At their yearly gathering of Christian fundies in Tampa this year, things went askew when a member of the audience at a symposium entitled “Defending Marriage: What’s At Stake?” stood to ask the panel a question:
After the panelists had their say (after about an hour of this, I might add), the “town hall meeting” was finally opened up to questions from the floor. And the second questioner, a brave young woman wearing a red tee-shirt, was a stunner:
Hi. My names is Cathy James and I would like to challenge all of the individuals here listening today to really take a look at some of the rationale and some of the comments that speakers have given in regard to things such as …why government gets involved with personal relationships, that is, for the procreation of children. I think as most of the attorneys will tell you, that civil marriage was created for one purpose only, and that was property and how to divide property.
And so I am a lesbian, I live in the Riverview area with my partner of thirteen years and our son who is seven. And I go to work Monday through Friday and attend church weekly, I volunteer at the school, I volunteer at the homeowners association. And what I have a hard time understanding is why you are interested in keeping a legal framework from us in being able to handle the same things as heterosexual couples and such things as visitation, and hospital…. And how to divide our property in the same way, and how to parent our child?
The stunned silence was amazing. John Stemberger thanked her for coming and tried to stammer out an answer. He said that some forms of discrimination are perfectly legitimate (“home ownership benefits society in the way renters do not.”) and ended by saying, “marriage uniquely benefits society in the way same sex couples do not.” But Cathy remained calm and firm:
But in what way? What’s the difference in the benefit? How does your marriage benefit society more than my relationship with my same gender partner does not?
Peter Sprigg jumped in to assert that “without question” the best family structure was headed by a man and a woman. But Cathy persisted:
…But now you’re devaluing, what, over fifty percent of the children who live with one parent or that one parent as died or that they’re divorced and now they’re just living with one parent. You’re devaluing them and that’s not fair.
By now the panel was speechless, leaving Peter Sprigg to stumble around trying to get his footing. “Each person’s relationship choices serves as an example to the rest of society… and if that example becomes more widespread, more people will make the same choice, more children will suffer.”
So you’re saying a man and a woman in a marriage are valued higher than single people? They’re valued higher than…
Sprigg cut her off and instead of relying on his own outwitted wits, he decided to read from David Blankenhorn’s book, The Future of Marriage. And as he read, his voice rose, becoming more strident, more angry, more sharp with each word. “I would be rich if I had a nickel for every time someone who knows almost nothing about marriage has told me that historically marriage was all about property. That is nonsense!” But as he continued to spit out the words, it slowly dawned on him that Blankenhorn was talking about dowries and gifts to the bride’s family – which had nothing do with Cathy’s questions.
Clearly Sprigg is a man who doesn’t like having his reputation as an “expert” challenged. And it became obvious that he wasn’t up to this particular challenge. But he kept reading, vainly looking for the rescue that he was sure he’d find in Blankenhorn’s book. But it wasn’t there. He finally gave up and Cathy graciously thanked all of the panelists for their time.
From Box Turtle Bulletin
Speaking of gays, Juan Cole at Informed Comment makes a good connection:
"… Ahmadinejad’s bigotted statement that there are no homosexuals in Iran derived from his rightwing religious commitments. What he said is very serious. He erased gays right out of existence. The ultimate in denying people their rights is to deny they even exist (the nonexistent obviously have no rights.) There could be a debate over whether the gay lifestyle exists in Muslim countries, as a matter of identity politics, of course, but Ahmadinejad is not that sophisticated. He was saying that all Iranians are straight. Of course, gays are punished very severely in Iran, in reality.
It would be nice for the US Right to have us forget that they pull the Ahmadinejad act with regard to gays every day. Denying gays the right to marry is a way of erasing them from civil society. It is a way of denying that they really love one another, as straights do. It is a way of asserting that they do not exist.
The "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy in the US military (so unlike the one followed by many NATO allies) is also a way of erasing gays. They don’t exist unless they themselves press the case that they exist. In order to remain in their jobs, they are forced to erase themselves by their silence. The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is a way of pretending that there are no gays in the US military. For if it could be proven that anyone is gay, he is immediately expelled. It is just as silly as what Ahmadinejad said, and just as pernicious. That policy is supported by the entire American Right, which is no better than Ahmadinejad in this regard.