Thursday, May 10, 2012

I was lying in bed the other night just about to drift off to sleep when something on the TV caught my attention. Jay Leno on the “Tonight Show” announced that his first guest of the evening would be Rick Santorum. “This should be interesting,” I thought, especially given the fact that Santorum had recently dropped out of the presidential race and more recently gave his endorsement to his Republican rival, Mitt Romney. “What could he possibly have to talk about now?” I wondered. “His campaign is over.” Silly me, I forgot that 99% of politicians just want to hear themselves talk, even when they have nothing to say. Maybe he was on the show to discuss his endorsement. Maybe he was on there to give a pitch about why he should be the Vice Presidential nominee. Nope. He was there to spew ignorance, intolerance, and discrimination, yet again.

I started off watching the segment with indifference, knowing that whatever he was selling, I wasn’t buying. But as the interview went on, I got a little bit angrier and more disgusted with the garbage coming out of his mouth. By the time it was over, I was incensed. Santorum spent a large portion of the interview talking about gay marriage and defending his position that it shouldn’t be allowed to happen in this great country of ours. I should preface all of this by saying that I’m not gay. I’m heterosexual, but I have my own views on gay marriage and they certainly don’t mesh with Santorum’s or the views of many other conservative Republicans. I should also say that I don’t subscribe to any political party. Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Whigs, Socialists…if they’re politicians, they’re all the same to me. I’m independent all the way, and I decide who to vote for based on the person, not the party. And I would never vote for anyone who believes a large segment of America’s population should be ostracized, discriminated against, or treated differently than anyone else. Period.

Santorum argued that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman and the right to marriage shouldn’t be extended to the gay community. He doesn’t even want to give them the option of a civil union, which would provide same-sex couples with the legal benefits of marriage, if not the title. This was his reasoning: “Marriage is unique. It provides a unique benefit to society and that’s why it should be different.” Ooooookay. So a man and a woman legally binding themselves to one another and making a commitment to each other is completely different from a same-sex couple doing the same thing, just because they’re gay? If a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, are in a committed, monogamous relationship that provides stability not only to them, but to those around them, that has no benefit to society simply because of their sexual orientation? That makes no sense whatsoever. Just because a couple happens to be heterosexual does not mean they will have a successful marriage. The statistics are clear on that, with approximately 50% of all marriages ending in divorce. Obviously being heterosexual is not a determining factor in a lasting relationship. How about traits like being loyal, faithful, honest, and truthful with your spouse or partner? Aren’t those more important to the success of a relationship and in turn more beneficial to society than sexual orientation? I don’t have any firsthand knowledge, but I’m pretty certain that being homosexual doesn’t condemn you to a lifetime of failed relationships. Being a philanderer or an asshole can though, and I know plenty of straight people who fall into those categories.

Interestingly enough, just yesterday, May 9, President Obama made a public announcement that he believes gay couples should be allowed to marry. Well, it’s about flippin’ time. Obama explained in the interview he gave that his decision to publicly support gay marriage was inspired by his two young daughters, who don’t think twice about their friends’ parents who happen to be same-sex couples and have no qualms whatsoever about them getting married. “It wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them,” he said. Really? It takes a 13 and 11 year old to impart this wisdom on the most powerful man in the world? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I think Obama’s announcement is great, but there’s just one problem: he’s not going to do anything about it. While he said he supports gay marriage, in the next breath he said it should be up to the states to decide whether they will support, ban, or otherwise ignore the issue. And just how many states have decided to allow gay marriage? Six. That’s it. Six out of 50 (51 if you include D.C.). How many have adopted constitutional bans restricting marriage to a man and a woman? Thirty!! Just this past week North Carolina voted to adopt a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. While disheartening, it’s not all that surprising. Societal progress has never really been a hallmark of Southern states, has it?    

Back to the “Tonight Show”…Santorum also espoused his belief that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children. He dropped this little nugget of wisdom when Leno questioned him about why he holds that belief: “I think children…we should provide for them the best opportunity, and the best opportunity is to provide them with a healthy mother/father relationship.” Um, well yeah, Rick, that would be great if all children had two parents who love and care for them in a stable, nurturing home. But does it really matter if that loving environment is provided by a man and a woman as opposed to a gay couple? And how many children actually get that perfect little nuclear family with the mommy and the daddy happily raising them together and then sending them on their way when they’re all grown up? Very few, I’m sure. It seems that Santorum would prefer children to grow up in a dysfunctional, unhealthy, perhaps even abusive home as long as the parents are a man and a woman rather than have kids grow up in a family with two dads or two moms who very well could be better parents than any heterosexual couple on earth. It’s the simple fact that they’re gay that he doesn’t like; there’s no regard to the people, the human beings who could provide an incredibly loving family to children who need a good and loving home. He doesn’t want gay couples to be able to adopt kids because he claims it would be damaging to our society. Oh, sure, it’s so much better for kids to grow up in orphanages or languish in foster care until they turn 18, just so long as they aren’t exposed to any of those gays out there! Santorum said he is worried about how things like gay marriage or gay adoptions would affect the country’s culture. “If we change who we are, then we lose what makes us special,” he said. Yep, Rick, you’re right on the money. America would be so much less special if we gave equal rights to everyone, if gay couples in every state were allowed to marry, and if they also could adopt children and raise them to be contributing members of our society. We definitely wouldn’t want that, now would we?

It seems that Santorum and conservatives like him are trying to take this country back to the 1940s or 1950s, when segregation still existed and women were expected to be housewives whose only skills included cleaning the house and cooking meals for their husbands. How is discriminating against gay Americans any different than the discrimination African Americans had to live with before (and well after) the civil rights movement? It’s not different. It’s just a different group and different issues, but discrimination is discrimination. Preventing someone from having access to a right, based on one single facet of who they are, that the majority of the country’s citizens enjoy freely is discrimination. Preventing gay Americans from marrying or adopting children because of their sexual orientation is no different than preventing African Americans from voting simply because of the color of their skin. Homosexuals have no more control over their sexual orientation than African Americans have over their skin color. I realize that some people still want to debate whether homosexuality is a choice or part of someone’s genetic makeup, but I firmly believe that it’s not a choice and gay people are pre-wired to be gay, just like I was pre-wired to have brown hair and hazel eyes.

It simply comes down to the fact that we’re all human beings. We all have the same basic, fundamental desires to be respected; to have the right to make the choices that are best for our own lives; to have access to the same opportunities as everyone else; and to be accepted for who we are. I realize that my opinions don’t jive with many other people’s opinions on this matter. But to those of you who are against gay marriage or gay adoptions, I ask these questions: Why does it matter to you? How does it affect your life if a gay couple gets married or adopts a child? What business is it of yours how anyone else lives his or her life? What right do you have to say what another human being, another American citizen can and can’t do, as long as they’re not breaking the law or causing harm to others? I’ve heard people who are against gay marriage say, “Marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman.” When asked why, oftentimes their response is something like, “Because it just is.” Well, that holds about as much weight as “Because I said so.” You’re gonna have to do better than that. Other times, opponents will invoke the Bible as the basis for their belief that same-sex marriage is an abomination. “The Bible says that marriage should be between a man and a woman.” Maybe it does, I’m no biblical scholar. But doesn’t the Bible also say “Love thy neighbor” and “Judge not lest ye be judged?”

It just makes no sense that something like same-sex marriage is taking such a prominent place in the current election and politics today. Don’t we have more important things to worry about, say the economy that’s still in the crapper? Or how about that little war in Afghanistan that has cost us billions and billions of dollars and thousands of lives? Or maybe the unemployment rate, which is currently sitting at 8.1%? I think we all need to take a step back, look at the big picture, and focus on things that will actually affect all of our lives and wellbeing. And before you sanctimoniously condemn an entire segment of Americans for something that’s out of their control, take a look at your own life to see if there’s room for improvement or something you could be doing better. If we all did that, we’d be too busy to worry about how other people are living their own lives.

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