Why the Hell Does it Matter What a Football Player Thinks About Same-Sex Marriage? Marriage is About Rights, Not Religion

According to CNN.com, football player David Tyrees weighed in on same-sex marriage through the National Organization for Marriage by claiming that allowing same-sex marriage will result in “anarchy”:

Former New York Giants receiver David Tyrees celebrated catch in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XLII was pivotal to his teams victory.

Now out of football, he is trying to claim a last-minute win over another foe — same-sex marriage.On the same day that the New York State Assembly approved a same-sex marriage bill, Tyree warned of dire consequences if the legislation becomes law.

The bills passage would “be the beginning of our country sliding toward … anarchy,” he said

via Super Bowl hero warns of anarchy if NY approves gay marriage – CNN.com.

Tyrees’ comments reflect an ignorance about what marriage actually is and insensitivity toward equal rights for all citizens.

Tyrees and others claim that marriage is an intimate bond that is grounded in their religious faith. They believe that allowing same-sex couples to marry will lessen the sanctity of marriage. Marriage is seen as a religious rather than a secular institution.

The fact is that marriage has long been held as a social and legal contract rather than something dependent upon any church. Certainly, the marriage ceremony, at least in the West following the rise of the major modern religions, is intimately connected to religious practices. However, it is approval and acknowledgement by the state that has granted marriage legal standing. Put another way, marriage is a legal contract between two people to observe certain roles and obtain legal rights not given to non-married persons.

Today, you have to have a marriage license in order to marry. It is the state, not the church, that bestows legal rights to the married couple. Those significant rights include joint ownership, rights of inheritance, rights in a court of law, and rights of care and decision making. Same-sex couples are denied these rights even though they may do the same things that heterosexual couples do, such as live their lives together, intermingle finances, and care for one another. Because same-sex couples are denied these rights, a same-sex partner may not be able to see a loved one in the hospital since they are not “family,” and they have no right of inheritance if the deceased-person’s family objects. They do not qualify for tax breaks reserved for married couples. They cannot always obtain health insurance through their partner’s policy. They may not be able to get life insurance since they do not have a legally defined relationship. They cannot obtain other juridicial or business opportunities given only to married couples. Thus, same-sex couples are denied many legal rights enjoyed by heterosexually married couples despite, because the law denies them the rights given to heterosexual couples.

In both cases, heterosexual or homosexual couples essentially desire to enter into a legal contract that guarantees them certain rights. This is the main issue at stake in extending those legal rights to homosexual couples. People like Tyrees who talk about “anarchy” and lessening the sanctity of marriage are blurring the issue in terms of their religious beliefs. I would hope that they don’t believe that heterosexual couples in general believe in the sanctity of marriage due to the high rates of divorce and low probability for marriages to survive past 10 years [read the data here].

The fact that divorce in the United States is relatively high for some age groups belies the fact that marriage itself is not a highly sanctified institution. When it comes down to it, marriage is about a relationship between two people who enjoy certain rights during the marriage and other rights to dissolve that marriage in divorce. Same-sex couples also deserve this right to divorce–a right often overlooked by those who are in happily married relationships. Nevertheless, divorce is a legal right that allows for the dissolution of the relationship and all joint properties and business relationships. The right of divorce is almost as important as the right to marry, because the right of divorce allows for a bad relationship to be dissolved in a legally arbitrated and binding way. Same-sex couples do not have access to this legally streamlined method of dissolving relationships that heterosexual couples apparently use to a great extent.

What might lead to anarchy is the fact that CNN.com gives voice to someone who can catch a football in the arena of fundamental rights. This is a problem of big media today that favors the sensationalism of celebrity opinions and pronouncements when those celebrities are neither truly invested or experts on a given political issue. Why doesn’t CNN talk to more same-sex couples to let people know the FACTS of same-sex marriage issues. These rights affect people’s real lives while the things that Tyrees and other anti-same-sex marriage advocates lament is their loss of control over other people’s lives.

What does it really matter to Tyrees that two gay men can file their taxes together? What does it really matter to Tyrees that an aging lesbian woman can visit her dying partner in the hospital? What does it really matter to Tyrees that two lesbians raising an adopted son can get health insurance for their entire family? Those things don’t matter to someone like Tyrees, because they are too caught up in what they think marriage means rather what it really means–those easily ignored rights that only married people can enjoy.

UPDATE: Sarah Kate Ellis wrote on the Huffington Post today about the issue of same-sex parents and children–an important issue that I didn’t fully explore earlier in my post above.

Bioware’s Lead Writer Provides Laser-Sharp Reasons for Egalitarian Romance Options in Dragon Age 2

I found links about the “Straight Male Gamer” in Dragon Age 2 on Facebook here and here (Thanks Stacie and Rhiannon), so I thought I would share it here on dynamicsubspace.net.

I have not yet had a chance to play Bioware’s Dragon Age 2 (or Dragon Age: Orgins for that matter), but I have seen many commercials for it on TV. It is a role playing game set in a life-like fantasy world where the play guides the character Hawke through a non-linear narrative that is dependent upon the choices made by the gamer.  Apparently, the game gives players the option to incorporate romances into the narrative for Hawke and other party members. What is so amazing about Bioware’s decision to do this is that they created the game so that these romances need not be heteronormative. They also may cross species lines. In effect, players may guide various characters (Hawke–who may be male or female, Isabela, Merrill, Anders, Fenris, and Sebastian, see here) to engage in romantic relations that augments the narrative experience.

Apparently, a Dragon Age 2 player who identifies as “Straight Male Gamer” (SMG) posted to the official message boards of DA2 claiming that the SMG has certain rights among which is his right to have only heteronormativity in the game. The SMG believes that the priviledged majority should dictate the scope and focus of the game.

The SMG unfortunately misses the point that his place is privileged in society, and perhaps more importantly, being a SMG may not necessarily cause a player to not want to role play non-straight romance options to more fully engage the story. Remember: it is a role playing game! Who you are does not, although unfortunately it often does mean this, necessarily mean that your character should be you. For example, I often play female and non-human characters in World of Warcraft, because I want my experience in the game to be different than if I were to create a simulation of myself within the game. Besides the realm of the fantastic, what more can I experience from the narrative by being someone other than myself? While I play a character other than myself in the game, I do not attempt to act other than myself, but I do observe the way others react to and interact with me via my character.

Happily, David Gaider, Bioware’s senior writer at its Edmonton studios, wrote a very well-reasoned response to the SMG that begins:

The romances in the game are not for “the straight male gamer”. They’re for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. We have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in DAO and thus don’t need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant… and that’s ignoring the idea that they don’t have just as much right to play the kind of game they wish as anyone else. The “rights” of anyone with regards to a game are murky at best, but anyone who takes that stance must apply it equally to both the minority as well as the majority. The majority has no inherent “right” to get more options than anyone else.

I particularly love the closing of Gaider’s response, because it has implications in the political realm of which the game is only a part:

The very best we can do is give everyone a little bit of choice, and that’s what we tried here.

And the person who says that the only way to please them is to restrict options for others is, if you ask me, the one who deserves it least.

I completely concur with Gaider, and I have much respect him now after reading his response to the SMG. I wish Gaider the best of luck with his development of future games that promote egalitarian ideas and options for its players.

Read the full exchange from the message boards here: » “Straight Male Gamer” told to ‘get over it’ by BioWare No More Lost.