Denial of My Suffrage
Recently, Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker who is openly gay announced she is refusing to perform marriage ceremonies unless and until she can also perform same sex marriage ceremonies. I admire Justice Parker’s courage to act in accordance with her values. I would ask Justice Parker to go a step further and not perform any marriage ceremonies unless and until the entire broken marriage system is fixed.
I don't claim to know the exact answers for the gay marriage issue and I don’t claim to know the exact answers for fixing our unilateral divorce system either, but I do know that these are two broken parts of our marriage culture, and we as a society need to listen with empathy to what proponents and opponents of gay marriage feel and what proponents and opponents of unilateral divorce believe. Together we need to come up with solutions respectful of all.
In the same way Justice Parker feels disenfranchised, others have felt disenfranchised during our nation’s history, and right now so do I. Imagine being denied the right to vote in this election year. Ninety-two years ago women couldn’t vote. I still can’t imagine this, especially as the father of two daughters. I do, however, have some understanding of how women prior to 1920 must have felt, and a new appreciation for the courage of Susan B. Anthony and other brave women. Because for no good reason, I’ve lost my marriage and my family, and with unilateral divorce, I didn’t get to vote.
Before I go any farther, I want you to know I got tired of both political points of view awhile ago and have been a registered independent for many years. Let’s put aside, too, marriages where domestic violence has occurred. That’s a whole different animal, requiring protection for men, women and children.
I find one of the great problems in our society today is a lack of respect for other people’s opinions. This is true as to the issue of divorce as well. I read every day about people who both support and oppose divorce, and how each faction wants to impose its values on the other with no acknowledgement of differing points of view.
For me, I think people on both sides of this issue make some excellent points. Here’s my problem though. It’s not about how I think you should view divorce or how you think I should view it. You have no place in my marriage and I have no place in yours. Who am I to tell you how to parent and who are you to tell me how I should parent? We are too much in each other’s business in this issue.
Prior to 1969, there were too many unhappy marriages. Since 1969, when the first no-fault divorce statute was signed into law in my home state of California, there have been too many divorces. The solutions to problems are never found at the extremes and, quite frankly, I don’t understand how the solution to our out of control divorce rate can be found without putting children’s voices front and center.
The point is this. I got married and my wife and I chose to bring two children into the world. Only I no longer have a vote about their future. I don’t believe kids ever say "I’m happy mommy and daddy are not together anymore." And so how do we as a society deal with this problem so that our kids can get what they truly want and need: mommy and daddy together?
Is it possible we have accepted divorce as the answer too much and lowered the bar so much, deluding ourselves into believing that we have done everything possible to fix and continue a marriage? The larger issue though is that 92 years after we thought we gave everyone the right to vote, one group has been forgotten – our children. And with no-fault divorce, the vote taken away from another.
Several people have been credited with the saying "stand for something or you’ll fall for everything." One was Rosa Parks. There was no power in sitting in the back of the bus as the world was. She had the courage to sit in the front of the bus as the world should be. While on one hand we cannot begin to equate the gay marriage or unilateral divorce issues with racial segregation, we certainly can (and as Rosa Parks did) have the courage to stand up against discrimination, heartache and injustice, wherever and however it occurs. And in so doing, also begin a respectful dialogue.
In this regard, as we close out Black History Month, I applaud Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker for having the courage to risk her career for her beliefs. Again, I don’t know the answers to the gay marriage issue. One thing I can say for certain is that, at the very least, the heterosexual community can’t sit in judgment on the gay marriage issue while we preside over the single most broken system in our society. And just how broken is it? The marriage license itself was first instituted 83 years ago as a means to prevent whites and blacks from marrying.