I was elated with the recent victory for same-sex marriage. The dominoes are falling -- even if we still have a fight ahead of us. I was delighted to read, in Michelangelo Signorile's post on the right's new strategy, that one of the crusaders against gay marriage is "furious and stunned." It is a complex issue -- states rights vs. federal law and Signorile's warning that "we had better pay attention" is an apt one.
I am a new convert to the cause of same-sex marriage. I have been a lesbian for most of my life and a second generation feminist. When I was young, I never dreamed of being married. When I came out (in the early 1980s), I was hugely relieved that I had dodged the matrimonial bullet.
It was only after turning 50, that I began to see the light. I was so hugely relieved -- yes, relieved -- when marriage became legal in the state in which I live, that I stopped to think about the fact of having lived under layers of oppression my entire life.
Recently, I read two books -- Redeeming The Dream by David Boies and Theodore B. Olson and All I love and Know, a novel by Judith Frank -- that put this into perspective.
Redeeming the Dream, The Case for Marriage Equality (Viking, 2014) tells the reader how two establishment lawyers, one liberal, one conservative, David Boies and Theodore B. Olson decided to work together to defeat Proposition Eight, a history making case that ended up at the Supreme Court of the United States along with Edith Windsor's landmark case against DOMA (the federal Defense of Marriage Act).
The book (complete with photographs) is a good primer on the history of LGBT rights as well as a compelling read about the behind the scenes context of this historic legal battle.
A central argument to the belief systems of the authors and the case was that the illegality of same sex marriage is related to bullying, hate crimes, and all other forms of discrimination that LGBT people face.
Another central argument is that everyone has a right to marry. The authors cite Loving vs. Virginia (the landmark case decided by the Supreme Court in 1967 which struck down laws against interracial marriage) as a legal precedent:
Loving had confirmed that marriage was a fundamental right, and that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited states from infringing on an individual's right to marry without a sound basis.
The central argument from the opposition was that marriage is for the purpose of procreation. After winning the case against Proposition Eight at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the proponents of Proposition Eight appealed and the case ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
When faced with the refutation of the procreation rationale, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan asked about the constitutionality of denying the right to marry to heterosexuals over the age of fifty five.
Justice Kagan interrupted to say, "No, really, because if the couple -- I can assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of fifty-five, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.''
And the rest, as they say, is history.
All I Love And Know, a novel by Judith Frank (HarperCollins, 2014) explores the lives of a gay male couple who unexpectedly become parents when one of character's brother, who lived in Israel with his wife, was killed along with his wife by a suicide bomber. The brother and his wife had previously made arrangements for the gay brother and his partner to become the guardians of their two children, an infant boy, and a little girl with a developing and edgy personality.
In addition to dealing with their own tragic loss, the two men are suddenly faced with the reality of becoming parents. The novel is multi-layered, the writing is illuminating and compelling (and takes up the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) and the issue of gay marriage doesn't come up until late in the story. However, the two gay men continually face the issue of homophobia. The (non-Jewish) partner of the man whose brother was killed does his best to become a good parent (and is, in fact, a natural) -- but a rift develops between them based, in part, on the discounting of their relationship.
It is a novel about many things but mostly it is about family -- including the legal ties that bind a family.
The novel is set in Israel and Northampton, Massachusetts, at the same time that Massachusetts is the first U.S. state to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.
At the risk of revealing too much I will say that the little girl with the very big personality is thrilled that these two men can get married.
And that is what it is all about.
You can learn more about Tea Leaves: A Memoir of Mothers and Daughters here