Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On irrational abstractitude....

Dear Amy: I am 44, and my daughter is 23.
She is gay, and I have treated her and her partner the same way I treat my son and daughter-in-law. Everyone acknowledges this. I respect their commitment to each other and am joyful that they are very happy.
However, I cannot accept the fact that she just got "married." She has now told me that she needs to terminate her relationship with me because I will not accept her marriage.
She is aware of my position on gay marriage. The suggestion to agree to disagree is not an option. What say you?

— Wondering

Dear Wondering: Many parents would be delighted for their kids to choose marriage. A wise parent knows that forcing offspring to choose between them and a romantic relationship often results in the younger person choosing the latter. Your daughter knew the risks she was running with you when she and her partner chose to marry. She did it. You may assume that she is as stubborn as you are.
Because you rule out the option of "agreeing to disagree," you really left your daughter no option but to terminate the relationship. I can only urge you to try harder to find a way to reconcile.

What I don't understand is how you can simultaneously "respect their commitment" and be "joyful that they are very happy" while also maintaining an abstract and apparently compartmentalized "position on gay marriage." I know many people DO hold their family and loved ones to a different standard than they do the rest of the world. And others (as in this case), allow an arbitrary rule to cause pain and even estrangement in a relationship that is otherwise (apparently) respectful, joyful, and loving. What I don't understand is why--or how they justify it.

If this person's stance on this issue is of paramount importance to her (a religious conviction, etc.), she can't claim to be against the marriage but supportive, respectful, and joyful about the relationship. If it's not, I don't see why she's clinging to a position that is hurtful to the daughter (and others), damaging to their family, and not actually benefiting her in any way.

When your life reveals that a rule no longer makes sense, you drop the rule, not your life.


Anonymous said...

I love your last line in this. It's perfect.

Anonymous said...

I agree with "Anonymous." Your last line is great.

Through all of my "activism," I've heard this argument a lot - people support gays being together, but not necessarily their marriage. They cite various reasons, but the two most common are that marriage is a religious institution that is reserved for a man and a woman (per the Bible, I think). In this respect, civil unions are OK, but marriage is not. The second is that gays will use their marital status to scam insurance companies - get insurance for their spouses and take money out of the pockets of taxpayers.

While I do understand the rationale behind the first reason (although I don't agree with it - and it's one of the reasons I will not get married in a church), the second baffles me. I will eventually be on my husband's insurance or he will be on mine because it will be cheaper, and our kids will be on the insurance with us; why should that be any different for same-sex couples? Do people really think they will just "get married" in order to get insurance? Like they wouldn't respect the institution of marriage just as much as (if not more than) heterosexual couples?

I'm not sure what Wondering's problem was, but I'm not shocked, unfortunately. More and more people are accepting that gays will be together, but they will not accept their marriage.