April 14, 2005

While There is a Soul in Prison, I am Not Free

from - smijer

Bad news for gays and lesbians in Oregon, where a judge has invalidated the marriages of 3,000 gay couples, and the people have voted to add a hate amendment to their constitution, designed specifically to exclude gays and lesbians from the rights enjoyed by others.

I think it is time to start thinking outside the box on this. Obviously, it is hatred that motivates people to begin crusades against marriage rights for all. Obviously, those who carry the banner against homesexuals are full of hatred. But their followers... I cannot believe that majorities in states like Oregon and Michigan are following the banner of exclusion simply out of hatred. I believe that they are moved by fear. They were too easily convinced by trusted preachers that equal rights will endanger or weaken the "institution" of marriage. So, I think we need to be looking for solutions that will negate not only the campaign of hatred, but also the campaign of paranoid fear-mongering. I don't have many good ideas, but I have the germ of an idea, and I want to run it up the flag-pole and see who salutes it...

My germ of an idea is this: civil disobedience, in the form of mass divorce. What this would amount to is a show of solidarity, and a means by which to raise awareness of how anti-gay bigotry affects real people. If enough people were willing to do it, what they would have to do is hire a lawyer and file for an uncontested divorce. After divorcing, protesters would continue to live together and raise their children as a family, but they would let it be known at every opportunity that they were unmarried despite being in a life-long monogamous relationship. At every opportunity, protesters can share the various ways in which they are living as second class citizens, and explain why they are choosing to live that way. At work, they may ask if they will be granted bereavement leave or family medical leave for their now-divorced partner. Military spouses can complain to others living on base about their inability to buy from the PX - they can even ask others living on base to help them with their shopping if there isn't a civilian alternative available. They can explain to their accountant why they cannot file jointly or "married, filing separately". They can worry aloud about the possibility that they will not have access to their partner in a medical emergency, and will have no say over their care. They can do all of this and more (pdf), but the biggest hit will be when they get a divorce decree from the judge. If there is a sudden, double digit, surge in the divorce rate, this will get some attention. People are going to want to know why.

And when people want to know why, that's when we will be ready with an answer: because this is the only way the anti-gay activists will allow equal treatment between ourselves and our gay brothers and sisters.

It's a real sacrifice. But then, when is real civil disobedience not a real sacrifice? People get hungry on hunger strikes. Divorcees will really give up the benefits of marriage to make people aware of what the anti-gay activists are really doing to the families they attack.

I'm pretty sure that I'll have to answer to Mrs. smijer for even suggesting this course of action. It may be that there is a less painful or more effective approach to raising awareness of the issues. So, if you don't think my idea will catch on, what other options can you think of?


Posted by smijer at April 14, 2005 03:20 PM

Your idea actually makes some sense, though I don't think that it would ever work on any kind of large (or medium) scale. I know my wife would kill me if I suggested that! :)

I am baffled at the overwelming response to every ballot initiative that has come about in the different states. I truly do not understand the hate or fear directed towards gays, and I do not believe I ever will.

I posted the following quote on my blog, from the president of the "American Family Association":

The very nature of homosexuality is based on eroticism and the infatuation with sex.

Do people actually believe this garbage? It just makes me sick.

I honestly don't have an answer...What do we do? I really do not know.

univar.jpg Posted by dave on April 14, 2005 05:44 PM
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I have considered divorce but only because I think it may be a good strategy to lower my taxes. And as far as the American Family Association is concerned, if sex is what they are trying to eliminate then marriage is the best damned way I know to achieve that goal.

Maybe the gays and the churches could make a deal. The gays won't demand marriage if the church will give up its tax exempt status.

univar.jpg Posted by Buck on April 15, 2005 02:39 AM
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I can guarantee one thing: that divorce attorneys everywhere would be in solid support of your proposal, smijer.

I enjoy the creativity and bold spirit it contains. I also echo the comments of others (and yourself) with regard to my spouse's probable take on it! I don't want to seem cowardly, though, and you bring up a great point about hunger strikes and other serious forms of action. Thanks for doing the initial thinking, and let's do come up with something that can drive this point home.

univar.jpg Posted by joe on April 15, 2005 09:40 AM
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