Contributed By:

Emily Harris

The Meaning of Marriage

OPB | Jan. 5, 2011 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:48 p.m.

Maggie Gallagher got pregnant when she was a senior at Yale. She didn’t marry her boyfriend; in fact, no one suggested that. Not her friends, not her supportive family back in Lake Oswego, where Maggie grew up, not the counselors her mom sent her to see. Looking back now, she thinks nobody wanted to see her enter a bad marriage and cut off other chances in life simply because she was having a baby.

But the experience of being a single mother did change her life. She says she had planned on a writing career focused on politics and money. Instead, she got interested in writing about sex and marriage. This was in the early 1980s. She says:

I’d heard over and over again that we had separated sex and reproduction. But I knew lots of women who got pregnant. So my first book was about grappling with that disconnect. That even though we have birth control, women keep getting pregnant.

She also came to believe that part of a man’s job is to protect and help women raising children.

Gallagher now has a husband and a second child with him. She writes books and columns about sex and politics, and has become a leading opponent of same-sex marriage. She says heterosexual marriage regulates human sexuality, offering what she considers an ideal solution to the “problems and opportunities” brought on by children. And she doesn’t like the idea that gay and straight relationships should be treated equally.

When men and women have sex, their bodies make children. This is a fundamental, real difference.

That is her story. Here is Todd Simmons‘.

Simmons knew as a young teen that he was gay. But he dated women throughout high school and into college. He calls it a survival tactic. He grew up in a home unaccepting of homosexuality. His father was a pastor in a conservative church and later left another, Simmons says, because the congregation’s stance on gay and lesbian relationships was “too liberal.”

His first long-term relationship with a man lasted nine years. But when his partner became terminally ill, Simmons parents suggested it might be a good time to end the relationship. Simmons asks:

Would they have said that if my wife had been dying of breast cancer?

Simmons’ relationship with his parents has evolved tremendously. His mother and father are now highly supportive of Simmons’ family. In 1997, Simmons married another man in a big ceremony in Florida. But the relationship was not recognized by the state; in fact, they moved to Oregon, uprooting their lives and taking cuts in pay to live somewhere they could adopt children

Simmons says he will always remember the day they went to pick up their sons, biological brothers who were at the time three and four years old. The boys ran out of their foster home as the car approached, yelling “Dad, Dad, we love you!” His parents, he says, are wonderful grandparents.

He says his decision to marry and have children grew out of deep love for the man he calls his husband.

He was really in favor of marrying and having kids. I was sure of this guy. The emotional certainty was there. So the decision to solemnify our relationship with marriage followed.

Same-sex marriage is obviously a political issue being hashed out in state legislatures and in courts. On this show we’ll hear these personal stories in more detail and try to get at the core meaning of marriage. What does marriage mean to you? How does sex help define it? How does reproduction? How does parenting? What personal experience do you bring to the political question of whether or not same-sex marriages should be legally recognized?

Note: This program was inspired in part by a panel on marriage put together by Portland’s First Methodist Church that I moderated last year. A hat tip, and a link to video of that discussion.

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