Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A personal victory in an abstract war on the personal.

In the news a Florida court allows a 47 year old gay man to adopt 2 children (4 and 8) that he has been caring for for several years, finding no evidence that gays in any way make inferior parents or that children are harmed.

Many lament that the struggle for gay rights in the US has largely consisted of court victories and referendum losses. There are obvious reasons for this (i.e., gay rights win in court marraige because there is no rational case for banning gay marriage, and referendum losses pile up because we are still waiting for the older generation who were raised in a more blanketly homophobic climate to shuffle off the voting coil), but there's maybe a more subtle reason too:

It's a lot easier to deny someone the ability to do something so intensely personal as getting married or adopting children when you consider them from the emotional abstract distance of a voting booth. Pulling a lever for an idea when you are standing, anonymous and isolated, is pretty easy. It's the same way that it's pretty easy to shrug off headlines about starvation when we pass them in a newspaper box on the street. It may suck, but what's it really to do with you.

But in court you are face to face with a real human being who eats and breathes and sleeps like you, who has a mom and a dad, friends, likes and dislikes - who is a real person, and not just an idea. And it's much harder to tell someone to their face that they, personally, cannot marry the person that they love, whom they have lived with for twelve years, who they kiss each night, and celebrate each birthday with, that they two cannot marry each other because I have philosophical qualms about what it represents to my idea of 'family.'

It is easier to put a check mark on a ballot next to the word "war" than it is to personally kill someone with your own hands.

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