Thursday, April 1, 2010

Not "For Now," but "For Always" and "For Everyone"

I was watching the KCRG TV-9 (Cedar Rapids, IA, ABC affiliate) news Wednesday morning. The newscaster announced noteworthy legislation from the 2009-2010 Iowa Assembly as well as "what did not happen" during this session. She stated that "no change was made to marriage for same sex couples." "For now." There was a significant pause in the sentence such that "for now" literally became its own sentence.

I boiled for a bit before realizing that vigilance is called for on the state level at the same time action is called for at the national level.

I also realized, after my students so eloquently stated that "everyone should have to take an LGBT Studies class so that they understand what's at stake with marriage," that my true interest these days is stating what I feel is the truth about marriage. I am beginning to feel that becoming the "Crazy Marriage Lady" (it's really just a minor modification on my way to already becoming the "Crazy Cat Lady") is what's called for professionally and personally.

Here's the deal, I understand that research indicates that folks lead with the "heart" and not the "head" on this issue, but I cannot overlook the hundreds of times since I've been teaching that the "head" has prevailed as well. [And, as a professor at an open-door, community college in the middle of Iowa, you could argue that I teach to pretty much your "typicaly American."] Almost without exception as I discuss these issues, students are both incredulous and enraged when they are educated about the marriage rights denied same sex couples. Students feel that "people just aren't educated and that they should be if they're going to hold such strong opinions." I agree.

In class, we address the fact that 0 rights come from the church. In fact, marriage rights for same sex couples should NOT threaten or change anyone's beliefs. As is presently the case for heterosexual couples, religious bodies can always decide NOT to perform these ceremonies. No law would require religious participation.

However, we are fighting for EXACTLY THE SAME rights of marriage at the state and federal levels. Consistently, my students guess that they receive about 10 or so rights of marriage. They are shocked to learn that there are 1,100 rights from the federal government (including Social Security) and 300-600 rights from the state in which they live. Because all of these rights at the state and federal levels are written as rights of "marriage," it is important that same sex couples also be "married" as opposed to being given "civil unions" (they just do not carry the same weight across states and employers, etc.).

Right now, the "Respect for Marriage Act" would seek to extend federal rights to same sex couples as would possible Supreme Court decisions (for cases in Massachusetts and California). Please consider stating your support to as many folks and legislators as possible for these court cases and this legislation.

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