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October 28, 2008

California Prop 8: Protecting marriage from WHAT, exactly?

9 I just celebrated my wedding anniversary - the second anniversary of my second marriage, which is also the second marriage for my husband. I've heard the saying that getting married again, particularly after divorce - which is what ended both of our first marriages - is a triumph of hope over experience. Rarely have I been called an optimist, but so far this second-time-around experience has been just what I've hoped it would be.

Even during the waning days of my first marriage, I believed that eventually I would want to be in a serious long-term relationship again. However, I had serious doubts about whether I'd marry again, because I was quite certain I didn't want to get divorced again - and like it or not, with a 50% failure rate in this country for first marriages and an even higher casualty rate for subsequent ones (so much for hope triumphing over experience), it's a possibility that can't be disregarded. If a couple is strong in their commitment to one another, does "a piece of paper" really matter all that much?

Legally speaking, it absolutely DOES matter. As a legally-recognized institution, marriage confers certain rights to partners - hospital visitation, property and inheritance, and filing joint taxes (woohoo!), among others - that don't apply to other forms of relationships. Even though I'd been married nearly eighteen years before I turned 40, I don't think I fully grasped this until I was single again and had moved to California. That was when I became aware of how fiercely gays and lesbians were fighting to obtain those legal rights for their own relationships, and it was reinforced by my friendship with a gay man who was raising three adopted children with his registered domestic partner. If they wanted marriage that badly, who was I to dismiss it?

California's courts granted gays and lesbians the right to marry earlier this year, but that decision may be revoked if Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as strictly between one man and one woman (so it would also officially outlaw polygamy, I suppose), passes in the general election on November 4. My conservative suburb has been a hotbed of "Yes on 8" signs lately, with the tagline "protect marriage."

Maybe it's just me, but I fail to grasp how anyone in a "traditional" marriage is personally threatened by gays marrying. We have enough struggles in maintaining healthy, strong marriages as it is. If marriage really needs "protection," make it harder for anyone to get married in the first place. Many churches require pre-marital counseling before a wedding ceremony; make that a legal, secular requirement in order to be granted a marriage license. How about a test before licensing - not a blood test, which most states no longer require anyway, but a written exam? If it's important enough to have a test for driving, what about for something else you're intending to do for the rest of your life? Afterward, marriage could also be "protected" by more required counseling and by making divorces harder to get, although as someone who has been through not just divorce but the personal pain leading up to it, I'm not sure I would fully support that myself; sometimes the individual needs protection more. But I really don't get how marriage is being "protected" by denying it to gays and lesbians.

I vote by mail, and have already cast my "no" vote on Proposition 8.

My second husband and I moved in together with the idea that "we'd see" about eventually marrying, but when he proposed to me three months later, I happily accepted. We had batted around the idea of not marrying as a political statement, considering our friends who weren't able to marry, but decided to go forward and exercise the right that we were fortunate to have. My gay friend was the master of ceremonies at our wedding reception, which he attended with his partner and their daughters. I'd be very happy to have the chance to attend their wedding one day.

An original Los Angeles Moms Blog post

Florinda Pendley Vasquez blogs at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness, and believes in marriage so strongly, she's done it twice.

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