Opponents of same-sex marriages argue that children growing up in an unorthodox home will be stigmatized. But University Law School Prof. Paula Ettelbrick said she thinks her children will have more normal gripes as they mature.
“My kids will complain more about cleaning their room then about their parents being lesbians, I hope. It more depends on pressures from society,” Ettelbrick said during a same-sex marriage debate yesterday at the Law School.
Laws in all 50 states bar Ettelbrick and her partner from marrying. Some states, including Michigan, do not recognize same sex marriages even if the marriage occurred.
The debate featured Ettelbrick, who is also a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and University of Notre Dame Prof. Gerard Bradley as a representative of the conservative view point. The event was co-sponsored by Outlaws and the Federalist Society, two student groups in the Law School.
“I hope it gets students to think about the issues that are not covered by the Law School curriculum,” said Outlaws co-chair Beth Locker, a second-year Law student. “These issues are not discussed frequently and have large social implications today.”
Both representatives said they felt that times and ideas have changed, forcing the American public and government to look closely at the civil and social definition of marriage.
“Two areas critically important to marriage are children and sex,” Bradley said. “Marriage offers a principle of sexual morality (through monogamy). I would say marriage is a union of two people in one flesh, which is generally characterized by children.”
However, sex is no longer limited to marriage, and children from unmarried couples have gone from being called illegitimate to having “single parents,” Bradley said.
“Now, we have a serious discussion,” Bradley said. “Though people in favor (of same-sex marriages) seem to treat it as something already settled by logic, the logic of equality.”
Ettelbrick said she feels the equality principle allows people to examine the social and economic benefits of marriage.
“Most people, when polled, acknowledged that certain benefits should be given to people in long term relationships. This is what drives the litigation ,” Ettelbrick said. “There is a trend to break through the barriers concerning property distribution and the definition of family.”
“If you were in the hospital, would you want your mother that you haven”t seen in five years, a distant cousin or your life partner at your bedside making the decisions,” Ettelbrick added.
Both sides of the debate agreed that cultural beliefs and ideas must change before the law changes.
“If the exclusion is no longer morally defensible, than exclusion (of same-sex marriages) has to go,” Bradley said, though he feels many Americans still hold a certain picture of marriage.
“The appropriations of children are part of the definition of marriage and gender complementation. People don”t understand, much less accept, the ideals of concessions of same-sex couples to adopt,” Bradley said.
Ettelbrick also felt the raising of children needed to be a top concern during debates on the issue.
“Studies show that devotion makes good parenting, not sexual orientation. People must be flexible and look at the functional relationship,” Ettelbrick said. “It is an injustice to look at the statutory definition of marriage.”
Though change will not occur overnight, both sides felt the definition of marriage will change over time.
“This forces people to look at the logic of their opposition,” Bradley said.
“It is a real turning point for civil law and marriage. Straight folks made this world, and it is perfectly right for gay s to find their place.”