Tuesday, February 03, 2009

SSM Symbols Hanging It Up

The pending Julie and Hillary Goodridge divorce is intellectually and emotionally loaded for many of us. For this blog, there is a bitter elegance. The wingers who wish ill on same-sex couples will have their take too. The tale also took me to one of my foibles.

Nearly a decade ago, I felt humiliated after I pumped some gas into a diesel VW. My family was staying at a gite in Aulnay de Saintonge in Western France. I drove the car within 100 yards of our place when it sputtered dead.

In retrospect, it was rather charming that the local garage/blacksmith towed the car in using one of his horses. The whole bill — tow and drain the tank — was about the equivalent of $40. That's a bargain for almost any car repair, but I was fretting.

I couldn't forgive myself until the middle-aged nanny brought me to the reality window. She cared for the children of the pompous British couple who owned the place and did not seem upset by any of their, or their guests', silliness. We had been there a week and had spoken with her numerous times. She apparently had taken my measure quite well. As I said how dumb I felt, she waited until I finished and said, "Welcome to the world. This shows you are as human as the rest of us."

Fair enough. That's also one message for the riven Goodridges.

It really is too glib to note that slightly over half of U.S. marriages end in divorce. Observation and that dreaded common sense suggest that SSM will have better durability, although we don't have enough data or long enough time to be scientific about it.

As much as wingers and fundies would wish for bad ends for gay marriages:
  • Many in the initial rush nearly five years ago were long-term couples, who had already worked through the abrasiveness and tedium that can come with being newly wed.
  • They were already in it for the long haul, as well as gaining tax and other benefits in Massachusetts if not from the feds.
  • They were not entering into an impulsive union.
As a long-term married guy, I would caution any couple that a lasting marriage takes continual work. Rarely, one spouse will sublimate the ego and do whatever it takes unilaterally to keep them together. I think in almost all cases, there's never ending tinkering to let the other person into previously private areas, to listen and show respect even when angry, and to hang in rather than walk when the other person is wrong and a jerk.

I have met the Goodridges at a couple of events, but just to greet them. I don't know either and have no insight in what led to 1) their marriage on the first legal day (May 17, 2004), 2) separation 26 months later in July 2006, or 3) last Thursday's filing for divorce.

Under five years is not a long run. It says something unspecified about their relationship, but nothing about either SSM or opposite-sex marriages. It forecasts nothing either.

Surely numerous academics and professional researchers are gathering stats on SSM and SS divorce. Almost as surely, they'll find lower divorce rates. That would surely gall the anti-GLBT folk. Yet, it also probable that if same-sex couples were denied the right to marry and lived as spouses for a long time with the sublimated desire to wed, their marriages would be more stable than the mean as well.

Of greater interest to sociologists should be whether homosexual couples begin matching straight ones in impulsive marriages. The stereotypes have long been the teens hot for each other's bodies, people meeting in bars or on vacation, or limerant types finding love at first sight.

As a symbol tied to the case that started SSM in this country, the Goodridges have carried an unfair burden. We watch them and even feel we know them because we know of them. Now, viewing them as just another couple whose marriage didn't survive long term, we can hope they do well by their 12-year-old daughter.

Another way to look at it is that of the odious head of the Mass. Family Institute, Kris Mineau. The Herald quotes him as pig piling on this with:

"Divorce is a very painful issue, but I also can’t help but reflect on the pain this couple has caused on the commonwealth and the nation to redefine marriage. And now they’re getting divorced? It doesn’t make a lot of sense," Mineau said.

"Obviously, they don’t hold the institution in very high esteem."

That should elicit thigh-slapping hoots, even from his anti-gay brethren. While they love to declaim SSM, marraige has been in decline in this country for many decades, long before civil unions and SSM. The MFI types seem powerless in trying to reverse the high divorce rates. While claiming they are pro-family and pro-marriage, they try to prevent a great source of marriages, adoptions and families. Indeed, whom, might we ask, doesn't hold the institution in very high esteem?

Goodwill to the Goodridges. We continue to thank them for carrying the load for marriage equality for so many.


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