There’s been a lot of debate in the last few days centered around my latest painting, and I’ve enjoyed reading some of the various conversations floating around online. After reading an essay this morning on a site called Hillbuzz, I decided to add a little more to the discussion. The article, titled “We’re Sure There’s Something in This to Upset Everyone,” uses my painting as an example of what the gay author feels is a misguided effort by marriage equality activists to alienate opponents by seeking marriage over civil unions or domestic partnership agreements. You can read his very thorough and thoughtful argument HERE. And here’s my response:
This is Paul Richmond, the artist responsible for bringing you “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise,” which I’m thrilled to see has sparked some interesting debate here and elsewhere online. What more could an artist hope for?
Even though there’s probably not much question about my stance on the issue, I couldn’t resist throwing in my two cents after reading your well-argued essay and some of the follow-up comments. You make a good case for dropping the whole “marriage” thing to avoid getting Middle America’s panties in a bunch. However, I disagree with the implication that hetero-centric religious groups somehow own “marriage.” In a follow-up comment to your article, Lynda states that she’s against gay marriage because she feels “that the term marriage is a religious designation that shouldn’t be dictated by government.” If this were true, and marriage was governed by, say the Catholic Church, then only those who are baptized and in good standing with the church, never divorced, and who have successfully completed their requisite Pre-Cana counseling would be permitted to say their I do’s. We know that’s not the case. Marriage is a legal contract that various religions put their own spin on, but I believe it’s dangerous to let them make the rules for all of us. Why should we compromise the assertion of our rights as American citizens because some people would rather let their version of God decide what’s best? Separation of church and state, anyone?
I can’t stand behind accepting a lesser version of “marriage” (which simply doesn’t cover all the same ground) just to appease people with a misunderstanding of what the argument is even about. It would be like going back in time and telling women who were fighting for the right to vote, “Oh, sorry. There are just too many people who would be upset by this. Besides, men should be in charge. It says so in the Bible. How about you express your political ideas in another way - maybe make some pretty banners for your favorite politician?”
Although you may not see a white veil in your future, nor do you wish to stand alongside Ellen and Portia in my ark of gay love, I don’t understand your suggestion that gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage equality are just misguided conformists desperate to emulate their straight, suburbanite counterparts; as you said, “aping someone else’s traditions.” Plenty of heterosexual couples want nothing to do with the institution of marriage for many of the same reasons that you feel disillusioned by it, and being non-traditional isn’t a concept we either own nor should be obligated to. As we’ve witnessed in states where gay marriage has become (even fleetingly) actualized, there are a lot of gay and lesbian couples who do wish to take part — and perhaps not because they’re trying to fit into some societal, heterosexual mold. Maybe it really is about love and their desire to make a commitment that will be recognized, honored, and upheld by their community and governing body at large.
And yes, maybe some of them even want to wear white and release a dove. :) Shouldn’t they be allowed?