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Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Guest commentary / Live and let live


Same-sex marriage harms no one

By Sid Schwab
I've lived my whole life in the Pacific Northwest, except for a wartime diversion to Vietnam, and when I went away to get what some would call an education. At my fancy East Coast college, over half my classmates had gone to prep school, wearing tweed jackets with leather elbow-patches. When I arrived there, I couldn't get my dorm room unlocked, and was pretty embarrassed when my neighbor-to-be opened his door, pipe in hand, and got my key to work in two seconds. Wearing my Pendleton shirt as I always did (they were affordable then, and lasted forever), and jeans, I felt like my finger ought to be in my nose; some dumb kid from out West.
I got over it. I think I was always regarded as a little bit foreign, but I remained proud of being a Northwesterner, and not just because we have the best weather and geography in the U.S. It's the people. We're friendlier out here, open to new ideas, like software and four-dollar coffee. Welcoming. Maybe a little smug about it, but not much in the way of stuck up.
So it breaks my heart that there's a ballot initiative on which some people will vote to deny rights to fellow human beings. Choose. To deny rights. It feels like bullying, except they don't have to face the ones they're hurting. There's no way same-sex marriage affects my 41-year marriage or anyone else's. In Massachusetts, where it's been legal for years, divorce rates have actually gone down. Not only that: the scary things you're hearing -- being forced to do this or that, being sued, aren't happening there. So why is it even subject to vote? Aren't civil rights civil rights?
Washington's law will not force any church to perform same-sex marriage; if it did, I'd be voting no. Nor does it grant exceptional rights to homosexuals; if it did, I'd be voting no twice. And yet, whipped up by vulpine news sources, letters here repeat unfounded fears. Fact is, the mayor of Boston did not refuse to issue business licenses to Chick-fil-A. Laws don't require teaching "homosexual lifestyle." Nor were Catholic adoption agencies made to close: they became ineligible for public funds because they discriminated. And it was on the basis of other laws, not marriage equality. (http://equalitymatters.org/factcheck/201109120012)
Sexual preference is not a choice. Science has confirmed this, many times, many ways. My predilection for women isn't something I voted on. It just happened, like my near-fatal attraction to chocolate. Which means you can't catch gay, and you can't be "recruited." By whatever creation or creator in which you believe, your sexual preference is how you were born. Make of that what you will. But it's fact.
Most people who oppose same-sex marriage do so on religious grounds, which is fair enough: if your religion doesn't allow it, don't do it. But on what basis does one tell other denominations they can't, as a matter of secular law? It's the biblical definition, people say. But the Bible includes polygamy, doesn't it, and killing your wife if she's not a virgin, demands that men marry their brother's widow, that women marry their rapist. Not to mention that it tells us not to eat pulled pork sandwiches, which I happen to like. We're all a little selective. It's not a persuasive argument.
Of all the concerns raised, the effect on children of gay couples deserves the most scrutiny. But there's good news: plenty of studies, no harm.
During my years of surgical training, our landlords were a gay couple, best landlords ever. When my wife and I moved into our apartment, we found roses on the table and wine in the fridge. Three-piece suit guys, realtors, they stayed together for 50 years, till death did them part. They never had the chance to marry, but if they had, we'd have been there, beaming as big as they.
Think hard, Washingtonians, before you vote to hurt people like them. Ask yourself why you'd choose to harm folks you don't know, who'll never harm you, whose life choices don't affect you or your kids, legally or otherwise. Love is love. Live and let live. Let's remain the best part of this country. Please.

Sid Schwab is a longtime, "mostly retired" general surgeon in Everett.

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