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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A debate with only one side


Today, gay and lesbian couples - at least one joined by their child - came to Annapolis to tell their stories.
As the General Assembly considers legislation that would allow them to marry, I've profiled such families in columns.
In fairness, and out of simple curiosity, I wanted to hear from the other side. I might not agree with them, but I wanted to hear what they had to say and write about it.
Where were the regular families who'd be personally hurt by passage of a same-sex marriage bill?
Here's the thing: There aren't any.
The bill's impact on, say, David Hankey and Barry Kessler's family is clear.
The Arnold couple, who have a 10-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter, would be allowed to marry and become a real family in the eyes of the state. So would thousands of other couples in Maryland.
But no heterosexual family would actually be hurt by the law that would help them. Was I missing something? I asked advocates to find me someone to explain.
The National Organization for Marriage has announced it will work to kill the Maryland bill. So I asked that organization's press contact for help. Surely she could find me some regular people who'd be impacted.
Her suggestion: a spokeswoman for the Maryland Catholic Conference. Hmm.
Not what I'm looking for, but could she find me some regular people?
She found me her executive director.
And that proved the point rather elegantly: They couldn't find any regular people because no one's life is actually affected negatively by this bill.
Oh, you can find people who'll tell you allowing gay couples to marry "redefines marriage" and thus somehow dilutes what is special about - all together now - the union of one man and one woman.
What you can't find is anyone to answer these questions:
How does it actually affect your heterosexual marriage if two men can marry tomorrow?
Does the fact a law is based on "tradition" always make it right?
A Maryland Catholic Conference news release says, "Stripping marriage of its unique connection to parenthood erases from law the right of a child to a mother and father, and ignores an essential question of why government favors marriage between one man and one woman over all other relationships."
I had a nice chat with the conference's executive director, Mary Ellen Russell, who patiently answered my questions and explained the position she planned to outline this afternoon to a state Senate committee.
What would be wrong about allowing gay couples to marry?
"Suddenly we'd be saying we are deliberately not recognizing the deep and abiding connection between biological parents and children," Russell said. "In law it erases that distinction."
Yes, and what?
It erases a currently existing distinction in the law between men who like women and men who like men. How does that stop a loving, straight couple from raising children in a happy home? It doesn't. It would add to the sum total of happiness in the world. It would mean more security for families. Isn't that, you know, Christian?
No one, to my knowledge, has proposed requiring anyone to marry someone of the same sex. No one has proposed replacing heterosexual marriage with gay marriage.
"All we're saying is there's a clear reason for recognizing this one relationship as unique," Russell said.
It must be unique because it's always been that way: circular logic.
And as for harming the institution of marriage? Well, Russell said "marriage is in a shambles in our society." So how would this make it worse?
"This is not a position motivated out of any kind of bigotry or hatred against anyone," Russell said.
Many people on her side of the issue, she said, have friends or relatives who are gay and love them, while still believing they shouldn't be allowed to marry.
They may be sincere. But they can't answer that simple question: How does it hurt you?

For more read Eric Hartley's "Arundel Outtakes" blog at


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