Posts Tagged ‘ marriage ’

Mazel Tov!

My best friend is getting married, the last holdout among my childhood gang. His mother’s admonishment, “Don’t get married until you’re 30…and then think twice!” definitely stuck with him. But even if he had wanted to get married before now, he couldn’t have, because my best friend, Josh Moss, is gay. Because Josh lives in New York, as of last night, he has the same rights under the law as the rest of us. No better, no worse, certainly not a “special” right. Yes, Josh and his partner Wilson will now be free to share property and make decisions about their lives as the rest of us do, and yes, they’ll be free to screw up and have bad marriages and divorce as the rest of us do. Josh can tell you about the beauty of this most prosaic and yet fundamental of civil rights in his own words, in a beautifully written article on Portfolio.com, where he is the editor.

The remarkable victory in New York provided a striking window into where we are as a nation when it comes to respecting the rights of our fellow citizens. On the one hand, we had the increasingly strained and hypocritical complaints from Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who somehow feared that a secular, legal contract was more of a threat to civilization than the nightmare of child abuse in the church allowed by his brothers of the cloth. On the other hand, we had the plain-spoken truth of Republican State Senator Roy McDonald, who reacted to the pressure from Dolan and other social conservatives by saying “Well, f— it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing.”

For me personally, aside from looking forward to an epic wedding ceremony and reception, I think about what got me past my own, mistaken moral reasoning, many years ago. I was raised to believe that being gay meant you were “disordered,” as the Catholic Church still teaches, or otherwise abnormal. In freshman year of college, when Josh and I were roommates and I didn’t know that he was gay, I glibly came home from a psych 101 class and pronounced to Josh that homosexuality was simply abnormal psychology. That Josh still managed to come out to me a short time later was a testament to his love for me as a friend, and to his moral courage. I spent a day lining up my abstract moral and “scientific” judgment on one side, and the fact that Josh as a gay man was the same person who had been my friend through thick and thin, a person who was so like me that people sometimes mistook us for one another. At the end of that day, the abstract fell away to reality, and I never looked back. People who still cling to the idea of homosexuality being some kind of perversion or disease can only be so lucky as I was. Or, more elegantly, they could just take a look at it, listen to others’ stories, and do the right thing, as Sen. McDonald did.

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Anita Bryant then, Rick Warren now

Watching “Milk,” the new biography of murdered San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, I was struck by the arguments made in the film by Anita Bryant against gays in the mid-1970s. She and others of her ilk at the time claimed that gays were immoral and thus should be denied their civil rights. In California, this thinking manifested itself as Proposition 6, which called for firing gay public school teachers.  The argument behind the proposition, as John Briggs, the California state senator who led the campaign stated repeatedly, was the demonstrably false argument that gays somehow “recruit” or train children to become homosexual. This claim was at the heart of Bryant’s broader anti-homosexual crusade and the beginning of the modern Christian conservative political movement.

I was struck both because the idea that sexuality is learned is so ridiculous, but also because the evil lie that homosexuality is immoral persists so strongly today. The proof of its persistence is the fact that Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback megachurch, can publicly assert views nearly identical to Bryant’s and still be invited to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration Tuesday. Warren said late last year that allowing gays to marry would be equivalent to allowing “a brother and sister to be together and call that marriage,” or “an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage.” This is the same argument Bryant was making in the 1970s–that if we tolerate gays, the next thing you know we’ll have to tolerate bestiality, incest, and pedophilia. It is shocking to have to explain this, but just to be clear, homosexuality is merely a status, a person’s identity. There is nothing immoral about being attracted to a person of the same gender. Bestiality, pedophilia, and incest, on the other hand, are behaviors chosen by (mostly heterosexual) people. A homosexual may act in an immoral manner, just as a heterosexual may, but Warren and Bryant see immorality and criminality in the mere existence of homosexuality. And if Warren indeed is only concerned with avoiding a redefinition of marriage, why not push for civil unions to be allowed for homosexuals? After all, that’s all a civil marriage is anyway. The sanctity of a “5000-year tradition” exists in the church, not the courthouse.

The movie version of Milk’s life and politics highlighted his brilliant insistence that gays come out to the people they knew. My best friend bravely took Milk’s advice just a few years after Milk’s murder, even though I had earlier drawn upon my Psych 101 expertise to confidently tell my friend that homosexuality was “clearly abnormal.” When my friend told me, I spent the whole day trying to reconcile what I thought I knew with the reality that he was the same person he had always been. By the end of the day, I accepted that it just didn’t matter–we were friends and would remain so. He wasn’t a monster or any more or less moral than he had been when I didn’t know he was gay.

We may need another wave of gays coming out to their friends and family, but this time in our churches. We have to demand that our fellow congregants know that the gays among them are sinners, just as we all are, and thus have a place at God’s table.  Rick Warren should be ashamed to pretend to judge any person, gay or straight, for that is God’s job, not his.  And Barack Obama should be ashamed to accommodate Warren’s hate.

Sound Marriage Advice from MoDo

Maureen Dowd

Maureen Dowd

“Never marry a man who has no friends,” he starts. “This usually means that he will be incapable of the intimacy that marriage demands. I am always amazed at the number of men I have counseled who have no friends. Since, as the Hebrew Scriptures say, ‘Iron shapes iron and friend shapes friend,’ what are his friends like? What do your friends and family members think of him? Sometimes, your friends can’t render an impartial judgment because they are envious that you are beating them in the race to the altar. Envy beclouds judgment.

“Does he use money responsibly? Is he stingy? Most marriages that founder do so because of money — she’s thrifty, he’s on his 10th credit card.

“Steer clear of someone whose life you can run, who never makes demands counter to yours. It’s good to have a doormat in the home, but not if it’s your husband.

“Is he overly attached to his mother and her mythical apron strings? When he wants to make a decision, say, about where you should go on your honeymoon, he doesn’t consult you, he consults his mother. (I’ve known cases where the mother accompanies the couple on their honeymoon!)

“Does he have a sense of humor? That covers a multitude of sins. My mother was once asked how she managed to live harmoniously with three men — my father, brother and me. Her answer, delivered with awesome arrogance, was: ‘You simply operate on the assumption that no man matures after the age of 11.’ My father fell about laughing.

“A therapist friend insists that ‘more marriages are killed by silence than by violence.’ The strong, silent type can be charming but ultimately destructive. That world-class misogynist, Paul of Tarsus, got it right when he said, ‘In all your dealings with one another, speak the truth to one another in love that you may grow up.’

“Don’t marry a problem character thinking you will change him. He’s a heavy drinker, or some other kind of addict, but if he marries a good woman, he’ll settle down. People are the same after marriage as before, only more so.

“Take a good, unsentimental look at his family — you’ll learn a lot about him and his attitude towards women. Kay made a monstrous mistake marrying Michael Corleone! Is there a history of divorce in the family? An atmosphere of racism, sexism or prejudice in his home? Are his goals and deepest beliefs worthy and similar to yours? I remember counseling a pious Catholic woman that it might not be prudent to marry a pious Muslim, whose attitude about women was very different. Love trumped prudence; the annulment process was instigated by her six months later.

“Imagine a religious fundamentalist married to an agnostic. One would have to pray that the fundamentalist doesn’t open the Bible and hit the page in which Abraham is willing to obey God and slit his son’s throat.

“Finally: Does he possess those character traits that add up to a good human being — the willingness to forgive, praise, be courteous? Or is he inclined to be a fibber, to fits of rage, to be a control freak, to be envious of you, to be secretive?

“After I regale a group with this talk, the despairing cry goes up: ‘But you’ve eliminated everyone!’ Life is unfair.”