Sara Whitman

Prop 8 Trial: No One is Perfect (Not Even Lily Tomlin)

Filed By Sara Whitman | January 13, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: gay marriage, marriage equality, Prop 8 trial, Prop. 8, same-sex marriage

In California, the trial on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 is underway. Soon, in New Jersey, a similar trial will take place. The proponents of Prop 8 say that "states have a compelling interest to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples for the sake of procreation."

The Holy See has also weighed in with the same argument. The Pope linked the Church's opposition to gay marriage to concern about the environment, suggesting that laws undermining "the differences between the sexes" were threats to creation.

Um, Mr. See? I have three children. Some would argue I've procreated a little too much, especially for the environment. And most of those pesky gay people who want to get married? It's because they have kids. Not all, by any means, but many.

Meanwhile, back in California, teh gays are being portrayed as perverts, pedophiles and basically degrading societies fabric by the very act of breathing. Nancy Cott of Harvard University, presented a centuries-old history lesson on government regulation of marriage, even touching on President Bill Clinton's indiscretions to argue that the institution has evolved dramatically over time.

Ah, but she's a woman and we know how much the Catholic church likes women. Charles Cooper, the lead defense attorney, said "the limitation of marriage to a man and a woman is something that is universal throughout history and different cultures."

Cott quickly responded, she was "amused" when she heard Cooper say that because "the Bible is a situation in which characters practice polygamy." She said his statement was "inaccurate."

A smart woman at that.

Some of the response by the opponents, the good guys trying to achieve marriage equality, has disturbed me. Nate Silver, Mr. Amazing Statistical Analysis, is making the point that states who have marriage equality have a lower divorce rate. I respect Silver's opinion, know his numbers are correct, but I am hesitant to take this angle with the argument.

As a parent, I am always worried that if my kids screw up in any way, I'll be seen as an example of why gay people shouldn't parent. The reality is, they will screw up, I will screw up, we are human beings - no better, no worse. Women have the right to vote and that doesn't mean all women are great voters. Or even vote for that matter. It's about equality, not living up to some standard of perfection.

The Goodridges, of Goodridge vs. MA Department of Health fame, the case that won marriage equality for the first time ever in this country, are divorced. As a long time friend, it was heartbreaking to me because I cared about them both very much. The reality, though, is I don't know a single couple married 19 years who haven't come close at one time or another to getting a divorce.

I did. A few years ago, my wife and I almost got to a point to where we couldn't go on. We were lucky, and we figured it out. Not everyone can, and not everyone should.

They were treated horribly in the press and by our community as if they would be the reason marriage equality would end. The right wing pounced on it, acting as if they had been married two years, when in fact, it was over 19.

Do we have to have perfect unions? If divorce rates go up, is it really because there is marriage equality? "In order to form a more perfect union," the preamble of our Constitution, isn't about being perfect. It's about a goal. It is a work in progress. Anyone who has been married for any period of time knows it is a work in progress. Always.

This summer, Julie Goodridge went to a fundraising event in Provincetown where Lily Tomlin performed. After the show, Julie went up, introduced herself and thanked Tomlin for the show. Tomlin looked at her and said, "I really wish you hadn't gotten divorced. We wouldn't have lost California."

Really? Millions of California voters thought, damn, that couple got divorced, those gays don't deserve our sacred union. All they will do is divorce. Um, last I looked, Ms. Tomlin separated from her long time partner. What is that rule about glass houses?

As if straight people don't divorce all the time - some for very legitimate reasons, such as getting married on a reality TV show called I Married A Stranger and having your friends and family pick out your spouse for you. After you pocket the cash, do you really stayed married? I don't think so.

Ah, that sacred institution. Good thing it's limited to heterosexuals for procreation and holding together that fabric of society.

The reality is, divorce is real. It happens. We are not perfect. Please don't expect us to be. We will marry too young, or drunk in Vegas, or on an impulsive whim and decide to get divorced. Being gay doesn't mean we have to live to a higher standard than heterosexuals. Not as parents and not as spouses.

We're doing the best that we can. The argument isn't about being better, it's about being equal. We deserve fair access to housing because we deserve to have housing, not because we will gentrify a neighborhood. We deserve to not be fired from jobs because of our choice of partner isn't relevant to our work performance, not because we're more creative, interesting people to work with. We don't need another stereotype of what gay people are, raising the bar higher for those of us who are basically boring, normal people who go to work, raise our families and have mismatching tableware in the kitchen cabinets.

The arguments in California, and across the country, need to focus on the fact that we are human beings. That there are real economic benefits to marriage given by the government, not some statistic that points to perfection. It's unconstitutional because we are citizens of this country and we deserve the same rights.

And by the way? We procreate, too.

Besides, the defense strategy is pathetic enough all on its own.


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Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | January 13, 2010 9:22 PM

Lily Tomlin's not perfect??? Bite your tongue woman!

she's not perfect. and it was mean. not to mention misguided.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | January 14, 2010 9:06 AM

It was (poor) snark. I have always been disappointed how so many in the community look up to a woman who took so long to come out of her closet unequivocally. I apologize that I wasn't more clear.

I often leave Lily Tomlin bits unreported, but we're always getting a boatload of tips about her being rude or demanding or throwing a hissy fit of one type or another.

It's funny. I grew up watching her on TV and was one of the first celebrities I wanted to meet. As I started meeting the various LGBT stars and stuff, all the stories really turned me off to her. :(

Sadly though, Lily's not alone in that thinking. It's almost as if we expect perfection from our community when we know how battered we all are already. One of the main reasons that Jerame and I haven't gotten married in another state is due to our positions in the Indiana LGBT community. If we divorced, it would cause political trouble here - both inside and out of the community. It's not worth it for something that's only symbolic at home and could potentially cause so much division if the relationship went sour.

I still can't believe it. We are sometimes so concerned with how we present ourselves we want to erase any unseemly reality within the community. We should know better.