I was listening to NPR at my desk today, and I caught the tail end of a report about a law in the works somewhere that forbids all homosexuals and unmarried heterosexuals from using artificial insemination and/or all fertility treatments in an attempt to conceive a child.
Before I go into my reaction to what I heard (which, admittedly, was not the whole story), let me say that when I heard this, I was immediately reminded of the woman who taught the only psychology class I took in college (which I thought was generally a load of malarkey, but that’s another story). She was an unmarried woman, in her late thirties or early forties, tenured professor, financially stable, etc, etc. The class that I took from her was Psychology of Women, and that was her field of specialization. She realized, about a year or two before I took the class, that she was missing out on a HUGE aspect of women’s lives that compromised her ability to really connect with her chosen avocation. She had no idea what motherhood was like except on a vicarious level. She also had no handily available man to help her remedy that situation, and she was unwilling to settle for a Mr. Convenient when she felt she deserved Mr. Right. So what did she do? She got herself artificially inseminated and had a beautiful, healthy baby girl. The Psychology department was delighted. Not only did one of their colleagues and friends become a new mom, but they had their very own pet project for 9 months, AND they all became aunts and uncles to the wee girl after her birth (three cheers to the prof for recruiting such a well-educated cadre of babysitters).
Anyway, my point in relaying that story is to demonstrate that unwed people who seek reproductive assistance are not bad people, nor are they bad parents (which is what the law implies). Most of them are well-adjusted, responsible, mature adults who haven’t met their someone special and don’t want to wait around forever and possibly miss the chance to be a parent. That being the case, I think the proposed law is exceedingly unfair.
And! My point in making the previous point is this: the law that I heard described today is not at all about protecting children, since there are plenty of unmarried people who are excellent parents. It is a law about preventing gay people from being parents. And while there are certainly some gay people out there who have no business being parents, there are plenty of gay people out there who would make wonderful parents! There are tons of straight people who are horrible parents, but the government is not allowed to keep THEM from having children. That lawmakers are apparently willing to also go after straight, single people in this misguided bill simply highlights the lengths to which
most some conservatives are willing to go in order to keep gay people from having the same rights as straight people.
Did you know that in some states in the USA today, one valid justification for killing another human being is the so-called “gay panic defense?” It can be justifiable homicide if someone of your gender makes a pass at you and you kill them for it. I don’t believe this defense has yet gotten an accused person acquitted of assault or murder, but it has significantly reduced some sentences for such crimes when they are committed against gay people.
It’s this kind of thing that makes me want to bash my head against a handy brick wall. The current administration and its cronies in Congress are fond of saying that “the people” should decide whether equal rights are given to gay people. They seem to have forgotten that responsible lawmaking in any democracy is not only carried out by majority rule; it must also be mindful of minority rights, whether the majority likes it or not. If this country ONLY focused on majority rule in its past, women and people of color would never have won the right to vote. Let’s face it – how many white men do you think would’ve voted to extend suffrage to either of these groups if they’d had the final say in the matter? Both measures would surely have been defeated in referendum.
The trouble with the “let the people decide” approach is that the majority of “the people” are not REALLY affected by the issue. Opponents of equal rights for gay people have gotten very good at convincing folks that gay people are out to gain equal rights and then somehow take them away from straight people; that equal rights for gay people somehow threatens straight peoples’ rights.
I’m sure Susan B. Anthony and her fellow crusaders were met with the same sort of opposition — that giving women the vote would make a mockery of our electoral process and send the government into chaos because women weren’t smart enough to vote wisely. I’m sure some folks tried to make the argument that giving women the right to vote would ultimately deprive men of their rights. And has it? Of course not.
About a month ago, a bill was introduced into the Massachusetts state legislature that would’ve defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and it would’ve nullified all same-sex marriages that have taken place in the last year that they have been legal. A year ago, the measure would’ve passed by a landslide. Last month, it was trounced 157-39. One hundred and five of the lawmakers that voted against the law this year would have voted for it last year. Do you know why they changed their minds? Because equal marriage rights have been the law in Massachusetts for a whole year, and the world has not ended.
Heterosexual marriages have been COMPLETELY unaffected by the legalization of homosexual marriage in Massachusetts. There have been no mass heterosexual divorces out of despair that their marriages “don’t mean anything anymore.” For the last year, homosexual married couples have enjoyed the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples, and society has not come crashing to the ground. There are no hordes of weeping, terribly confused children who no longer have any idea what a loving relationship looks like because gay couples have become just as valid as straight couples. Religious institutions have not been legally required to extend sacramental/religious marriage to homosexuals contrary to their beliefs. The insurance industry in Massachusetts has not gone bankrupt because companies are now required to extend medical coverage to the spouses of homosexuals. In Massachusetts hospitals, homosexual spouses have been allowed to be at their terminally ill spouses’ bedsides at the end of life and have some say in what happens to them, and the world is still standing. They have been allowed to inherit shared property. They have had legal custody rights to children that they have helped raise. They have been able to talk to their spouses without fear that their words can be used against them or their spouses in a court of law. For a whole year, people in the state of Massachusetts have been equal, regardless of their sexual orientation. And life has gone on as scheduled.