Some people are gay and, as Jerry Seinfeld said repeatedly, to humorous effect, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
And some people are married, not that there’s anything wrong with that, either.
But New York state is considering voting on legislation combining the two categories and, it seems, many people find something wrong with that.
Almost everyone, gay, married and otherwise, has an opinion, no matter how little they know about gay people or marriage. And, naturally, I do too, despite no particular expertise in either realm,
I am neither married nor gay. I am, for the record, heterosexual and divorced.
Having been unhappily married, I have asked gay friends, especially those in happy, long-term, co-habitating relationships, “Why marriage? Couldn’t that spoil everything?”
(It might. Advocates for gay marriage include divorce attorneys.)
Their answers are generally surprisingly practical. Health insurance, hospital visitation rights, shared property, Social Security and disability benefits, estate tax, inheritance rights, even post-separation rights all figure prominently. Many important, practical matters in the life of a gay couple would be clarified by a formalized marriage agreement.
These are valid concerns and if a sizable segment of our population faces these issues, then society should address them. By adopting legalized gay marriage, these concerns would be met.
But like any divisive issue, arguments against gay marriage need to be looked at. Although I have tried hard to understand them, I find them unconvincing.
One widely held argument is that legalizing gay marriage shows approval of such relationships and homosexuality by the citizenship.
I am, of course, a citizen. Believe it or not, I have discovered, however, that few people — gay, straight or otherwise — care very much whether I approve of their relationships, particularly their marriages.
When younger, before I mellowed, I did occasionally tell homosexuals that I did not approve of their homosexuality. Somehow, they ignored me and continued to be gay. I know, it’s tough to believe.
Like it or not, homosexuality will continue to exist regardless of whether gay marriage is legalized.
There also are many heterosexual marriages out there that I do not approve of. Those involved, just like most gay people, have chosen to ignore me. (Alas, an occasional appearance on the local op-ed page only carries so much influence.)
Perhaps instead of arguing about same-sex marriage, we, as a society, might consider a mechanism to annul poorly thought-out marriages in general. Perhaps a secret vote during the wedding ceremony. Perhaps invited guests could secretly place black and white beans in a jar and if the black beans outnumber the white, the marriage is immediately annulled. Game over. Eat the cake and be gone.
Regardless of gender, some marriages are just a dumb idea. But most people, I’ve found, ignore my opinion on the internal affairs of their marriage.
Marriage is an odd institution in that it requires both governmental and individual definition to fully function. All marriages, gay or straight, require some individual definition from within, even if this just be about defining housekeeping roles or shared shopping.
As stated, I am divorced. When I was separated but not legally divorced, I dated a woman in the same situation. Neither of us returned to our spouses. Was this an adulterous relationship?
I say no. At least one person I know says yes. And, just like people who ignore my views on their marriages, I choose to ignore his.
Bad for children?
Some argue that gay marriage will lead to gay adoption or gays having children. They often argue this is unhealthy for children and that some gay parents might encourage their children to become gay.
First, gay people are already adopting in New York state and even a dog can reproduce without permission. Rightly or wrongly, same-sex marriage legislation will not affect this, save to clarify post-separation visitation rights.
Although opponents need to update their facts, they may take solace in knowing that the only gay couple I know personally who have adopted, take much better care of the child than his crack-addicted, neglectful birth mother.
Second, I don’t believe it’s possible to raise a child to be gay, even if one somehow wished to. Should one attempt it, I suspect about the time hormone-addled rebellion struck, the little guy would start chasing girls just to annoy both dads.
Children, like adults, pretty much date whom they wish, ignoring unwanted advice, even mine.
Gay marriage will ease life for many gay people and clarify legal questions. As a straight man, gay marriage won’t hurt me. (How could it? Am I going to accidentally get a gay man pregnant and his two dads will force me into a shotgun marriage? Unlikely.)
Third, and most importantly, legalized gay marriage will be nowhere near the societal menace that dumb marriage already is.
But you can ignore my opinion if you like. People do.
Peter Huston lives in Scotia. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.