This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
November 24th, 2009
Ask Amy (Amy Dickenson) is the advice columnist that succeeded Ann Landers at the Chicago Tribune. But sadly she is far less astute when it comes to gay issues than Ann.
Today she gave miserable advice to a bride who was indignant that her gay brother-in-law-to-be was unwilling to celebrate an institution in which he was banned from participation.
Dear Amy: My fiancé, “Rob,” and I are getting married. Our wedding party has three attendants on each side, with his brother “Ted” as best man.
Ted has been out of the closet as a gay man for a few years and is supported by his family. Rob, Ted and I frequently see each other outside of family gatherings and enjoy a nice friendship.
Recently, Ted told us he refuses to serve as best man or even attend the wedding because he does not want to be part of a ceremony that he cannot personally enjoy.
Rob and I tried to reinforce how important it is to us to have Ted as a part of our wedding, but Ted told us it was selfish of us to ask him in the first place. We asked Ted months ago, and until recently he never indicated that he was anything less than flattered. Should we ask someone else to be in our wedding party or wait a bit in case he changes his mind?
Rob is incredibly hurt by this decision.
Dear Bride: “Ted” loves the institution of marriage so much that he won’t participate in or attend one until he can partake of the privilege himself. By this reasoning, Ted won’t be attending any same-sex wedding ceremonies in states where it is permitted until everyone in every state can marry.
He’s driving a political stake through the heart of an institution he aspires to be a part of. Families contain all types of people, and as someone entering into a new family bond, you will see that sometimes the best you can do is be honest about your disappointment, accept someone else’s unhappiness and move on with grace.
Tell Ted you’re disappointed in his choice but that you accept it and have asked someone else to stand up with you.
Your response to Bashed Bride was astonishingly insensitive and lacking in empathy. You made no attempt to understand what Ted may be feeling or why he responded as he did. In fact, Ted didn’t really factor in your response at all.
The Bride tells us nothing about whether she supports Ted or if she has ever done anything to champion his ability to marry. She simply demands that he support her.
This suggests to me that the Bride has never ever taken a single proactive step in her life to fight for Ted or his relationships or his rights. This bride who “enjoys a nice friendship” seems not to think enough of this friendship to attend a rally, write a state legislator, put up a yard sign, or even casually mention to a neighbor that she supports equality.
Surely, had she done so, she would have mentioned it. But instead she views the situation solely from what is “important” to her. This is a one-sided relationship.
Now, it isn’t bigotry to not even notice gay people or their rights. It isn’t homophobia. It isn’t hatred or animus or any overt mistreatment. Rather, It is what is called heterosexism, the presumption that everything is to be viewed from the perspective of heterosexuals, arranged for their convenience, and that gay people are inconsequential.
And you confirmed her heterosexism. You even went so far as to make the ludicrous claim that because Ted wasn’t celebrating marriage in a state that discriminates against him that therefore he would have to refuse to celebrate states that do. That defies logic.
Now, personally I may have made a decision that was different from Ted’s. I probably would have allowed the bride her selfishness and not have rained on her parade. But neither I nor Ted have any obligation to support our own oppression.
And your response was abysmal. Instead of suggesting a solution, you took this as an opportunity to be petty and dismissive of Ted’s real and legitimate claim about institutionalized discrimination.
And easy answer would have been this: Advise the bride to set aside some part of the ceremony to acknowledge that Ted, and other gay people in attendance, are denied this basic right. Remind the attendees that they can take action to advance the cause of equality for all citizens. Then Ted would not feel like he’s supporting an institution akin to apartheid but instead is part of the solution.
If Ted really is that important to the Bashed Bride, then his equality and civil rights are important to her as well. If she is not willing to allow two minutes on her special day to speak out against injustice, then her claims of “friendship” are nothing but selfishness masquerading as “tolerance”.
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