Monday, May 26, 2008

Same-sex unions

"Why does anyone think that marriage equality will destroy traditional marriage? Marriage has survived Liz Taylor, Mickey Rooney and Britney Spears. I think it will survive the two guys down the street who have been together for 20 years."

Posted by Susan Russell at Inch at a Time this quote caught my attention. I have found myself more than a bit bilious at the comments that gay marriage would destroy marriage from the ultra-right. I have never understood how gay marriage or blessings of gay folks would undermine hererosexual marriage. Are the underpinnings of marriage so fragile that they cannot support the love of others?

I have never married; never wanted to be. But I live in a relationship with another woman that has lasted 30 years. There are no vows, no outward and visible commitment. There is no furtive sexual relationship that many who are married considers the glue that holds the relationship together. The relationship is centered on friendship that goes beyond casual aquaintence and support that honors the other as unique and yet attached at a soul level that goes beyond words. Like many who have lived together for long periods, we do not need to spend long spates of time discussing things. We don’t really need to talk about much anymore. We just enjoy being in each other’s presence.

Both J and I come from families in which our parents lived long years without divorce. Perhaps that is what has enabled our staying together. But there is the other issue of “who else would have had us?” that tends to make us giggle. Relationships are not rooted in vows, or even commitment. They are rooted in the respect that we have for one another. And that does not take a ceremony, a licence, or a sacrament.

Our lives have not been easy. We have had illness, times of ennui, attraction to others, habits that annoy, bishops who have tried to destroy us, right-wingers who have tried to scandalize who we are for their own agendas, jobs that have taken us away from the other that have threatened our commonality. But it has never been enough to destroy the love we have for the other.

That love did not come all at once, either. It is a love, an agape and philios, that has evolved in the small daily caring that has gone on between us. There is little feeling that we are “beholden” to the other—that would destroy what we have. We have just a constant reminder that somehow we are right for each other and we are better persons because of the other.

We do remind the other of our love. I don’t think that there are many days I haven’t told her that I love her and there are not many days that she hasn’t said the same. Even on those days when it is hard because of some argument or disagreement, we end up reminding ourselves of our love for each other. It doesn’t require sleeping together to do that. It just requires the humility to say “I love you.”

The California decision to allow gay marriage will impact the whole of the nation if not the world. It will impact the Church in how it is going to solemnize relationships that do not fit well into tradition. Perhaps we need to look around and find those relationships that require no vows, no sacraments to remind humanity that we are not meant to be alone. It would be nice if people could find ways of encountering the love of God present in the relationships that people have whether hererosexual or homosexual, or not sexual at all. May we lift up Christ in those relationships and focus our concern on that rather than on what is traditional and what is not. Human community is more important than sex.


MadPriest said...

One possibility is that same sex couples will prove to be so good at the faithful loving stuff and so much better than straight couples of late, that straight couples will have a crisis of confidence and just give up on the marriage thing all together.

Muthah+ said...

I would be loath to discourage those heterosexual couples who present themselves for marriage, Maddy--it is a considerable help to the parish and pastor's coffers. However, if people could re-think what it means to be community--what it means to make commitments to people that are not based upon raising children, but on building mutuality--visualizing what it means to grow old together--learning how to live through the tough times, then we would be able to develop a social community that could do the same.

I am just tired of baby-boomer throw-away values, thank you very much!

MadPriest said...

Well, I was being flippant but if you must...

I would agree with you whole-heartedly. Deliberately childish couples like my wife and myself are often accused of selfishness. Yet it could be argued that having children is a more selfish option. The childless couple has to work hard at faithfulness without any third party bonding to keep the family together. In that respect they are a good model for community cohesion which relies on goodwill and hard work for the same reasons.