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A conversation with a dear friend about same-sex marriage

Posted Oct. 22, 2012, at 4:47 p.m.

This conversation took place between a dear friend and myself some weeks ago, while we exchanged news of our lives, children and grandchildren and what was happening in our community. She is a mature and mindful grandmother, who has the best interest of family and community at heart.

Hi, Lee, it’s been hard to find you these days.

I’m on the board of the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination, working for the passage of Question 1 to allow the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

Lee, we are good friends, but I’ve got to tell you that I am very uncomfortable with that. I think marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s always been that way.

Then, is that the way it should always be?

Well, I’m not sure. Why does it matter?

Do you think gay couples should pay higher taxes?

Of course not, that’s unfair!

Should a gay life partner have an absolute right to visitation in the hospital or to make decisions on burial if there’s no will? They don’t, you know.

Well, I don’t want that. A committed couple should have those rights without having to go to a lawyer.

If the couple adopts a child, shouldn’t they both have equal rights as next of kin so that if one parent dies, the child will not become an orphan, and the survivor will not have to fight in the courts to continue to provide that child with a stable home life?

I don’t want that, either. This is horrible! What about health insurance?

Some companies provide “family” benefits,” but many do not. It’s not required.

So being a domestic partner doesn’t really work the same as marriage?

No, it sure doesn’t! When you introduce Joe, you say he’s your husband or your spouse. You don’t say he’s “my domestic partner” or “my special friend.” Marriage and the status of being someone’s spouse are unique. It comes with honor and respect. Nobody else should get to decide whom you love and with whom you want to share your life. That should be up to the two people to decide. Not you and not me and certainly not government.

I understand, I do, but still something inside me is still uncomfortable.

Is it your religion?

No, my religion preaches unconditional love, kindness and inclusion.

So what bothers you so much —- is it about the plumbing?

Well, yes, I guess it is. But as I think about it, what we do in our bedroom is nobody’s business but ours. It’s personal, and within a marriage that’s intimate and private, just like it is for all of us. You know, I’ve never thought of myself as prejudiced, but I guess I am. I’ve just never taken the time to think this through. This issue is important and touches so many people. The way things are hurts a lot of people, and I don’t want it to be that way any more. What can I do to help?

First you’re not prejudiced, you just hadn’t really thought about it yet. I’m glad we had this conversation, and you will always be my friend. On Nov. 6, go into the voting booth and follow your heart and what you think is the right thing to do. But, before you vote, think about people you know who are living in committed, lifelong relationships, and consider that all same-sex couples want, is what we already have. No more, no less.

Lee Broder, of Cumberland Foreside, is a member of Congregation Bet Ha’am in South Portland and serves on the social action committee and board of the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination. She has been a social worker for 12 years.

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