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- Why Conservatives Are Correct About Same-Sex Marriage: The View of a Pioneer of the Gay Movement
Our Epistle crafted at the 2013 Midwinter Gathering held near Honesdale, Pennsylvania
Our Epistle crafted at the 2011 Midwinter Gathering held near Greensboro, North Carolina
Our Epistle crafted at the 2009 Midwinter Gathering held near Mollala, Oregon
Our Epistle crafted at the 2007 Midwinter Gathering held near Greensboro, North Carolina
Our Epistle crafted at the 2004 Midwinter Gathering held near Burlington, New Jersey
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These Marriage Minutes regarding same-sex marriages and other committment ceremonies have been collected by members of FLGBTQC. If you know of additional minutes you would like to see added, please email them to the Website Editors
Each of Us Inevitable
Each of Us Inevitable: Some Keynote Addresses given at FLGC Mid-Winter and Other Gatherings, 1977-1993.
Now available for download from this site in pdf format
Edited by Robert Leuze. A collection of talks about coming to terms
with one's identity and direction. A newly expanded 2nd-edition is
available in print from the FGC Bookstore,
and from Pendle
Hill if you'd like to contact them or look in their latest printed catalog.
Why Conservatives Are Correct About Same-Sex Marriage: The View of a Pioneer of the Gay Movement
The social conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage are correct; allowing two men or two women to marry legally will forever change traditional marriage. But, I argue, much for the better.
To a certain extent, Iím a gay pioneer. Iím one of the first openly gay men to have been named an NCAA Division I Head Coach in any sport, and one of even fewer who coaches men. My former husband and I were married under the care of a Quaker Meeting I attended in the early 1990s, way before the current marriage rage began. It was the first same-sex marriage performed, on an equal basis, within that meeting. So Iíve been watching this matter closely for a long time. And yes, gay marriage changes marriage.
But not because itís about homosexuality. Because itís about gender.
In the clearness committee meetings for my wedding, a Quaker form of premarital pastoral counseling, I was struck by something one of the members of the committee said as we sat together, prayerfully seeking Godís will for the lives of my future husband and myself. ďYouíre so lucky,Ē this very forward looking, strong and spiritually grounded woman said. ďYou two get to make a marriage without having to rethink all the stuff about gender roles. You get what, for all our best intentions, my husband and I still struggle to have: a marriage of equals, not freighted with the expectations of what the man will do or what the woman should do. Itís a new age, and I envy you.Ē
As I reflect back on the marriage debates in North Carolina and elsewhere, this is truly the heart of the matter. Same-sex marriage holds a radical possibility: that marriage, finally, can be between two equals. In my parentsí day, the vow was to ďlove, honor and obey,Ē though I donít know if my mother actually promised that in the early 1950s. If she did, itís certainly not a vow she kept. It was also not a vow my very smart, and very much in love father has asked her to keep in their now nearly 60-year-old marriage that still goes strong. But that still doesnít mean their household roles arenít heavily gendered. Sixty years on, my dad still canít cook very well.
The idea of separate, and they would say complementary, ideas of who men and women are is imbedded in the gender roles held by many conservative Christians. A preacher in Fayetteville, NC had his sermon opposing gay marriage go viral several weeks ago. What drew our attention was not his opposition to same-sex marriage, but rather that he suggested that children be physically threatened, not for being gay per se, but for crossing gender lines.
This is not a new idea. Mitt Romney now finds himself under scrutiny for a ďprankĒ that involved cutting the long, bleached-blond hair of a somewhat quiet and perhaps effeminate schoolmate. Romney claims, I suspect correctly, that he had no idea that this other young man was gay. It was the 1960s and such things were not yet part of the daily discourse of high school life, particularly at boysí boarding schools, where homosexual behavior was, by many accounts, rampant. But Romney certainly knew that his fellow student at the all-boys prep school was crossing acceptable gender lines. Itís my conjecture that this was what drew his ire, and fueled his perhaps hyper-masculine need to correct the situation.
As an openly gay man coaching men at the college level, Iíve had plenty of time to think about why I have so few other openly gay male colleagues. Or for that matter, about why there are so few openly gay male elite athletes. The answer, again, is that itís not about homosexuality; itís about gender.
University of Toronto professor Brian Pronger writes of athletics as ďthe arena of masculinity.Ē Itís the primary space in which men are taught how to be men, so gay men need not apply. On the flip side of that coin, itís a space in which women are constantly made to prove their femininity, all the more so as they reach more elite levels, and to accept their position below men in the athletic hierarchy. Itís why there are even fewer women coaching men at the D-I level than there are gay men in similar positions. Itís why Mariah Burton Nelsonís superb book on gender in athletics is entitled ďThe Stronger Women Get, The More Men Love Football.Ē As with marriage, athletics privileges those who submit to ideas of male supremacy, and those in charge of the industry are heavily invested in keeping it that way.
So it is with same-sex marriage. The stronger this movement gets, the more conservatives will cling to ideas of marriage defined, at least partially, by traditional gender roles. It is of no surprise to me that the two principal religious groups throwing their full weight behind the opposition to gay marriage are the Roman Catholic Church and the Mormons. Both are institutionally based on and strongly reinforce male dominance. Both insist on menís and womenís fundamentally separate (and not coincidentally spiritually unequal) gender roles, most particularly in the rituals that bind men to God. The men at the top of these churches have the most to lose in this cultural skirmish. So itís no surprise as well, therefore, that these same churches have put womenís reproductive rights, the single most important leveler in gender relations besides education, under fierce attack of late.
Perhaps then itís also no surprise that Quakers, with a long tradition of striving for gender equality, have led the way in marrying same-sex couples. Or that churches that can handle the idea of the ordination of women can also generally handle the idea of same-sex marriage, not as some sort of politically correct compromise, but as a blessing and a teaching from God. Or that a younger generation of Americans, brought up to see men and women as inherently equal, are generally in support of the right of two men or two women to marry.
So the conservative Christians are correct. The institution of marriage will be forever changed by same-sex matrimony. Not because weíre two men or two women who sleep together, love each other, support each other and sometimes raise families together. But because weíre two men or two women who demonstrate, on a daily basis, that a marriage of equals is truly possible. I for one, think this change is long overdue.
Charley Sullivan is Associate Head Coach of Menís Rowing and a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Michigan. His team is four-time defending American Collegiate Rowing Association national champions. His academic research focuses on the formation of gender and cultural identities in the 20th century.