I have been deliberately not paying attention to the David Petraeus story for various reasons, not the least of which it reminds me a lot of The Scarlet Letter, a novel I enjoyed teaching but never thought of as a model for good government. Still, when I heard an explanation on the BBC this morning of the US Military’s prohibition of adultery and the possible punishments, I wondered how those policies work after the appeal of Don’t Ask Don’t tell and the advent of legal gay marriage in some states.
If a same sex couple gets married and then one partner, a member of the military, commits adultery, can he or she be punished under the Uniform Code of Military justice? I would think the Defense of Marriage Act would prohibit the military, a government entity, from recognizing the marriage and thus there could be no punishment. Any other ruling would lead a patchwork in which it would depend on when and where the marriage ceremony took place and also when and where the individual was based when committing the transgression.
So, to stretch things just a little bit, the root of Petraeus’s problem is that he is in a different sex marriage as was the woman with whom he had an affair. Had they been in same sex marriages, there would be no problems (at least with adultery in the eyes of the military).
I found this map (with the help of Sociological Images) that gives a visual picture of the state of gay marriage and civil unions approval and bans across the country. While this map is nice, I highly suggest going to Greg Stoll’s clickable map that gives the chronological progression of legislature, ballot initiatives, and court rulings for every state.
So, two men get married, put the video up on YouTube, it goes viral. Why? One reason is that commentators have noted that the festivities appear to have a tie to the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and according to The Root one groom is a member. Not knowing the key signifies that give a wedding a fraternity connection, I will work from the assumption that the connection is obvious to those schooled in the tradition. That note aside, this Internet moment brings up a key question of identity.
To what extent should a person who is publicly revealing one part of his identity, be expected to keep other parts hidden? What would happen if a person who works for XYZ corporation got married to his partner in a wedding that prominently alluded to the company? I guess, depending on the state, he could be fired for aligning the brand with a political stance that could alienate some customers. It would depend on the company.
What about a person who went to a religiously connected college that considered homosexuality a sin but who still loved his college experience and so when marrying his partner had the bridal party wear college colors and had the college logo on the cake? Certainly commentators aligned with the college could offer criticism, but I doubt the diploma could be revoked.
So in this case if a man is a proud fraternity member and a proud gay man, why should he be expected to hide one of those elements? Some fraternity members might not be happy about this addition to the fraternity’s image, but on the other hand others might see it as an enhancement. Not knowing fraternities, the last question I have is whether either the local chapter or the national organization could revoke his membership.
Of course this would never fly in America but according to this Slate piece, there is a law in the works in France that would replace the terms “mother” and “father” on official documents with “parent.” This change is intended to recognize and normalize same-sex couples as parents. I understand the idea behind the proposal, but I am curious as to what would happen to the question of paternity. In other words, there is a difference between the mother who is clearly identified and the father whose identification, at least biological, is not as immediately evident. If one collapses both into parent, what happens legally? At this point I think the idea has promise, in a kind of European innovation way, and I am wondering how it will play out. I also am curious as to whether any opponents of this possible change will ramp up a slippery slope argument and argue that if we first we redefine parenthood by eliminating “mother” and “father” we will then end up redefining the number of parents (Why two? If it is not about biology, why not more?) , and soon we will eliminate species related bias and have dogs, cats and walruses being listed as parents.
Start changing terminology and some day this walrus could be listed as a parent on a French birth certificate. (Photo by Bill Curtsinger, National Geographic)
Not being too up on the Baltimore Ravens roster, I had not heard of Brendon Ayanbadejo until recently. It seems he is using his position as an NFL player as a platform to advocate for marriage equality. Even better, when a misguided lawmaker wrote the Raven’s owner to complain, another NFL player, Chris Kluwe stepped up an penned an open letter that went beyond having Ayanbadejo’s back and offered an eloquent defense of gay marriage and a critique of the lawmaker. That would be eloquent not in the Shakespeare or Toni Morrison sense, but eloquent in the ranting, wow he just ripped that guy up sense. Here is the edited text.
As an argument appealing to NFL fans, sports radio enthusiastic and others I am broadly stereotyping here, Kluwe’s letter is brilliant. It speaks the right language, has the right tone, and will perhaps due more for the cause than many a well-spoken talking head found on well-heeled media outlets.
Besides, if American society is going to provide NFL players with overabundant adoration, those players may as well use the platform to try to better American society.
My daughter asked me today after numerous readings of Cinderella if her two mouse friends Gus and Jaq can get married. My wife and I answered, “Yes, they can.” In the past if a child had asked if two male Disney characters could marry, the answer would be no, but now imagine the possibilities. Doc can marry happy. Donald can marry Mickey. If you cross stories, Ariel could marry Belle (and it would probably not involve Ariel having to give up her voice.) I love progress!