The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "'Welcome To The Family'
A reader echoes what I discovered about the m-word:
I met my first partner on October 20th 1978 and met his relatives shortly after. 19 wonderful years later, after a short illness, he died.
I don't wear jewelry but he had worn the same chain round his neck since the day we met. Impulsively I decided to wear it in his honor. His mother saw it and awkwardly asked me to give it to her - 'Because we want it to stay in the family'. She said it thoughtlessly but without malice and, later that week, kindly returned it to me saying that 'the family' wanted me to keep it.
Bear in mind that we saw one or more of his relatives at least once a week throughout our relationship and, on each of the the last ten years of his life, I'd served Christmas dinner for them all at our house.
Shortly after my first partner's death I met another wonderful guy. We have now been together for 11 years. During that time I've met all his relatives too - Mother, Brother, Sister, Sister-in-Law, Nieces - and we've also had many happy times together. We've vacationed at his brother's cabin, taken his sister on vacation several times and been to his mother's house countless times. Any time we stay over my partner and I sleep together in the same bed, as always."
Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.
I have blogged a lot about why gays should NOT be married. The center of my argument is that the relationship we call marriage is different from other relationships .. different because of the biological and traditional interaction between the sexes but not different in the contractual sense usually argued by the gay marriage community. I have always fully supported pairing laws that allow any two people to designate each other as next of kin and have the same rights we accord married people.
Is pairing enough?
This letter says "no." The author is saying that he wants his relationship to be recognized by society, not merely as contractual but as familial. The post is compelling, it tells us of someone who wants to be part of family .. a central and traditional role we have called marriage.
I am moved by this but am also concerned that the writer confuses law with culture. There is an almost Orwellian assumption here that by redefining "marriage" in a legal sense we will also make gay pairing a normal social institution.
There is evidence that the writer could be correct ... look at how far we have come in abolishing racism. What was once unthinkable as interactions between white and black is now largely "normal." "Miscegenation" has been replace by "marriage." Would legalizing gay marriage achieve the same thing?
I do mot think so. The barriers between races were, we now believe, largely cultural. After all there are many societies where intermarriage is normal. Modern genetics tells us that often the distinction we call race is only superficial .. as it were, "skin deep." People with different skin colors can be very much of the same culture. The presence of African Americans in the Jewish community may be one example of culture transcending race.
So, I see a dilemma, why can not a pair be accepted as family? "Why" indeed. The cowboy movie image of the blood brother is and was real. In many societies, including Judaism, there is a procedure for adopting others into a family and tribe. Here in the Northwest, there is a long tradition of Euroes becoming members of one of the local peoples, even given traditional rights to roles in the tribe.
The question is does redefining marriage serve the familial purpose? Gender is more than skin deep. I remain in the pairing camp.