damnum absque injuria

February 6, 2011

My Big Gay Flip-Flop

Filed under:   by Xrlq @ 9:52 am

As you’ve probably noticed, I don’t post here much anymore. These days, most of the links and snarky remarkies that would have have gone to the blog end up on Twitter or Facebook rather than here. However, I do still think there’s a place for the blog, particularly when it comes to lengthy, often link-ridden discussions that don’t play well on Facebook or come anywhere close to the 140-character limit. This post is the first of several such entries.

Re the heading, no, I didn’t turn gay, but yes, I have mostly flipped on the issue of gay marriage. I still believe, as I did before, that the issue ought to be decided by the democratic law-making process, and not by judges straining to give the Equal Protection Clause a meaning none of its proponents or even opponents anticipated, and which almost certainly would have been worded differently if they had. Cf. Phyllis Schafly, who almost singlehandedly killed the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, in part by arguing that a comparably worded clause in that amendment would be construed to cover gay marriage. Most thought her argument a stretch but we now know it was prescient. So while I don’t want judges getting involved in this, I do think that allowing same-sex marriage is a legislative decision that voters or legislatures, depending on the law of the particular state, should seriously consider.

The reason for my change is simple. In my heavy blogging days, when Mrs. Ex was Mrs. X and divorce was unthinkable, I naïvely assumed that our existing family law was brilliantly developed over the millennia to make the laws specific to traditional marriages as absolutely perfect as they possibly could be. Well maybe not quite so absolutely, but in that direction. I did not oppose civil unions as an alternative to same-sex marriage, but did reason that the concept of a permanent same-sex union – something most gays themselves didn’t want as recently as a generation ago – was an experiment that should be conducted separately from traditional marriage for at least a generation, with each legislature considering changes to each law separately. Maybe certain blood tests are needed for straight marriages, but not gay, or vice versa. Maybe some are needed for male-male unions but not female-female ones. Maybe no-fault marriage was a terrible idea for straights that should be rescinded someday, but for reasons having nothing to do with gays (and maybe in fact a reason gays didn’t want marriage at all in the bad old days). Too many variables that needed to be experimented with separately for a generation or so. After that period, if our Legislature’s best ideas for male-male unions, female-female unions and male-female unions all just happened to be exactly the same, we could merge the legal concepts then. In the meantime, let’s not corrupt almost a thousand years of common law genius with a brand new experiment. Baby, bathwater, etc.

My new view, after having recently gone through a divorce, is that family law is FUBAR. If you are one of those fortunate ones whose marriages go swimmingly from the day you say “I do” until one of you is dead, good for you. Family law is technically just as bad for you as anyone else, but that won’t matter since none of those crappy laws will ever be applied in your case. But those of us who they do apply to know firsthand just how bassackwards and, in some cases, downright ugly, the laws can be. North Carolina in particular is a judicial hellhole in this regard. In an ideal world, are the best rules for gay unions the same as the best rules for lesbians, let alone straights? Who knows? But I do know that both should be written on a clean slate, and if adding gays to the mix is the political catalyst we need to get the debate going, so be it. The next few posts are going to explain why I think family law is messed up, and what I think ought to be done about it. As always, comments are welcome.

13 Responses to “My Big Gay Flip-Flop”

  1. Phelps Says:

    My new view, after having recently gone through a divorce, is that family law is FUBAR.

    That’s mainly what informed my decision as well. I came from a libertarian standpoint, though, and said FIA, let’s just get the state out of the marriage business altogether. Let people make familial corporations or civil unions or whatever for legal purposes if they want to, form it however they want, and let marriage be between them and their clergy (where applicable.)
    Phelps´s last blog post ..Cafeteria Menus

  2. Speakertweaker Says:

    But I do know that both should be written on a clean slate, and if adding gays to the mix is the political catalyst we need to get the debate going, so be it.

    If I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it, but it seems an awful lot like your flip on gay marriage isn’t really a flip on gay marriage at all. Looks to me like you just realized how completely and utterly effed up Family Law is (by way of the Short End Of The Stick), you want a clean slate, and the gay marriage thing is just a chance to kick the ball down the hill.

    tweaker
    Speakertweaker´s last blog post ..Vouchers

  3. On Lawn Says:

    Thanks,

    I think you’ve hit the real heart of the debate.

    I’ve found the two camps fall roughly along the same lines you’ve described. There are those that believe in marriage, that something evolutionary has been built into our species that marriage provides a map to find, and only a map that says “man + woman” can find it.

    And then there are those that have had that shattered by divorce, either their own or the divorce of their parents. And marriage doesn’t look very romantic or ideal anymore. In fact it looks like the map didn’t reveal any treasure at all, so it should be debunked and discarded.

    This may look like the difference between the faithful mislead, and the pragmatic realists. But I happen to be in the former camp, and it isn’t because of any ignorant bliss.

    My wife came from a divorced family. I came from a family where the two parents stayed together even though their marriage was high conflict. When my wife and I started our marriage we were sure we would be different, but we weren’t. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (which is a controversial status, let alone diagnosis). And I was unprepared.

    For a little background, borderline personality disorder diagnosis (for all its controversy) is a better indicator of an unsustainable marriage than…

    * Alcoholism and drug abuse
    * Cheating on a spouse
    * Paranoid Schizophrenia (one of the borderline personality traits, IIRC)

    I own “Walking on Eggshells” and “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me”. I also share an equal part of responsibility for the great spectrum of different things our relationship has been over a decade. We’ve spent a good deal of our marriage apart, separated.

    I’ve always been hesitant to give marriage advice because I live daily with the realization that in the next few days, or even hours, something can trigger which will bring us to the door of divorce, and its a crap-shoot at that point whether the relationship survives or it doesn’t.

    I feel like Sam Kinneson, who I watched live on television extol the wonders of being sober from drugs only a week before he OD’ed on cocaine. The best I can do is to fight to get to the point where my marriage has a fighting chance, and then hopefully fight some more to keep it there. But that fatal crash is always looming possibly around the corner. How can I give marriage advice, have it written in history at the moment of our slight and temporary successes, only to have the context later sealed with humiliation by the tragedy of my own failure?

    But there has been two things which has brought my wife and I back from the brink of disaster. And if those two things were compatible with neutered or even fully de-institutionalized marriage, I’d give up too.

    1) The two people best positioned to relay to a child a true and solid sense of their own self-esteem and identity are the two people who combined their identity to create that child.
    2) The person most deserving of love, tolerance and respect and support is the person who you’ve incarnated your relationship with by having a child together.

    Neither of those points mean every marriage is sustainable. Neither means that every marriage is going to succeed. But both those points are true, and because they are true there is an important need to prepare people and support people to succeed in marriage. And there is no better measure of success in marriage than along those two enumerated points.

    Divorce happens, and often is the best two people can do. But the divorce lives on because the child who is the embodiment of their relationship lives on. And every divorce couple I know seems to learn very quickly that equality, fairness, and justice is impossible in divorce. That makes sense, only in marriage, only in true integration of both the man and woman, can true equality be achieved. Anything outside of that, well best of luck — your going to need it. And I say that sincerely, divorce is sometimes needed and it is hard. And some of it is even impossible, and so my empathy goes out to each and every one of them.

    A third tenet has also been instrumental in keeping my wife and I together, in fact. And that is…

    3) We’ll only fight more, and it will be more expensive and time consuming, if we separate and divorce.

    That is just the converse of what was mentioned already, that the integration of marriage and its demand for love and tolerance is the only way that equality, justice, and fairness can be achieved. But to a poor couple like my wife and I, it is a sober reminder that divorce is not the path to justice we may think it is at the time.

    So really, if we define marriage equality as the equal recognition of the rights and responsibilities of the man, woman, and child they potentially have together, we find the heart of what harm neutering marriage and re-defining marriage equality can do. It can lead many more couples astray of finding true marriage equality between them.

    I’m firmly in the former camp because I have found that our marriage heals. Our relationship does right itself. There really is something to these principles that, if you rely on them, will help every marriage. Even when divorce happens, it will help explain why it is so rough, and hopefully help write the goals of a meaningful post-marriage relationship to help restore as much as can be done for the children. In fact, knowing what marriage is can even help people understand better when divorce is really the only option.

    Marriage is real, it is a human condition that exists and when we recognize it for what it is, benefits us and society. So it is even my life experiences, and not ignorant bliss, that puts me there.

    I know I am preaching from Sam Kinneson’s soap box. But isn’t the fact that he had risen to at least a small degree of joy from the freedom he did have from cocaine a credible endorsement of his attempt? Isn’t the fact that our marriage has succeeded and healed at least to having a fighting chance enough to warrant merit?

    I hope so, because in spite of Sam or me, freedom from cocaine is better than the price it costs for the high. And marriage is a real human condition in spite of whether or not mine or yours succeeds.

  4. Mr Evilwrench Says:

    On Lawn, I feel for ya, man. My wife was diagnosed with borderline personality. I remember when I picked up “Walking on Eggshells”, I read the back cover in the car. It listed the symptoms and I just broke down. She had them ALL. She was the poster child for that condition. Did you ever notice how it makes everyone else feel like there’s something wrong with them, rather than her?

    She did cheat on me as well, and with everything else, although we had a child, I was preparing to file for divorce. But death did us part, before I got that far. Not sure which would be worse, especially with a four year old, but in a way I’m glad I didn’t have to go through a divorce, especially from her.

    I’m glad you’re holding it together.

  5. On Lawn Says:

    Did you ever notice how it makes everyone else feel like there’s something wrong with them, rather than her?

    Yes. I could write volumes, but nothing more to the point than “yes”.

    I’m glad you’re holding it together.

    Thanks. I’m sorry for your loss.

  6. Xrlq Says:

    Tweaker, it’s a shift in the sense that I used to say don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, whereas I now say “what baby?”

    OL: I read on the Oz forums that only about 2% of BPDs “heal” to the point of being able to sustain a functional adult relationship. I hope your wife is part of that 2%, because if she isn’t, nothing has really healed. I know. Mine “healed” in ’03, only to return with a vengeance in ’07. DBT is supposed to be fairly effective for treating borderlines who are willing to be treated, which is to say, hardly any of them.

    Speaking only for myself, the idea of staying with someone because she’ll be even meaner and nastier if I don’t is a non-starter. My perspective is also colored by the fact that my mother was probably a BPD herself, but dad always tried a balancing act between trying to contain her and trying to be “supportive,” often at the kids’ expense. I’d have much rather seen my parents split and gone to live with my dad. And I fear the day may come where my kids may need that option too. For now, let’s just say I’m doing better as a part time single dad than I did before as a full-time, wholly-owned subsidiary of a psycho.

    All this begs the question of why it matters what the law is? All the philosophical reasons you give for prolonging a marriage would obtain no matter what the rules of marriage are. We could have the same discussion if all you needed to marry was a declaration, a $20 fee, and satisfactory proof that both parties are unmarried (or that if they are married, their prospective and current spouses consent), and if divorcing merely required you to pay another $20 and say “I’m done.” [Not saying that's what the law should be either, of course, just illustrating the point.]

    EW: Sorry for your loss, though like you said it does mean you didn’t have to go through the ugliness of a divorce. If there’s any silver lining at all, maybe at least this way you can shield your kids from the acrimony that would have existed if she had lived, married to you or not?

  7. Speakertweaker Says:

    XLRQ,

    Fair enough. If I may ask, what was the baby and what was the bathwater?

    tweaker
    Speakertweaker´s last blog post ..Vouchers

  8. On Lawn Says:

    I certainly understand what you mean. I make no pretense to suggest that anyone is healed, or that we have made it to any plateau of sustainable success.

    I also wonder if my parents did more harm than good in staying together amidst their conflict.

    I also have to add the caveat that BPD is a controversial thing to diagnose at all, let alone how controversial each diagnosis may be. I personally use the term hesitantly, and respect that there is not a consensus among the professionals we’ve talked with about whether or not my wife suffers from it or not.

    However, I also think it is an epidemic. BPD forms in a vacuum of empathy, understanding, and that consistent uplifting reassurance that only parents seem to be there to give. And that vacuum is growing as adults who take on raising children are more afraid, less mature and stable, and generally unable to provide reassurance and consistency for children.

    BPD forms self-reinforcing behaviors and reactions that are insidious — difficult to find and even harder to remove. And the windows of opportunity to make any kind of dent in those behaviors appears to be when they are in full swing, amped up to scary and psychotic proportions.

    I know exactly what you mean when you say that single parenting for part of the time is more consistent then dealing with a psycho. I believe it is true.

    All the philosophical reasons you give for prolonging a marriage would obtain no matter what the rules of marriage are.

    Understood, and I agree to a certain point. Much of it is bureaucratic, and has little impact. But what I wrote earlier is about a map to find the natural condition which we call marriage, the condition which changes people and benefits society. Bureaucracy, especially in the government, are limited to only the least intrusive and most observable facts. Certifying a marriage doesn’t at all presume to certify a sustainable marriage, which is why there is divorce. All it certifies is that the requirements to at least find the condition are there.

    BPD is an growing problem, mark my words. It is as natural a condition as marriage is. It forms in a vacuum of assurance and empathy of their identity as they are discovering it. And it self-reinforces and grows from one generation to the next. Who is going to be the adult to provide the leadership, guidance, and healing they need? Real marriage is needed to fill the vacuum of empathy, mature strength and reassurance that BPD forms in. There are children who may only accept such assurance and empathy from people they identify with — the people who shared their identity to create the child. And it is my belief that all children are more inclined to accept that from their real parents than anyone else.

    Not every set of grown ups is capable of giving that assurance. They might find themselves (as I have) to be scared, immature, when real assurance is being required of them. Real marriage is needed to create the true adults from the grown-ups. And men and women are evolutionary made to be two eyes to help find that and grow together (both towards each other and up with each other).

    Growth is possible in any relationship, but growing into what marriage makes of men and women is only possible in their equal representation and integration in a marriage. And that connection and identity that children seem naturally receptive to is only possible when the parents who gave them life are married together.

    And that can message can be taught, even if it can’t be guaranteed, by bureaucratic requirement.

  9. Jim Says:

    An earlier commenter had it right; the state is better getting out of marriage. Conservatives and libertarians only hurt their cause by arguing state interference regarding gays. The problem is the governmental institution of marriage, not the question of gay union.

    If the state wishes to incent children with tax law, fine. But its meddling in marriage only becomes an opportunity for political harassment by vocal minorities.

    And FWIW, I believe BPD is simply another word for emotional immaturity. I was married to one myself. Now I have the pleasure of funding her inactivity and incapability to hold a job for 15 years, since I do not have the $100k to fight the system’s proclivity to award my son, who hates her, to her, and he is too young for his vote to count.

  10. nk Says:

    I’m sorry, X.

    I’m going through the same thing myself. My aim is to not let my psycho wife waste the marital assets. I will put my share in trust for my daughter so she can keep the home she grew up in.

    I dunno. @#$%

  11. nk Says:

    Sorry. Last comment should have been on the Fubar thread. Among other things, I don’t see so good.
    nk´s last blog post ..Finally- Something About Mayor Bloomberg I Like

  12. Petra Says:

    Mr Evilwrench and how your child feels now? I think much worse than if you’d be together.
    Petra´s last blog post ..Quitting Smoking – really easy or impossible hard

  13. SearchCz Says:

    Mr. Lawn writes: something evolutionary has been built into our species that marriage provides a map to find, and only a map that says “man + woman” can find it.

    No doubt thats how things look to a heterosexual, based on his own experiences. But evolution has also built into our species – for the benefit of the species – folks who do not share your sexual orientation.

    Aristotle said that nature does nothing in vain. Since nature has wired homosexuality into so many species … and since nature has found a way to bring this trait into each successive generation … its reasonable to think that it may serve some purpose. reproduction, after all, is not the only purpose that a member of a complex social structure might satisfy.

    So that evolutionary thing, which marriage provides a map to find, just as it requires you to use a map that says “man + woman” to find it – in the same way, it requires others among us to use a map that says “man + man” or “woman + woman”. That is what evolution built into us. It needn’t be perceived as a threat to your nature to grant everyone the same access to the most full and complete experience of life possible for them, including the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

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