind: that of the cohabiting couple.

My oldest daughter and I were watching “She’s Having a Baby” the other night and for me it brought back memories of a time when marriage was treated with much more respect and honor than it is now. In 1988, when “She’s Having a Baby” was made, living together was only just beginning to be a common phenomenon. (The number of cohabiting unmarried partners increased by 88% between 1990 and 2007. Source: U.S. Census Bureau. “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2007.”)

But when my first husband and I thought about living together before getting married back in 1972, we didn’t have the guts to do it. We didn’t want to be an aberration or the object of unkind gossip. Besides, to our parents at least, marriage was a very big deal. It was the ultimate state of commitment. So, like the couple in “She’s Having a Baby” we went ahead and got married despite the fact that we were young and naive and didn’t know each other very well.

Would our relationship have survived if we’d lived together before getting married? I doubt it, since getting married didn’t cause us to break up—it just made it harder to. (And more expensive.)

Consider these statistics:

About 75% of cohabiters plan to marry their partners. 55% of different-sex cohabiters do marry within five years of moving in together. 40% break up within that same time period. And about 10% remain in an unmarried relationship for five years or more.  (Source: Smock, Pamela. 2000. “Cohabitation in the United States.” Annual Review of Sociology.)

Cohabitation implies that marriage isn’t as important as we were once led to believe. Many couples go into a living-together arrangement because they don’t trust the institution of marriage. They look at their parents’ generation and wonder why they should even bother to get married. (I’ve even heard people say that the main reason they would consider getting married is to get wedding gifts. Really.)

So why aren’t conservatives berating couples who have opted to not marry (like Goldie Hawn and Kirk Russell)? Why aren’t they holding them up as examples of relationships that hurt the institution of marriage?

Same-sex marriage isn’t weakening the institution of marriage; on the contrary: gay couples’ desire to marry is a vote of confidence. They’re saying that marriage matters. Cohabiting couples aren’t as sure about that.

Sometimes it seems that gays are doing more to promote the sanctity of marriage are than straight people are.

 

 

Watching What We Say: Is Name-Calling Ever Excusable?

While Kobe Bryant was defending his use of the phrase “fucking fag” as something that should not be taken literally and that came out of the heat of the moment (the referee had just called a foul on him), volleyball fans in Brazil were dealing with a similar situation. During a semifinal match a couple of weeks ago, some of the fans started shouting, “Bicha! Bicha! Bicha!” at Michael, an allegedly gay player on the other team. (“Bicha” means “faggot.”)

Shocked by the blatant homophobia and in a show of support, Michael’s team and fans came up with a gigantic banner proclaiming that they are against prejudice, the teammates wore pink warm-up shirts and the crowd shook pink thundersticks with Michael’s name on them.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., more than half of those polled thought that Kobe Bryant’s $100,000 fine was unnecessary. His apology (such as it was) should be enough.

In my opinion, people who think that should apologize—for not being sensitive enough about the issue themselves.

There is no excuse for using a derogatory term as a swear word, whether it’s “faggot” or “pussy” or “nigger.” When you do that, what you’re really saying is that it’s a bad thing to be gay, female or black. It doesn’t even have to be directed at an actual homosexual, woman or black person. In fact, the intent is even more insulting when it isn’t, as in “He’s so queer” or “He throws like a girl.”

As far as I know, the referee Bryant got upset with isn’t gay, and yet Bryant apparently felt it a need to insult him by calling him a “fag.” What else could he have meant except that being homosexual is the lowest of the low?

[Or is it? The worst word I can think of, and I think most people would agree with me, is the “C” word. I won’t even write it, let alone say it. I think it’s significant that the worst epithet a person can sling at another person is a derogatory word for part of the female anatomy.]

There’s too much acceptance of name calling in this country. People make excuses for it by saying that they didn’t mean it to be derogatory, that it’s just a “figure of speech.” I don’t buy it. It’s not a figure of speech; on the contrary, words like “faggot” and “pussy” are loaded with meaning. It’s just that what they mean is hurtful. Words can hurt. They can even cause people to have breakdowns and commit suicide.

Not only that, but do we really want to teach our children that it’s okay to use such language? These were grown-ups who were calling out “Faggot! Faggot!” Because he’s an athlete, kids look up to Kobe Bryant as a role model.  Do we really think that there’s no correlation bullying among schoolchildren and the damaging words they hear adults using freely and in public?

[In a side note, actress Ashley Judd was criticized this past week for her opinion (which was stated in her recent memoir) that hip-hop music contributes to a “rape culture.”

“As far as I’m concerned, most rap and hip-hop music — with it’s rape culture and insanely abusive lyrics and depictions of girls and women as ‘ho’s’ — is the contemporary soundtrack of misogyny.”

Most of the criticism was about her singling out one kind of music for being misogynist when there are plenty of examples of “trash-talking” in other musical genres. But because of the controversy over her remarks, her basic message was lost, which is that the words we use do matter and they can have negative consequences.]

Personally, I think Kobe Bryant got off easy. And I’m disappointed that more Americans don’t agree with me. But then what do I expect in this country? Pink warm-up shirts and thundersticks?

 

 

 

 

Tuesday Tidbits

Whoops! Turns out Proposition 8 is going to be in effect for a little while longer. For more information, go to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog. For more thoughts on the prospects for Proposition 8, or its ban, go here.

  • Teen sex doesn’t mean bad grades, says new study. Not all teens are just “hooking up.” Some are in committed relationships and that makes all the difference.
  • Open letter from a mama grizzly to Sarah Palin. Palin’s use of the term “mama grizzly” is like her use of the word “feminist.” She appropriates both as if all mamas and fems think like her. Not!
  • On August 2nd, HBO Documentaries aired a new film about abortion called 12th and Delaware. (See trailer here.)  So far no word on when it will be shown again, but I advise you to watch out for it. It sounds fascinating.

[The] documentary seeks to offer “a fly-on-the-wall view of the ideological trench warfare” that happen on the intersection of Delaware Avenue and 12th Street, Fort Pierce, Florida, where Woman’s World Health Clinic, a privately owned abortion clinic, and an anti-abortion Pregnancy Care Center are situated across the road from each other.

What’s With Arizona??

Arizona State Flag

Maybe it’s in the water. Maybe it’s the heat. Whatever it is, it’s bringing out the worst in the people of Arizona. I didn’t even realize that the governor, Jan Brewer, signed a bill into law last September denying benefits to domestic partners of state employees. The new law, which takes effect October 1, redefines “dependent” and excludes  coverage for domestic partners, including heterosexual partners, children of domestic partners, disabled adult dependents, and full time students over 22 who are claimed as dependents.

Interestingly enough, the University of Arizona has decided to reinstate benefits to domestic partners, using funds separate from state money, in order to remain competitive in attracting talent. According to the Arizona Daily Star, about 20 employees of the University left because of the repeal of domestic partner benefits and some job offers were rejected for the same reason.

I’ve always seen the offering of benefits to domestic partners and other dependents as a way to get more people insured in America. Without those benefits, many people will not have health insurance at all. Why shouldn’t a person be able to cover more than herself on her policy if she is willing to pay the family premium? In fact, I think insurance policies ought to cover adult children indefinitely. There’s a terrible gap in insurance coverage between 22-year-olds and those who have finally established their careers to the point where they get employee benefits.

Nor do I think people should be forced to marry just so they can share a family insurance plan. It’s not the place of the state to pry into what kind of relationship domestic partners have.

Continue reading “What’s With Arizona??”

Death Penalty For Gays?

Black Gay MovementA Huffington Post article on December 8, 2009 reported that legislation has been proposed in Uganda that would impose the death penalty for some gay Ugandans and put their family and friends in jail for up to seven years if they fail to report them. Gay rights activists contend that this bill is part of a reaction to Africa’s gay community becoming more vocal.

The article explains that “the Ugandan legislation in its current form would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. ‘Serial offenders’ also could face capital punishment, but the legislation does not define the term. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act faces life imprisonment.” In addition, “anyone who ‘aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality’ faces seven years in prison if convicted. Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals also could get seven years and anyone with ‘religious, political, economic or social authority’ who fails to report anyone violating the act faces three years.”

Opponents point out that the bill signals a return to the brutal regime of Idi Amin, which would throw citizens in prison for life for merely touching another person in a gay way and put them to death if convicted of a crime called “aggravated homosexuality.”

Uganda is only one of several African nations who are criminalizing homosexuality, which they say is increasing because of “foreign influences.” High school teacher David Kisambra says that “the youths in secondary schools copy everything from the Western world and America. A good number of students have been converted into gays. We hear there are groups of people given money by some gay organizations in developed countries to recruit youth into gay activities.”

However, apparently there are also foreigners who are encouraging the Ugandan government’s homophobic reaction. According to the article,  “The measure was proposed in Uganda following a visit by leaders of U.S. conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy for gays to become heterosexual. However, at least one of those leaders has denounced the bill, as have some other conservative and liberal Christians in the United States.”

Rachel Maddow, host of The Rachel Maddow Show, debated the point with Richard Cohen, author of Coming Out Straight. Here is a video of their exchange:

Health officials are concerned because they fear this will hinder efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. See “Stigma Driving AIDS Crisis Among African Gays.” I remember the AIDS hysteria in the U.S. in the ’80s. One of the most appalling things I heard during that time was that AIDS was God’s way of getting rid of homosexuals. The problem is, AIDS is also spread by men to women and is in fact the leading cause of death among African men and women. (The African Region has 11% of the world’s population, but an estimated 60% of people with HIV/AIDS.) Source: World Health Organization.

The only way to combat this disease is to let homosexuality out of the closet, not put it in prison.

In Memoriam

On Thursday, October 8, 2009, eleven years after Matthew’s death, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, 281-146, to give final House passage to the Defense Spending Bill that included the Matthew Shepard Act, which added gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability to the federal law prohibiting crimes motivated by hatred or minority bias.

For background, see my posts “Sexual Hate Crimes” and “Hate Crimes Legislation Debate.”

Also: yesterday was the 11th International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Check out Bird of Paradox for this Transgender Europe press release.

A photographic exhibition at the Hammer Museum, University of California Los Angeles, shows a comparative study between teenage girls and adult male-to-female transsexuals
A photographic exhibition at the Hammer Museum, University of California Los Angeles, shows a comparative study between teenage girls and adult male-to-female transsexuals
Noble Savage points out in “Transforming Our Views of Transgender” that some feminists do not consider male-to-female transexuals to be female simply because they say so (or because they have the operation relieving them of their male “equipment”). This convoluted viewpoint comes from the supposed feminist “belief” that gender is not biologically determined, but rather socialized behavior. This black-or-white way of thinking only serves to marginalize transgender individuals and deprive them of their human rights.

For example, Julie Bindel writes in Standpoint.com thatdespite campaigning against gender discrimination, rape, child abuse and domestic violence for 30 years, I have been labelled a bigot because of a column I wrote in 2004 that questioned whether a sex change would make someone a woman or simply a man without a penis.” (Read her recent article, “The Operation That Can Ruin Your Life,” here.)

Go here to read more about this exhibition.