Why Gay Marriage Needs to Legitimized (and why it’s time that straight people speak up)

Posted on Aug 6, 2010 | 203 comments


I don’t generally blog about politics.  It’s not my thing.  I’m a socially liberal, fiscally conservative, non-party libertarian at heart.  Most issues are really nuanced.  I accept that on many issues there is no “right” answer and rational people can disagree.

Proposition 8 was passed in California by a margin of 52-48.  It defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.  The intent of the law is to prohibit gay people from being married.  This week it was overturned by a federal judge.  The future of the issue is unclear with some people suggesting that the case will be tried in the Supreme Court.  Many people believe that this would be bad for gay rights because once codified at the Supreme Court level it will be hard to over turn (and many people believe that it would be upheld by a 5-4 majority).  There are currently only 5 states in the US (plus the District of Columbia) that allow gay marriage.  So we’ll see where this goes politically.  But that’s not what I want to discuss.

Why would I speak up on such a politically charged issue as gay marriage?

In my judgment Proposition 8 is not nuanced and deserves to have people from the business community speak out.  Intelligent and decent people can disagree on topics and I hope if you disagree with my point of view here we can go on being friends.  If you agree with my views I hope that you’ll find your own ways of becoming more vocal about it.  That is why I’m speaking up.  I want to join the chorus of people that provide “air cover” for others to speak out.  A very close friend of mine thought I shouldn’t speak up.  “It’s too politically charged.  This isn’t a personal blog, it’s a business blog.”

Actually, it’s a personal blog where I talk about business topics.  I don’t speak on behalf of my firm here at all.  I speak about topics for which I am passionate.  This is one.  I can’t sit on my hands.

I want to discuss gay rights, not politics.  I’m heterosexual.  I’m married with kids.  My family has rights that are defined by our union that include tax laws, the status of our citizenship / residency, inheritance, hospital visitation, healthcare benefits, end-of-life decisions, the right to serve in our military, etc.  I believe that any consensual adult relationship deserves these same protections and we in society have the responsibility to help de-stigmatize the minority of people in this country who have same-sex relationships.

It’s time to end discrimination against a large minority of our population estimated to be between 5-10% of all adults in the US or between 9-20 million people.  Wow, that’s a lot of people to not have the exact same rights as you and me.  Yet unless the majority of people speak up and help give this large minority a voice then they will continue to endure discrimination.

I realize that not everybody believes this.  Back in late 2008 just after proposition 8 was passed in California I attended a small dinner with friends – 6 guys.  At dinner I expressed that I was dismayed that Proposition 8 passed and couldn’t understand how sensible people could argue that homosexual people shouldn’t have equal rights.  One of the dinner attendees started arguing back.  He was happy that Proposition 8 had passed.  An argument pursued and dinner was, well, un-fun.  So I know that you’re not all with me

But here’s the thing:

  • Gay people have loving, monogamous relationships like heterosexuals do.  Obviously.
  • There is no argument that can convince me that allowing gay people to marry would in any way threaten a heterosexual’s marriage.  How could it? I’m mean really. (by the way, even without gay marriage between 40-50% of marriages end in divorce.  In fact, some research suggests that Facebook increases the divorce rate.  If proved, should we ban Facebook?  It seems a more causal threat to marriage than allowing gay people to marry.
  • I later had the gay marriage debate with a very sensible, professional, educated and well-regarded member of the LA tech community.  He agreed that gay people deserved the same legal rights but that they shouldn’t be able to be married.  He said let them have “civil unions.”  So I accept that not everybody even within my own community are with me.  But in my judgment if we are going to give gay people rights it ought to be full rights.  This includes the right to have all legal rights entitled to heterosexual couples.  It also includes the rights to be legitimized in the eyes of everybody in the country – not to be treated as a second-class citizen.  Either you believe they’re entitled rights or you don’t.  And if you’re in for legal rights then we ought to accept that they deserve fully legitimacy.
  • The gentleman at the original dinner argued that gay marriage was bad for children because by legitimizing things you would lead to an increased rate of homosexuality amongst kids.  It’s hard to argue with people who feel this way.  When he said this I just knew we’d reached an impasse in our discussion.
  • A few generations ago brave people spoke up for the civil rights of black people in America.  White people and black people marched together and 50+ years later we have an African American president.

    A generation ago people like Harvey Milk encouraged gay people to be more open so that they could speak up for their own rights.

    It’s 2010.  It’s time for the rest of us to speak up.  It’s time to let other people around us feel more confortable openly speaking about gay rights and helping to delegitimize the stigmas that still exist.  It’s time to allow gay people to openly serve in our military with the same exact rights as heterosexual people.

    It’s time allow gay people to be married legally in California.  It’s time that we allowed them to marry legally in the United States.  Who’s with me?

    ** Please remember that this is the personal blog of Mark Suster and is not a blog for my firm.

    • http://brandonhull.com BrandonH

      Does this type of question really accomplish anything? If I have friend with a drinking problem, can I not love that friend, yet dislike the fact that he has a drinking problem? What if I have specific religious beliefs? If someone thinks my religious beliefs are “unscientific” and therefore of no value, am I supposed to conclude that they are incapable of loving me or even being friends with me? I thought being civil was a two-way street. That if two people disagree on 100 things, for instance, they can still be civil and yes, even friends, because they do have one thing in common. Love and friendship don’t have to be so superficial that they are contingent upon aligned beliefs taken from a checklist of values and worldviews.

    • http://www.missi.com/ Peter Beddows

      Mark; well said: Very timely, thoughtful, appropriate expression of opinion and clearly not an easy subject to broach but one that does need to be brought into the open. In keeping with your observations, I do not recall how came across a posting on this subject involving the NY Senate Bill but having found it, here is what I just posted on my fb page.

      This may be taking place in New York but it should be happening all over the place. NYS Senator Diane Savino speaks a truth very plainly and clearly: Her words are worth taking to heart and should be added unequivocally to our unified, informed voices of support and confirmation of law for “Marriage Equality” across the board across the country. YouTube – NYS Senator Diane Savino speaks on the Marriage Equality bill http://bit.ly/9cHDBR

    • http://twitter.com/mordyk Mordy Kaplinsky

      So True! It would also comply with our theoretical church and state separation.