I have previously shied away from addressing this issue on my blog for a number of reasons. First of all, I started this blog as a place for me to reflect, process, and share what I’ve learned in my journeys through parenthood, and I haven’t previously been convicted that this was an issue connected to my being a parent. Secondly, I’ve never felt as if I had anything to say that hasn’t already been said more eloquently and passionately by any number of thoughtful people. (I direct you both to the Facebook page for Greensboro Against Amendment One, which has numerous links to editorials, articles and speeches pertaining to this issue. Also to this blog entry by a good friend of mine, which itself contains links to helpful articles.)
But now I believe that these reasons have changed. I may not say anything below that hasn’t been said before or better, but I have come to the conclusion that is still worth saying if I haven’t said it yet. And I do believe that my need to say this comes from my experience as a parent.
If it’s not obvious already, I am deeply opposed to this amendment. My opposition stems from all of the reasons anyone gives for being against this amendment. I’m not going to rehash those reasons here; you can read them elsewhere. I’m also not going to describe my theological or scriptural beliefs about marriage; if you believe God has ordained marriage to be only between a man and a woman, then nothing I could say is going to change your mind.
What I am going to talk about is what it means to me to be a family. Not theologically or sociologically, but personally. I love my family. I love my spouse and I love my daughter. The love I have for them is fierce and overwhelming, and I would do anything to protect them. If Amendment One were going to protect or benefit my family, I would vote for it. As high-minded and progressive as I like to envision myself, I have to admit that I might consider supporting legislation that would hurt other people if it helped me and my family. But this amendment will not help my family. It’s not going to provide us with a tax break, it’s not going to provide us any additional protections under the law, it’s not going to halt any outside force that threatens us. Some people have argued that this amendment is needed to protect my family against “threats to traditional marriage,” but I find that kind of talk patronizing and ridiculous. No gay person has ever threatened my marriage. (The one exception is Ryan Seacrest. But thankfully, after much prayer and beseeching on my part, my spouse was delivered from her unclean desire to watch American Idol four nights a week and our marriage returned to its blissfully happy state.) If someone really wants to protect my family, they should pass legislation that caps the rising prices of day care. Or better yet, invent a diaper that isn’t so easy for a two-year-old to grab out from underneath her.
I am also clear on this: Amendment One will not hurt my family, either. You see, I am a man and my spouse is a woman and we are legally married. We conform to the “traditional” ideal of a family, and if this amendment passes, our lives will not change. But there are families that I know that will be hurt. These families look a little different than mine. Some of them are same-sex couples. Some of them are single-parent households, others are straight domestic partnerships, and still others are too complex for me to describe in a single phrase. But these families’ lives will change if this amendment passes, and it will not be for the better. Why pass legislation that hurts some people and offers no practical help to anyone? But I’m trying to stay away from philosophy and political science, so let me speak personally.
Last fall, I wrote a post about the powerfully amazing choice to become a parent. In it I wrote, “The decision to be a parent is a gift that people give the world, a gift of one’s self that comes out of a sense of service and dedication.” This is also true about marriage, or any other form of a chosen family. There are family configurations in the world that I don’t “agree” with, in the sense that they are not configurations I would have chosen for myself. But I believe that everyone who chooses the family they choose does so out of love – the same fierce, overwhelming love that has led me to choose the family I have chosen. A value that I hold deeply, and that I want to demonstrate to and instill in my daughter, is that love is huge and vast and impossible to contain; no one has a corner on love. It is a massive, immeasurable, and limitless resource to be cherished, honored, respected and affirmed at all costs. I don’t always understand the love other people have, but I can recognize its power when I see it. You know why? Because I feel that same power every time my daughter calls me “Daddy.”
Yes, I will do anything to protect my family. If it were necessary, I would kill for my child and spouse. But if I go no further than this, then I turn myself into a provincial despot, ruling over a tiny fiefdom of my own making that has no positive meaning or impact on anyone outside of my household. If I am going to teach my child that love is too big to contain – that God is too big to contain – then I have to be willing to protect other families, too. This means families that look different than mine, even families that follow a different script than what I would want for my own. But if a family has love, then it deserves my support.
If Amendment One were more carefully worded to prohibit the designation of “marriage” to same-sex couples but still provided legal protections for civil unions or other “non-traditional” forms of families, this might be a different argument. But the wording of the amendment is clear: that no family configuration other than a legally married man and woman will be valid. I cannot abide this. Do you know what makes my family valid? Our love for each other. This is what it means to me to be a parent: to teach my child the meaning of love. To teach her that her validation as a person comes from the relationships in her life that seek to edify her, to strengthen her, and to lift her up to be more fully the rich and delightful person God has made her to be. I will not stand by while some people seek to invalidate other people’s families. Love must be nourished wherever it grows. I strive to cultivate it in my own home, so will I work to protect its cultivation in the homes of others. I’m voting against Amendment One. And if it passes, I will raise a daughter who can one day vote to repeal it.