Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Hope in the Indiana Senate

John, Linda (John's mom) and I attended the Senate hearing of the proposed Indiana constitutional marriage amendment yesterday. Our friend Duane and his two kids, Daniel (4) and Mari (3) joined us. Todd had to work.

The committee of seven senators listened to an hour of arguments for the amendment and then another hour of opposition to it before voting on whether or not to send it to the legislature.

The usual suspects were there, a few conservative black preachers who were indignant that gay people dare to compare their struggle for equality with theirs. One guy called homosexuality a "learned perversion." (I must have been a natural because there was no one around to teach me how to be gay.) There was the ex-gay ministry alum who declared his complete heterosexual turnaround, citing his wife and two kids as proof. (The guy had fabulous highlights by the way. I'm glad the sublimation of his attraction to men doesn't preclude a decent haircut and dye job.) And, of course, the Focus on the Family rep and the teary-eyed soccer mom, blah, blah, blah...

Get used to the line up. It is coming soon to a statehouse near you if it hasn't already. A smoothly packaged deal, every speech tied up with the predictable "but we love homosexuals" bow.

These folks have their reasons for believing as they do. The ones they typically reveal are those rooted in the inability to see that the Bible does not require society to be stagnant. They are disturbed by the changes happening all around them, and the only way they know to act is to fearfully and frantically seek a scapegoat (this time they call it the "gay agenda" a few years back it was "mixing the races.") If they would relax and have some faith, they might remember that even by the time Jesus was walking the Earth marriage had changed quite a bit from King David's day--radically and for the better. With the world as crowded is as it is now, our country could use a few more non-procreative couples to provide homes for all of the kids we have in the world.

But who can think clearly when they are scared?

I didn't smile much during the four hour session. I wasn't, however, as angry as I thought I would be. I have genuine compassion for the ex-gay guy. I've been through that whole deal (thankfully I didn't get married and have two kids before I figured some things out). What else would I expect him to say? What would it mean for his life if he had said, "I've decided to take this route, but I want people to have the freedom to choose otherwise. And I want their kids and spouses to have the same support that mine do." Actually that sounds like a good idea to me, but I'm sure there are a lot of things related to the self he has created that would go away if he did that.

At one point, a slender and attractive woman speaking against equal marriage rights approached the podium. With an understandbly nervous stutter and a nicely tailored chocolate-colored pant suit, she smiled and said, "I come to you as a mom." She then proceeded to announce that gay marriage would cause the end of civilization. She even asked the committee who would be around to fill their seats after they were gone if same sex couples were allowed to marry. Now I'm no expert on heterosexuality, but I'm pretty sure straight people are not going to stop having sex with other straight people once John and I get married. And if hetero couples' sex lives are really that slow, I'm not taking the rap for it. I've got enough on my plate. Her comments were so ridiculous that I'm not sure the Republican members of the committee even took her seriously.

There were many times during the hearing when I felt misrepresented, kindly despised, even invisible, but there were only a few times when I was truly angry. Almost without fail, opponents of equal marriage rights stated that allowing gay marriage would destroy future generations of children. I should tell you that throughout nearly the entire four hour session I was holding Duane and Todd's son Daniel on my lap.

I've known Daniel since the day Duane and Todd brought him home. Every time I hear a statement about how bad for children gay marriage is I think about what I know of his life--how smart he is, how loving he is, how self-possessed he is. He's not afraid of people. He doesn't demand the kind of needy attention that comes with permissive or neglectful parenting. He uses words like "predicament." He can tell one kind of train engine from another.

As I heard dire predictions for the children of gay couples in the senate chamber (No one took the trouble to cite any basis for their fears besides the useless phrase, "as we all know...") I caught myself wondering, "are they right?" Could Daniel just be a fluke? (Sorry Duane and Todd, but it was an emotional day.) But sitting next to me in Linda's lap (also for four hours!) was a three old who never spoke above a whisper during the entire hearing. Mari, who as we left Duane and the kids at their car thanked Linda for holding her hand.

Mari and Daniel argue, but they argue over things like who gets to be Jesus when they play grocery store during Sunday School.

Duane and Todd would tell you that they make mistakes. They would not tell you they are excellent parents. But they are excellent parents. And they are raising outstanding kids, as are all of the other same-sex coupled parents that I see. I have their kids in Sunday School along with everyone else. You can bet I would know otherwise. And if these kids don't become completely annoyed to distraction with people who judge their families before knowing them first, they will become empathetic, sensitive, and thoughtful about issues that face their fellow citizens.

Daniel did not know exactly what was going on during the hearing. Duane had told them that they were coming to the Statehouse to hear about different kinds of families. I'm a little less diplomatic. I told him that the people we were watching were deciding what his Daddy and Papa and Uncle John and Uncle Troy could and couldn't do. I also told him that if he wanted, someday he could help make those decisions. I'm not sure he got my point, but he seemed excited about telling Duane and Todd what to do.

The final vote was 7 to 4 in favor of sending the amendment to the legislature, which is bad news for us. That was the next step in the process of bringing it to a vote in 2008. The clock is now ticking for John and I. We have three years to decide where we will live our future. But I can't be despondent. I gave up hopelessness for Lent. And why shouldn't I? We do have three years to fight this. My mother-in-law took a day off from work to support her son and me. The senate chamber gallery was filled with people like us. And I may have been holding a future senator in my lap.


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