NOVA NOTES


~SELF-PORTRAIT~

October 22, 1998,8:00 p.m.

 It was interesting that in "I want a Partner", Lynda of (Parenthesis) was pushing for a change in nomenclature for one's spouse/lover/significant other. What's interesting is that I was going to write about it in another sense, or a specialized sense, on how names, if done just a little differently, might make this world a more comfortable place. I was going to touch on specifically one instance of such, to begin with.

It has to do with gay marriages. Now, before I start, bear in mind, as a straight male, I will probably say something to offend someone. Please chalk it up to well-intentioned clumsiness of phrase and unfamiliarity with such, okay? I really don't think I have any sort of anti-gay or homophobic agenda, no matter how much I put my foot in my mouth. (Yet I am an older male, in his mid-forties, and I, like anyone else, am I product of my times. So I have to be aware of a bias-by-upbringing, okay?)

 Okay...a lot of the resistance, espeically by the Christian right (and bear in mind I am a Christian, and familiar with some of the minset of those on the right), to the idea of "gay marriages" is the term..."marriage". To them it is not just a cival ceremony, but a religious ones that gives certain responsibilities under God as well as under the law. And it is there you will encounter the most resistance. This is not only true of the Christian right, but also of the Jewish right, or the Islamic right. Many will object to the term "marriage" being applied to a same-sex union when it is not sanctioned by the Talmud, the New Testament, or the Qu'ran.

Not arguing one way or the other whether it should make a difference. Just saying that it does. Okay?

Now, even those on the Christian right, if you approached them the right way, you could get more agreement. If you said to them,

"Don't you believe that someone who lived with someone for, ohhh, thirty years should have some legal rights in respect to the one they've lived with?"

Many of them, would say,

"Yes, absolutely."

"Even if they're gay?"

A few would hold out. But many would say,

"Yes, that sounds reasonable."

It's the dreaded word "marriage" that raises the reaction that causes some in the religious world to go "no way". What we need is a new word.

 I propose a new cival ceremony for same-sex unions called "lifepartnering". It would have the same legal bindings that we have on marriages. I.E., it could not be dissolved without going in front of a judge, property would be jointly owned, the two partners would be referred to as "lifepartners" rather than husband and wife, or huband and husband, or wife and wife. Yet it would be a purely cival ceremony.

If some churches, temples and other religious institutions want to adopt it and legitimize it within their religions, that's great... but some won't, and we know they won't, and they probably won't do it for decades.

If someone proposes a bill allowing gay marriages, they will encounter a lot of resistance from a lot of groups. Now, suppose they propose a bill allowing "lifepartnering", allowing cival rights to anyone who undergoes a cival ceremony binding that individual to another. Put it that way, and many more people on the street will buy that, I think.

A rose by any other name will smell as sweet? I don't want to disagree with the bard, but especially in political matters, or matters of sexual orientation, a name change can work wonders. I really think if the same-sex culture would adopt a different name, like lifepartnering or lifesharing, rather than marriage, that we would see it approved in most State legislatures or Federal legislatures in five to ten years, rather than ten to thirty years.

 Now that I've made a well-meaning suggestion that has doubtless gotten the entire gay community mad at me, let me do the same to the pagan community.

Now, I've had and have pagan and Wiccan friends. Many of the Wiccan friends regaled me with tales of persecution against those who follow their path, and I have every sympathy and belief in same. Yet part of me, quite frankly, thinks...well...it's a matter of a name being held onto which is part of the problem.

Wiccans use the word "witch". Now, I know in the original language, that meant "wise" and they are trying to reclaim that meaning. But Wiccans are contending with over a thousand years where witches meant hags who cast evil spells on others, malevolent beings from Baba Yaga to the Wicked Witch of the West, from Hansel and Gretal's "hostess" to Endora of BEWITCHED.

Why? If they simply said they were following the Wiccan faith, and on mild inquiry told they were following an ancient Celtic religion, they would get much more receptive and understanding listeners. Most people who have never heard the term "Wiccan" will react negatively to the word "witch" and ask that infuriating question,

"Are you Satanists?"

...Which is really not as stupid a question as it sounds. Some Satanists have called themselves witches. If I were a Wiccan, I would not even mention the words "witch" or "coven" to outsiders, for fear of ---understandably--triggering memories of ROSEMARY'S BABY and a thousand bad Hammer films.

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