The clutter of debate on gay marriage

Posted March 27, 2009, at 8:57 p.m.

Earlier this week my 12-year-old son walked home from a friend’s house after a preseason game of catch, toting a very well-used, 3-foot-tall, red-and-blue plastic chalkboard stand.

On it were written these words: “Free. Please take me home.”

Today it sits in his room beside a vinyl rocking chair that also has seen better days. He dragged that home a few months ago. It, too, was beside the road and marked with a “free” sign.

Someday I will live in a world with no clutter. Someday, many years from now, I will do what my mother and mother-in-law did for me, which was to clean out garages, sheds and closets, tossing out “things they no longer need” and passing them along to their children.

I know I’ll be sad when my crew of kids leaves home, but I wait with gleeful anticipation for the opportunity to pass along stuff.

It’s not just a cluttered house that unhinges me. Cluttered issues do as well. And when the Legislature is in session, the State House is simply a cacophonous creator of clutter.

Take for example the battle under way over whether same-sex couples should be able to wed in Maine.

The state’s decision here hinges on equality and the issue debated by lawmakers should be discussed and argued as such. Of course, there also is a religious component, but that should be left up to the individual churches and congregants to decide.

Instead of a straightforward debate on the issue, we have been told that same-sex marriage would be good for our economy and we’ve listened to arguments over whether gay couples can properly raise children.

Clutter, clutter, clutter.

What’s next? A debate over whether we should place a big banner on the Maine Turnpike in Kittery saying, “Welcome to Maine. The Way Life Should Be and Gay Friendly To Boot.”

Or perhaps we could make the marriage bill part of the state’s very own “gay stimulus package.”

As for whether same-sex couples can properly raise children, has there ever been a more contrived issue?

Gay couples everywhere are raising children and have been for years, legalized marriage certificate or not.

A press release issued by the Maine Marriage Initiative, a group backed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which opposes the gay marriage bill, quotes Laura Cowan, a former social worker and therapist, as saying that same-sex parents “aren’t able to give children the proper influence in gender role training.”

I apparently skipped the chapter on “gender role training” in the umpteen “how to raise children” books I’ve read over the years.

What shall we do with all of those children, 12.9 million of them, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, who are being raised in single-parent homes?

Do you think the 1,850 children in state custody or care are better off there than in the safe and loving home of a same-sex couple?

Twenty-one percent of Maine children under the age of 5 live in poverty and 38 percent of children under the age of 17 live in families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2006 there were 4,233 substantiated reports of child abuse in Maine.

If the opponents of the same-sex marriage bill want to talk about child welfare, let’s talk about those things.

Remove all of that clutter and you are left with a question of equality and civil rights.

It would be an easy task for me to decide how to vote on that issue if I were a lawmaker.

But, alas, I am not. I’m just a mom with a 12-year-old boy who roams the neighborhood and drags home other people’s free junk from the side of the road. And remember, spring cleaning season is just around the corner. The curbs are bound to be filled with treasures. Many of which, I’m afraid, will end up at my house.

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