Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gay Marriage on WBUR's On Point

The second hour of today's broadcast of On Point on WBUR is all about gay marriage. It was an interesting discussion, mostly about the particular's of same-sex marriages and how they are different from their heterosexual counterparts.

Not surprising to me (or anyone else, I suspect!) the biggest differences Tom Ashbrook's guests could find were that same-sex marriages tend to involve two women or two men, while more traditional marriages generally have a man and a woman. It sounds funny, but it was actually a pretty valid discussion about the way two men or two women might interact that would be different from the way a man and a woman interact.

There were a couple of calls in to the program that I thought were noteworthy. One was from a woman in a long term relationship with another woman. She found it "amusing and a little insulting" that gay relationships were being looked at under the microscope. When questioned about why she found it insulting, she backed off a little, saying that she understood why the issue was receiving so much attention. Tom Ashbrook even suggested that perhaps the caller was misidentifying the issue. He asked if marriage on the whole isn't constantly being discussed and looked at.

Of course marriage is a constant topic. It's an important facet in the lives of most human beings. But when the marriage is being discussed as a general topic, there's never -- or nearly never -- the implication that marriage should be questioned, never a question about the validity of the institution as a whole, and certainly never the expectation that every married couple be a representation of all marriages. People laughed about Britney Spear's one day marriage, they didn't say, "See?! This is why straight people shouldn't be allowed to marry."

The second noteworthy call was from a man questioning the results of Nanette Gartrell's study. (Dr. Gartrell is a professor of psychiatry at U.C. San Francisco, and has been studying lesbian couples for more than two decades.) Dr. Gartrell said that her study was unable to find anything that one gender parent was able to do that a parent of the other gender couldn't provide. This caller said that he knew better, and that obviously Dr. Gartrell was only seeing what she wanted to see. I thought Dr. Gartrell's response, that the caller had asked a "very good" question, was ridiculous. This isn't a study she's been conducting at casual dinner parties. It's two decades worth of university research, and presumably peer-reviewed. If it was biased or clearly lacking, don't you think someone would have noticed that by now? The caller should have been laughed off the air.

We need to stop justifying anti-gay bias when we see it.

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