Thursday, May 08, 2008
The one in which I'm embarrassed by my home state
I must say that I am confounded by Michigan's recent decision to ban same-sex partner benefits. I was beyond disappointed by the 2004 voter-supported ban on gay marriage, but this decision is a grossly inappropriate application of that ban.

I'm bothered for three reasons. Let's discuss:

1. Obviously to discriminate against people based on things like race, gender, religious affiliation is wrong. I just don't understand how it has remained socially acceptable to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation. Where does the breakdown happen? How do logical people fail to make the connection?

2. As I'm sure any human with ears has heard, Michigan is in a wee bit of an economic slump. Businesses and business professionals cannot get out of the sinking state fast enough. Leaving in droves. The state is depressed. One seemingly bright spot in the state is their public education system. This will crush that bright spot. Memo to Michigan--good academics will leave your universities and work at ones from which their partners can receive benefits. Hands down. Just like female academics leave universities to work at ones which grant them family leave time. This loss will not be confined to the academic sector. Other businesses who care about equality and employee well-being will be hesitant to start businesses in the state. No matter what one's hangups about gay marriage (although I'd encourage people to get the hell over those--perhaps in therapy?), most people should be able to get on board with sound business practices.

3. This just continues the trend of tying economic benefits to heterosexual marriage. The fact deserves quite a bit of attention. A question I always pose to my Women's Studies students is--If heterosexual marriage is so "natural" why do we have to provide so many incentives to encourage people to do it? Of course, the flip side is that for every couple who benefits from heterosexual privilege, there is a couple who suffers from it. To send the message that the only way to gain economically is to marry someone with opposite sex organs, is to reinforce heterosexual conditioning. Heterosexual conditioning makes Kristen sad. Heterosexual conditioning is a weapon of patriarchy and sexism. And memo to all people privileged enough to identify as heterosexual, these policies hurt you as well. Let's just say you're widowed at a young age. You move in with your sibling. You live with your sibling for 20 or more years. You want to share benefits with your sibling or she with you. Guess what. You can't. You also cannot apply for certain tax exemptions and you better have a damn good will because your sibling is not automatically entitled to any assets upon your death. We need to separate economic incentives from heterosexual marriage for the good of EVERYONE. To do that would diversify partner and household recognition. We all suffer from these policies.

Unfortunately, people are too blinded by their homophobia to think through these things.

Shame on Michigan. And shame on a society that allows this discrimination to occur.

*thanks to BK for the tip

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Blogger Bridget said...

I agree with you. I mean, heterosexual couples can marry if they want to, even if just to have a piece of paper insuring them legal benefits and some kind of status. If they don't get married, that's their decision.

But here are people who want to be married, and are just plain not allowed. It doesn't make sense to me at all.

Blogger Katherine said...

Not that the Governor can do anything about the Court's decision, but banning same-sex partner benefits is kind of against the idea of the gentrification projects of the Cool Cities initiative.

Blogger Sarah said...

Just think if all of the logical people didn't leave Michigan for more liberal ideas and jobs, what the laws would be like! Im not staying to find out though:)

Blogger Melanie said...

I know, I've never really understood how giving benefits based on marital status alone was fair anyhow. This makes me so annoyed.

Slightly related, there was a professor in Canada who came under fire for suggesting that gay marriage shouldn't be legal because it would be bad for the kids. WHAT? Like the only reason to get married is to have kids? That one confused me.

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