Marriage should apply to all orientations

by By Bart

This is in response to Tuesday’s opinion piece by David W. Fuller, “Domestic-partner benefits cheapen marriage,” that questioned the right of same-sex domestic partners of University-employed gays and lesbians to receive the same benefits as spouses of heterosexual employees.
In his first sentence, Fuller states that his Christian beliefs compelled him to respond to a column by Kris Henry (“Love your brother, not his boyfriend,” Oct. 17) that took a pro-gay stance on this issue, and pointed out that the University’s attempt to extend these benefits to its gay employees, though noble, was still inequitable. I find it ironic that the response, written by someone who so proudly labels himself as Christian, contains not one sentiment that reflects a true Christian attitude.
I also feel compelled to respond to some of Fuller’s statements, not as a Christian, but as an American citizen who is not able to enjoy all of the civil rights guaranteed to the heterosexual population.
Fuller actually makes some statements with which I agree. Yes, marriage is a unique and difficult responsibility that benefits society. Yes, it should be rewarded. Yes, marriage can be fragile and problems like promiscuity can lead to divorce. He argues, however, that the institution will be degraded and cheapened further if it is extended to gays and lesbians, because they “refuse to live up to all of its rigorous demands.”
This preposterous statement completely lacks foundation. In fact, Fuller never attempts to explain why he thinks this may be true. I interpret the application of such a blanketing, negative characterization to an entire segment of society to be blatantly bigoted and therefore, un-Christian.
My experience with gay couples has demonstrated that many of their unions are happy, healthy and both intellectually and spiritually stimulating. Not surprisingly, when these qualities exist, the relationships endure. I have also witnessed some gay relationships fail. Apparently, we are human too, and sometimes we do fail to live up to the rigorous demands that committed, intimate relationships present. What I have not noticed is any difference in the success-to-failure ratio among straight and gay couples.
I also agree with Fuller’ statement that the complications in applying for domestic-partnership status arise from an unclear definition of same-sex partnerships. There is a simple way to deal with that problem.
Let us get married. Then we will be applying one legal definition of marriage to all who wish to enter civil unions, regardless of sexual orientation. Then, all of us who seek spousal benefits will have satisfied the same prerequisites that have been set up by the state.
Finally, I feel compelled to disagree with what I would argue is the most unfounded statement in Fuller’s article: he implies that sexual orientation is a personal habit that can be changed by the right person. It didn’t anger me as did some of his other statements, because I believe it is a common misconception held by many in our society, even by those who have the best intentions. My sexual orientation is not a “personal habit.” I could present data and literature to support my position, but here I will only speak introspectively. I am a product of a stable upbringing. I have a family with strong values; those values were not just talked about when I was growing up; they were practiced. I think I’ve known about my orientation, at least in some way, since I was about 5 years old.
Today I am a happy, healthy, responsible citizen who happens to be in love with another man. We face the same problems and rigorous demands in our relationship that most straight couples do. Because we’ve been successful in confronting these obstacles, we wish to be married. We want the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits that legal marriage brings, while we work together to deal with its responsibilities.
We just ask that people like Fuller relax, think logically about the issue that is getting them so agitated and just let us do it.

Bart R. Clement is a doctoral student studying communication disorders.