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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Two Ordinary Folks No Longer Married

Concern: The Swift Boat Anti-Kerry ad, getting tons of free publicity, is only further causing Kerry supporters to focus too much on that part of his life. His public career involved time as an assistant district attorney, lieutenant governor, and twenty years as a senator. More focus has to be on those years, which are quite respectable. Cries that he is trying to suggest he grew fully developed a la Athena out of Zeus' head from his months in Vietnam must be answered a bit more carefully.

Scout: Don't you remember me, Mr. Cunningham [at the prison to demand Atticus release Tom Robinson to the mob]? I'm Jean Louise Finch. You brought us some hickory nuts one early morning, remember? We had a talk. I went and got my daddy to come out and thank you. I go to school with your boy. I go to school with Walter; he's a nice boy. Tell him 'hey' for me, won't you? You know something, Mr. Cunningham, entailments are bad.

- To Kill A Mockingbird

It is when things we take for granted are threatened or denied that their importance is underlined, when we see how arbitrary people are actually being treated, and how true equality must be demanded. It calls into question our basic beliefs, makes us wonder, and feel uneasy. This is why a matter like the rights of homosexuals, which affects only a small minority of the population, is so important. Why it has been made an issue in this election.

I entitled my entry about the California Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage as I did because Rosie O'Donnell's marriage (along with the rest) were officially annulled. The decision was not just a dry matter of a mayor's power to supersede state law based on his belief it was unconstitutional. It removed the official recognition of the marriages of thousands of couples.

This might have been legally sound, though I have my doubts it was necessary, but it was particularly painful on a personal level for those affected. The law can be a technical or dry matter, until you realize real people are involved. You can listen to some of the couples affected here. Couples whose marriages are now not recognized by the state, though still by each other and their families, friends, and quite often religious organizations.

And, this is how change will truly come -- as someone in Outfoxed noted, pictures of boring, average middle aged people getting married (or not being able to be) is just so ordinary. Unlike racy gay pride parades (or a few components of them), people just are not too shocked by all of this. It also suggests the basic emptiness of those who argue allowing equality for same sex couples is akin to polygamy or prostitution. The ordinary person understands the difference.

This focus on the people affected is a potentially goldmine approach. To be a bit expansive, Jefferson was known for his respect for human nature, the ability of the average person to know what is right. This is a bit too optimistic, but it is the appropriate focus. So many big issues are out there: war and peace, health care, the environment, privacy rights, criminal justice, and a whole lot more. So complicated, so out of our control, right? Perhaps ... unless we look at individual people affected, their feelings, needs, dreams, and happiness.

It helps put things into perspective.


PS It bears noting that the governor of New Jersey did not resign from office just because he was gay, but because of a critical mass of scandals. I'm inclined to think the matter was not a trivial factor, but it really does no justice to his fellow "gay Americans" to overemphasize it.