Non Traditional Families
everybody talking about?
everybody talking about?
About the author:
Once called, “the love that dare not speak its name,” today gay men
and lesbians cannot afford to keep quiet. It
was unthinkable five years ago that the issue of equality in marriage for
same-sex couples would be a priority in gay legal circles.
There were other, more pressing issues of employment non-discrimination,
hate crime legislation and criminalization of sexual expression to confront.
While sodomy has thankfully been addressed in the Supreme Court treatment
of Lawrence v. Texas, we now see the other, previously priority issues
taking a back seat to the mother of all equality discussions: marriage.
Now that the world is looking at, talking about and trying to understand
our families in a way never before experienced, we have a responsibility to help
them in this endeavor, and in the end, help ourselves to live lives of dreams
No one could have predicted that our government would single out the
marriage equality movement for direct attack.
While the obvious political motivations abound, one truly good thing has
manifest; people are talking. We
owe it to our families, our friends and, frankly, to anyone who asks us to have
that conversation. It will only be
through our examples of “courage in words” that we can show the world that
it has nothing to be afraid of. What’s
more, the world will better place when all people in love who wish to
commit to the protection and nurturance another, will be treated equally under
How do we do this? How can
we speak with people who do not see our love as on a par with their own?
What kind of conversation are we talking about?
Anyone who wants to educate those within their circle of influence
must first check their own resolve. These
conversations can be very difficult, and at times, inflammatory.
Ask yourself if you believe in the issue enough to advocate for it.
If the answer is no, that is OK. You
know your limitations and can continue to fight in other ways.
But if the answer is yes, there are a lot of things to think about.
Arm yourself with the facts! There
are a lot of people speaking out against same-sex marriage using misinformation
and, in some cases, bald face lies. Know
that there are 1,138 federal rights, responsibilities and benefits that every
married couple receives immediately when the officiant says, “I now pronounce
you married.” Know what those
benefits are. Know that the history
of marriage has changed drastically over the centuries, and that its roots are
deeply grounded in the concept of property transfer and subjugation.
If you want to read a detailed history of the institution of marriage,
try E.J. Graff’s, What is Marriage For?
Gear your conversation to its audience!
When you know whom you are talking to, you can better anticipate the
arguments you will hear. For
instance, if you are speaking with a
political conservative, or someone that describes themselves as fiscally
“responsible,” point out that marriage provides society with a security
blanket. When a married person
divorces, the law protects the non-monied spouse with support payments for
re-training and reintroduction into working society.
This could also happen for same-sex couples, making it less likely that
when a gay relationship splits, one partner would need to look to the state for
financial assistance. Also, one of
the most important tenants of true conservatism is that individual states must
have control over themselves and the ability to create and interpret their own
law, free from a “big brother” federal government.
These Republican principles are in now way respected or reflected
by a federal Anti-Marriage Amendment.
If you are talking to a religious fundamentalist, point out that the
bible’s treatment of marriage has been “spotty” to say the least.
For example, women who married and were not virgins could legally be
stoned to death. Also, one means of
biblical marriage provided that a man could rape a woman to marry her; another
strongly supported polygamy (one that is conveniently forgotten by most
religious opponents). Unfortunately,
religion is being used as a force of division surrounding equality in marriage.
Point out that most religions were created out of the premise of social
justice, not social discrimination. If
Jesus were alive today, do you really think he would frown upon, much less
openly bash, committed love between caring individuals?
If you are talking to someone who says, “Marriage has always been the
same,” talk about how the institution of marriage has gone through 4 major
changes in the last 50 years:
and most importantly, if you are speaking with someone who you love, tell him or
her your story. Tell them
how you personally are affected by this discrimination.
Send them a picture of you, or you and your partner, or you and your
family. Ask them to take that
picture into the voting booth with them so they know personally whom their vote
is directly affecting. You can also
tell them about people you know who have been discriminated against.
Tell them that the children of these families will pay the price for this
injustice. It is hard for anyone to
blame a child because their legal parents are of the same sex, or punish that
child for something that they had no choice or say in.
You can also help by encouraging other lesbians and gay men to share
stories. More and more, the stories
of these families are being presented to the public.
On websites such as, theweddingparty.org, freedomtomarry.org, hrc.org and
lambdalegal.org you can read and share stories with others.
We have to reach the hearts of those who are on the fence before we reach
their minds, or their votes.
letters! Public officials will tell
you that a personal letter is a powerful tool, much more so than a phone call or
an email. If your elected official
is sympathetic to marriage equality, commend them, and then write to the elected
officials in your parent’s districts. Make
it a priority in your routine. Devote
a certain amount of time a week to writing letters, to communicating and to
telling your truth.
try and imagine, just for a minute, why people are so dead set against extending
these rights to us. Is it
stubbornness? Is it religious
intolerance? Possibly, but I think
that a majority of people opposed to marriage equality are opposed because they
see it as a loss of control over their society, over their world.
They think, with fear in their hearts: “If this happens, then what will
happen next?” The GOLD in trying
to understand this lies in how it links us all together.
We, as gay men and lesbians, are used to living in a society that we have
little control over, certainly in the arena of equality.
If we can focus on what we have in common with those who may
oppose our right to legally marry, then we stand a better chance of their
actually hearing what we have to say.
Anthony M. Brown is a nontraditional family and estates
attorney for the New York law firm of McKenna, Siracusano and Chianese.
He is also a vice-president and the director of development for The
Wedding Party, an all volunteer, non-profit created to educate the public about
the importance of marriage to all Americans.