Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Gay Marriage Debate Still Raging in Texas

(Link) Compare two families, both with parents who've been together 20+ years, and a passel of kids to raise. Except one family is... well, "that way." Does that old complaint about people wanting to marry their pets come up? You bet. *Pfft*

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
By Lisa Marie Gómez
San Antonio Express-News

On a recent afternoon at a home on the Northwest Side, Ruth Pinkham and Delle Nagle were busy making sure their five children finished their homework before they started making dinner.

The duties came amid a rapid-fire succession of questions: "Mom, can I go next door and play?" "Mom, what's for dinner?"

Meanwhile, in another part of town, the Roberts family was in the midst of the same fast-paced ritual.

Deborah Roberts made dinner for her husband, Jason, and her son, Gideon, 16. After eating, they spent a few moments straightening up the house for guests.

On the surface, the two families seem almost identical. They have in common a deep commitment to their families as well as similar views on parenting. They feel strongly about doing things together, and both agree that watching too much television and playing video games isn't healthy for children.

But while both sets of parents are married and have been together for almost two decades, they couldn't be further apart on one key issue: marriage — who can do it and who can't.

That distinction is at the heart of a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The amendment would solidify a state law that prohibits same-sex marriage in Texas.

The issue has galvanized politicians, religious leaders, activists, liberal and conservatives alike. But behind the campaign posters, the fancy Web sites and the rallies are the people and the relationships that personalize the words on the ballot.

Pinkham, 49, and Nagle, 43, are lesbians who have been together for 20 years and were legally married in Canada in March 2004.

Their lives are punctuated by the typical, hectic pace of most families.

Their five children — Daniel, Stacie, Samantha, Juliana and Polly, who range in age from 7 to 15 — take dance classes two nights a week, and they're all in Boy and Girl Scouts troops where Pinkham and Nagle are troop leaders.

In addition, Daniel plays the flute in the school band, Samantha plays the clarinet and Stacie plays the violin in the orchestra.

On Sunday, they all take catechism classes at a nearby Catholic church.

The Robertses are heterosexuals who been married 22 years.

They, along with son Gideon, spend most evenings talking about the highlights of their day.

Gideon is home-schooled and he and his mother are taking college courses at San Antonio College. Deborah, 45, and Jason, 54, are involved in activities at their non-denominational church, and when Gideon isn't studying, he's playing his electric guitar while his father plays the piano or electric keyboard.

According to Texas law, the Robertses have a legal right to be married while Pinkham and Nagle do not.

The amendment, if passed, would send a strong message to the state's gay population that marriage in Texas is only between one man and one woman. The amendment would also ensure that Pinkham's and Nagle's marriage isn't recognized in Texas.

Massachusetts is the only state in the country that issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples, while California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Vermont grant similar legal status to those in a civil union.

The debate here and elsewhere has familiar refrains.

The issue has fired up the religious right and social conservatives who often equate marriage with the ability and responsibility to propagate. They contend that permitting gays to wed would weaken the institution of marriage.

Gay rights supporters frame the issue in other terms, saying their unions do no harm to society, and that gay marriage bans and amendments deny them a basic civil and human right.

Behind the arguments are people like Nagle and Pinkham, who say they simply want to raise happy children and have their marriage recognized by society.

So last year, they forked over nearly $2,000 to fly to Niagara Falls in Canada and get married.

They did it for several reasons: they wanted to make a statement to the world, and they wanted their kids to grow up in a household with married parents.

"Because it's the right thing to do," Pinkham said.

There also was another reason. The 9-11 attacks made them realize how difficult it was for same-sex partners to get compensation from the government. Same-sex couples who had tied the knot were more likely to receive benefits than those who were just living together.

In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, New York Gov. George Pataki made it possible for gay and lesbian partners to become eligible to receive compensation from New York's Crime Victims Board.

"That made a real big impact on us," Pinkham said. "Same-sex partners had to prove they were in a serious relationship with one another, and those who were married had a better chance than those who weren't."

The Robertses said they don't have any hatred toward homosexuals, but getting married to a partner of the same sex is not right.

"From a biological sense, it's just wrong," Deborah said. "I know that sounds harsh, but that is not something that is acceptable to God."

It's not a matter of civil rights, the Robertses contend, because unlike people of color, they believe homosexuals have a choice.

But Pinkham and Nagle pointed out some studies have suggested people are born gay, and therefore it's not a choice.

To them, knowing that the Texas Constitution has a good chance of being amended to read that marriage can only be a union between a man and woman is dreadful and painful.

"I'm really offended by the whole thing," Pinkham said from her living room with children sitting around her, while Nagle nodded in agreement. "The whole idea that we could change the Constitution to exclude people is morally wrong."

The argument that marriage would weaken if people don't vote yes to Proposition 2 is ludicrous, they said.

"If that's all it takes to weaken a marriage, then marriage has a problem," Pinkham said.

Attitudes changing?

According to a Scripps Howard Texas Poll taken in 2003, 63 percent of Texans believe the state law should prohibit the state from recognizing gay marriages.

Jason and Deborah agree.

If Texas were to allow gay couples to legally marry, then what would prevent people who perform bestiality from marrying an animal, Jason asked.

"Homosexuality, bestiality, adultery, it's all the same sin," Jason said. "Some people may want to marry their pet, but it's not a marriage, it's not what God intended."

Although the Texas poll showed that 70 percent of Texans believe that homosexual behavior is morally wrong, a national survey paints a different picture.

Michael Kearl, chairman of the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Trinity University, pointed to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center linked to the University of Chicago that suggests that Americans are slowly becoming more accepting of same-sex partners.

The survey, conducted through face-to-face random interviews of non-institutionalized English-speaking Americans 18 and older, has been monitoring Americans' attitudes about sexual relations between adults of the same sex, and it asks: Do you think that it is always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?

In 1973, 73 percent said, "always wrong," but when that same question was asked in 2002, the number dropped to 55 percent.

Nagle and Pinkham know the election is just around the corner, but for them, life goes on.

Halloween was drawing near and they had more pressing questions on their mind, like what kind of costumes did the kids want this year?

"In the past, we've had themes, like Wizard of Oz and Cat in the Hat," Pinkham said. "Kids, what do you want to be this year?"

Several ideas bounced around but couldn't decide on a theme.

So instead, they went into the kitchen and set up the table for dinner, like they every night, and prepared dinner while talking about the day's events.

"We don't like it, but life must go on," Pinkham said.