On Friday, Shirley Tan, a mother of twin boys is scheduled to be deported to her native Philippines, leaving behind her wife (in all but law) and her sons. Were her marriage recognized, her spouse could sponsor her into the country, thereby avoiding the destruction of this family.1 And she’s not exactly going to receive a warm welcome back home. The details of this sad story are here.

It is time to stand the opponents of marriage equality up before a panel of questioners and ask them the hard questions that they’ve mostly been able to avoid. We might start by posing this one: “How will the deportation of Shirley Tan ‘strengthen families’?”

Marriage equality opponents purport to care about the families of same-sex couples, but their stated positions are in many cases directly to the contrary. Maggie Gallagher, as one mainstream example, doesn’t favor civil unions as a way of  protecting our families short of marriage. I once heard her throw out  the vague idea that “whatever we should do to protect gay and lesbian couples and their families,” that  “whatever” wasn’t marriage (or civil unions, as she’s made clear elsewhere). And the “whatever” apparently isn’t anything that might be considered an alternative to marriage, either. In her own words: “I believe that creating legal alternatives to marriage is counterproductive and wrong.”

Well, what is the “whatever”, then? Maggie, please tell me what specific ideas you have to “protect” Shirley Tan’s family. I would be happy to print your suggestions in this blog, and then solicit readers’ reactions to them. I’ll send the link for this post to Ms. Gallagher and await her response.

I’m angrier than usual today. Reading Shirley Tan’s story and another about how a large group of former military officers are now asking Obama not to work for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” remind me that the best opponents of simple equality can offer are apocalyptic pronouncements, announced apodictically: “The skies will fall if gays and lesbians are allowed to live their lives the way everyone else does.” Marriage will crumble, though it “may take a generation or two.” Allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military will “eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.

May I just interject for a moment here? What about what’s happening right now to the many  thousands of GLBT lives that are suffering from inequality? One can try denying it  — as the state’s advocate did in the Iowa marriage equality case (calling such harm ‘speculative’) or as Gallagher did (recently stating that we “don’t know” whether marriage would benefit the kids of same-sex couples) — but does anyone really believe that?

Wake up, Maggie!

  1. I don’t know, or frankly care about, the reason for her deportation at this time. It suffices that the deportation would not occur were her marriage legally recognized.
  1. April 1st, 2009 at 12:08 | #1

    This one broke my heart as well. What did Shirley Tan, her wife, or her sons ever do to threaten anyone’s family? But this deportation may threaten several families now.

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