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How Is Same-Sex Marriage Any Different from Interracial Marriage?

I have something to say about marriage equality. But first, a little background. I grew up in a very conservative home where we attended both Catholic church and Catholic school. My sisters and I weren’t allowed to cuss, we each prayed with our rosary at night, and a giant, gold-lettered Bible sat on the coffee table that was never to be touched. That part is important because not reading the Bible and paying homage to a pretty-looking book shaped how I first learned about religion and core values and beliefs and nuns who were able to use physical punishment on students. Not that I ever had to suffer through that. But I do recall feeling very jealous of the altar boys and wondered, for years, why I couldn’t become one, too. I was a reader in church and often read the scripture prior to the priest who got up and said the homily. The young, inquisitive child in me asked my parents, the priests, the nuns and any other adult who would listen why I couldn’t be an altar boy, too. That seemed to be a difficult question for all those adults because not one of them ever gave me a straight answer.

Within walking distance of our house are two couple friends of ours who are lesbians. Well, two couples actually, who live in two different houses. Well, first, they are our friends. We love them, visit with them, and want them to be treated as equals in this country. The Cuban and I have spent time talking to all 6 of our combined children about things that are very important to us, and one of them is that the government has many purposes, but one of them is not to deny rights like marriage. In fact, the job of the government here in the United States is to protect rights. Inalienable ones. Our friends, and not just the ones who are our neighbors, deserve to get married if they so choose. It wasn’t all that long ago that I can recall that my own parents, a white mother and a black father, would be denied the rights granted to same-color couples. Again, the government heard cases and went on to do the right thing and protected the rights of those couples.

Good question. What's your answer?

When my own children have asked questions about marriage and what is important I tend to take a very common sense view in talking to them. Of course, I’ve also been through a divorce so some of my responses to them are colored with that as well. Some of what I learned, through divorce proceedings, was that if you think the government doesn’t care about the financial state of married couples you are dead wrong. That’s all it came down to for us. Our children were older and we mediated with an attorney to split our time with them, but the main focus was on money. Who made what and how much was in pension funds and where our money was going. That’s when I found out, through my own lawyer, that an accountant was called in to made determinations about money and that the government still uses archaic terms in describing Black people in this country. On the paper it listed me as Kelly Wickham, Negroid. Negroid. Can you believe that? So, when my children ask the question of how important marriage equality is I tell them that it’s very important. It is everything. It was for their grandparents, it was for me, and it is for every person we know regardless of what the sex is of the person they love.

The questions my children have asked me stems from their desire to understand their world. When my nephew came out to us several years ago it seemed like a bit of a struggle for one of my sons. He wanted to know if I knew about his cousin’s “problem.” Right there, I was stunned that I hadn’t taught my children well enough to know that this wasn’t a problem. “Do you love him today like you did yesterday?” I asked my son. “Yes,” he replied. “Then, he doesn’t have a problem. You do. Check your heart.” I knew this was hard because I had continued raising my own children in the church and hadn’t done enough as a mother to undo the doctrinal things in it with which I disagreed. This wasn’t a Catholic church, either. As an adult I began attending a non-denominational church who spent far too much time worrying about the Gay Agenda. Any time it was brought up I thought, “Gay Agenda? Are they joking? The only ones with an ‘Agenda’ were these people.” I started searching for more inclusive churches after that.

Marriage in the United States benefits, financially and societally, same-sex couples. It used to, prior to Loving v. Virginia, benefit only same-race couples. And, if we go back even further than the 1960s in the United States we’d find that it benefited only white couples, as most blacks in my family going back to the early 1800s weren’t allowed to marry and instead would “jump the broom” when their marriages weren’t legally sanctioned. It always seems to be a case of a group of people keeping rights away from others simply because they don’t want them to benefit from the very things they themselves are getting. Interracial and same-sex, as I’ve taught my children, ought to be given the same courtesies.

Not that they ask now, but if my children were to question what is happening in the Supreme Court today with the hearing of Prop 8 I can only guess that I would teach them that someone else’s marriage has no effect on them. Marriage equality doesn’t hurt or help them, personally, in any way. If our lesbian friends get married it will have absolutely no bearing on the relationship I have with The Cuban (an unmarried one, by choice), nor will it affect how we raise our collective children, or even what we have for dinner tonight. The arguments we hear for banning marriage equality are not sufficient enough for us. We are far too busy teaching our children to love, be respectful, and made grand differences in this world and fighting for far more important causes than denying a person their rights.

You can watch updates at the Stand for Marriage website by clicking here.

Photo credit to carbonnyc

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