Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . Many of those who oppose gay marriage are not doing so as bigots, but out of what they see as religious or moral views rooted in tradition. If you listen to them, you will hear that their belief in "traditional" marriage is grounded in a concern for children.

It's not that they are pretending to care about children, or using that as a tactic – they really do give a damn about kids. Many of them live it out, too, by adopting special-needs children, or leading youth groups, or just by having and raising lots of kids.

So, if you believe in gay marriage, what do you say to those who are sincerely concerned about the welfare of children? Exposing them to gay parents and the children of gay parents is one tactic, but difficult in the course of a conversation.

More realistic might be this: Point out that there are already thousands of children being raised in Minnesota by gay parents. The law is not going to change that -- it is a fait accompli. Gay men and lesbians are allowed to raise children, and do.

Given that bare fact, isn't it better to have those parents be married, with all the commitment and expectations that come with marriage?

Also, there is the issue of abortion. Many who oppose gay marriage believe even more fervently that the life of a child begins at conception.

Given that heartfelt belief, there must be some acknowledgment that gay men and lesbians produce few unwanted pregnancies, but do adopt, care for and love many of the children born of those unwanted pregnancies.

Even prochoice advocates usually assert that abortion should be "rare, safe and legal." Gay marriage can make abortion rarer, by providing homes to those children who are taken to term.

Raising these points – gently – over Thanksgiving dinner may do more to create change than all the posterboard signs in the world.

Our hearts open and beliefs are reconsidered when our own interests are valued, respected, and appealed to through logic or story. That is the kind of dialogue that is good for us, and good for the world.

– Mark Osler
"May Our Debate Over Gay Marriage Be Constructive"
Star Tribune
October 15, 2011

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
The Power of Our Stories

Image: Tim Brinton.


Sage said...

This is a difficult quote for me Michael and on numerous levels. It mostly fell flat for me.

Here are the reasons why:

First, Osler seems to be putting forth an either/or dialectic in his opening salvo by seemingly presenting the idea that people can either be bigots or they are people that care about children and show this by leading youth group, etc. I fundamentally reject this understanding. For me it is both overly simplistic and naive. It is my experience that the vast majority of people who oppose gay marriage primarily through their religious beliefs and understandings of "family" are far more likely to both be bigots *and* people who genuinely care about children. As a black, same gender loving man who grew up in The American South I learned very early that bigotry can be very subtle and very insidious simultaneously. It can be a primary, secondary or even tertiary motivation for someone and his or her actions. Still, bigotry is there in the mix nonetheless.

Second, and this is harder for me to articulate. There is a conciliatory almost apologetic tone to this entire quote that makes me very uncomfortable. In his chosen ways of trying to "soften the blow" and "sell" the idea of gay marriage and families headed by LGBT to perhaps potential future allies, who in my opinion, are bigots to begin with, he's willing to sell his soul. It reminds me of Bruce Bawer's book, "A Place at the Table" that came out in 1994 where Bawer essentially advocates disappearing the "difficult" LGBT people like drag queens, leathermen, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and others simply because these people are the ones who are easier targets for scorn among straight bigots. For me this is a totally wrong headed approach. Osler doesn't come out and say things like Bawer did but I picked up on that same kind of quality in his words in a subtle way.

Appealing to people and trying to get them to legitimize you and your causes and become allies is a very tricky task indeed. I understand the need to do it. It has to be done. I understand that some degree of flexibility is needed in the process. I understand that high degrees of openness are required. I understand that the emphasizing of certain things and perhaps the de-emphasizing of others is perhaps necessary. At the same time, I have been an activist for a very long time now. And I am a fourth generation activist in my family. I have seen every tactic in the book used in an attempt to gain allies on a number of different fronts.

At first glance Osler's words and approach seem reasonable enough. Thirty years ago I probably would have endorsed his approach without question. I am a former catholic monk. I understand religious conviction. Over the years I have also learned that many religious people embody a particular kind of intolerance that is really quite breathtaking when one experiences it up close and uncloaked. I'm unsure exactly how much effort I am really willing to exert on many such people, in trying to gain them as allies anymore. I suppose I'm glad there are people like Osler who seem to be willing to do it. I would like to communicate with him in 20 years, if I'm still around, to get his assessment on how successful he ultimately believed he was.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Sage, you raise and articulate very good points. Thank you for sharing so well your thoughts on Osler's comments.