Another year, another state decides that same-sex couples aren’t already sufficiently banned from marrying, so they’d better enshrine the ban in their constitution. I don’t understand the mentality that leads to these votes, but my own situation makes me very keenly aware of the human cost. If this were just about having a ceremony and a party and wearing a ring, no-one would need government approval to do it (and thank heavens this country is not so oppressive as to ban that). But marriage also provides access to some really important rights; rights which are made more difficult to get because of other policies pushed by the same hateful scumbags as constitutional amendments to doubleplusban gay marriage.
In my own experience, as much as it’s about publicly sanctifying a relationship, marriage is about the right to live in the same country as my beloved. Since every year we also get politicians falling over themselves to be more vicious about people who didn’t have the foresight to be born in the same country as them, this right keeps getting scarcer and more important. It makes me angry to see it pushed further out of a group of peoples’ reach. Not to put too fine a point on it, if I were gay and had fallen in love when I did, our relationship would have been doomed by other peoples’ prejudice.
Also in my own experience, marriage gives literally life-saving access to medical care. At least on this issue the current trend is one of improvement, as the Obamacare provisions gradually take effect, but to be without health insurance in the U.S. today still means being mostly without health care. The improvements underway are only a partial solution, though, and they’re fragile: one of the few remaining reasons that I will vote for Obama if I have a vote by the coming election is that if he loses we can expect all of this progress to be torn up. Until this country fixes its brutal health care ‘system’, a vote against gay marriage is also a vote to deny a group of people access to health care.
I don’t pretend to understand the mentality that makes people cast a vote like that. I don’t even particularly want to understand it. I generally prefer to understand and have compassion for people I disagree with, but there’s a senseless hatefulness to this that makes me suspect I might even be a better person for being so unable to get it.
There is one small part of this which I think I am able to understand, though. It’s that most people simply can not imagine being in someone else’s shoes. For instance, I saw this on Twitter today:
Presumably people aren’t voting on whether to allow gay marriage. They’re voting on whether they want their son to think being gay is okay.
— Adam Kotsko (@adamkotsko) May 9, 2012
I rather suspect Adam’s right about that, for at least some voters, even though my first reaction was to find it utterly preposterous. My second reaction was to follow up with: “but what if their son actually were gay – would they still want him to think being gay was not OK?”
I do think that’s a logically sound argument, but it’s not going to work on the majority of people who don’t already agree with me. For one thing, there’s the completely incomprehensible group whose hatred of homosexuality burns so hot that they actually would want their gay son to hate himself. I don’t know how many people that accounts for, but I have a hard time believing it’s enough to win a referendum. I strongly suspect that the larger group is people who because they happen not to be gay, and not to have gay children that they know of, can’t imagine things being any different, so the hypothetical gay offspring are just completely unreal for them. In the same way, the person without ready access to their own health insurance, and without the convenient fortune of having been born in the country they wish to live in, is simply not a real individual to them.
Clearly it would be better if these people had compassion for others unlike them. But I can’t see how to help bring that about, when I have no compassion for them.