Dear 8th-grader Hannah…

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ANSWERS TO 8th GRADER HANNAH’S THOUGHTFUL QUESTIONS

This delightful request was re-posted on FaceBook on May 27th, 2012.

Hi! My name is Hannah __________. I’m an 8th grader at _________ middle school and was wondering if you would be interested in answering a few of my questions about gay rights. I am completing an independent research project on gay marriage and need to interview a expert on the topic. The soonest I can get you to answer my questions the better and I really need it to happen within the Next week. Thank you so much here are my questions, please respond with your answers. Thanks again!

Dear Hannah,

I’m a gay author who is engaged to be married to a man, and I’m happy to offer some thoughts for you to consider.

Why did you decide to help legalize gay marriage? What made it especially important to you over other issues in our country at this time?

I’m helping to confirm Washington State’s already legalized marriage (it was passed into law by the legislature and signed by the Governor, but now might have to be approved by a vote of the people if enough voters sign petitions asking for that).  I’m also helping elect various candidates who will help solve other issues that are important, so please don’t think this is the only or even top issue to me.  Jobs, food, water, education and healthcare for people around the world; freedom from oppression and terrorism; these and other issues are all important to me.

I want to help confirm same-sex marriage because I believe in America’s principle of “equal justice under the law.”  You might know from history classes that America used to make African Americans sit separately from white Americans, drink from different water fountains, use different bathrooms.  Seems pretty weird now, doesn’t it?  But in the old days, many people thought that was ok.  Many Christians like me even thought the Bible said it was ok to treat people that way.  Some people before the Civil War even thought the Bible said it was ok to own slaves.  Amazing, isn’t it?  But as we get older and (hopefully) wiser, people see things more clearly.  With more tolerance, acceptance, and love.  That’s what’s happening in America right now.  More and more moms and dads (and all kinds of people) are realizing that differences are not bad if they don’t hurt other people.  So we shouldn’t treat people with differences (let’s call them “minorities”) any differently from how the majority are treated.

What do you think legalizing gay marriage will do in the long run for our society?

I think it will help gay Americans have even stronger families because the two people involved will promise to love, honor, cherish, and take care of each other … just like husbands and wives in current marriages.  If gay American families are stronger, it sure doesn’t mean other families will be weaker.  (A man and wife sure won’t stop loving each other because two men or two women do!  Pretty silly to even think that, isn’t it?)

Do you believe legalizing gay marriage could help prevent harassment? Will it help set an example for how society should be run?

Yes.  Yes!

What do you think of the myths that homosexual family’s aren’t as stable has a heterosexual family is?

(Now you’ll hear the Teacher in me gently correcting you.  OK?  Hope you see it’s to help you, not to criticize.)  Your question already names that belief as a “myth.”  When we do that, it’s called, “begging the question.”  (That is, your question assumes part of the answer you expect).  But in this case, I very strongly agree with your presumption; I do agree it’s a myth.  Since about 50% of heterosexual marriages end in divorce, it would take a divorce rate of 51% in homosexual marriages to show that they’re less stable.  Isn’t it ironic that we gays who want to get married are simply asking society to confirm (or “bless”) the stability in our relationship, but some people want to deny us that?  Again…it’s silly, isn’t it?

Do think the fight to national legalize gay marriage is similar or different to the civil rights, and woman’s movement?

Yes, I do think the drive to legalize gay marriage nationally is similar to the civil- and women’s-rights movements.  People in power (white males in many cultures for many years—I should know since I am one of those J ) usually try to hold onto power for themselves.  Even though we are a democracy and therefore “ruled by the people,” the rights of minorities haven’t always been honored.  One of the amazing, astounding, wonderful, brilliant ideas that the Founders of the United States had was the idea that the rights of minorities should not be decided by majorities.  We are all “created equal.”  But sometimes even great civilizations like America have to struggle to live up to those ideals.  That was true when we still held slaves.  That was true when women didn’t have the right to vote.  Even my beloved Bible says, “Women shouldn’t speak in church.”  Can you imagine how bland worship services would be in churches, synagogues, and mosques if it was only us old men talking?  Once more, it’s one of those silly things that deep study and wise understanding of the Bible can see through.  The real foundations—of our government and of my religious faith—don’t change.  They teach us that every person is valuable in the universe.  And it is the individual person’s privilege and joy to help others be the best they can be, as they reach out to help us do the same.

What do you think of the argument that someone doesn’t support gay marriage because of religion?

That’s absolutely right.  Many (probably most) people who don’t support gay marriage cite religious reasons.  However, a growing number of religious people have changed their minds about this.  Remember how some Christians used to say slavery was ok because the Bible said so?  And they said women shouldn’t have the vote based on similar reasons?  Well, the holy writings didn’t change, but people’s understandings did.  That’s happening right now about gay issues.  Three major American denominations now agree that homosexual people can be ministers in their churches, and other denominations are moving that way.  There are very good answers (which would take too long to explain here) why each of the sayings in the Bible about homosexuals has been misunderstood or mistranslated.  So the basic answer to your question is, yes, some object because of religion, but many others within those religions say the objectors are wrong, and clearly explain why.

Have you noticed there has been a pattern of discrimination in our country? What do you think is causing this? How can we help prevent it?

Unfortunately, wherever there are human beings, there will probably be discrimination.  It’s so tempting for us to judge other people, isn’t it?  If you and your best friends prefer to avoid some other kids at lunch…I guess that would be discrimination, wouldn’t it?  (I know I do stuff like that.)  The important question, I think, is whether we gang up with others to discriminate against people and keep them from “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as the Declaration of Independence says.  That happened in our country to African Americans, to women, and maybe these days to people of Middle Eastern descent.  As a gay man who hid my true feelings for 66 years, I felt discriminated against by society.  And now I believe that restricting marriage to heterosexuals is discriminating against the man I love and me.  Your question “how can we help prevent it?” is very important, Hannah.  I hope you’ll work toward preventing discrimination in your life, and get others to join you.

What do you think of the way the constitution is being interpreted? Should homosexuals be left out of it?

Just like in the Bible, we have to make sure we interpret the spirit of the Constitution, not be slaves to a word-for-word literal understanding.  For instance, when the Constitution says, “All men are created with certain inalienable rights…” we need to understand that “men” was shorthand for “people” when it was written.  It never meant “adult males only,” excluding women, or girls like you, or the boys in your class.  It just meant “people.”  So as you grow in knowledge and wisdom (both of those are important; I hope you’ll try to gain both), I hope you’ll avoid the temptation of “surface understanding” of issues.  I hope you’ll dig deeper and always seek just and loving solutions to problems.

Do you think those with gay parents are subject to more harassment?

Have you heard about Zach Wahls?  He’s the son of two mothers, and is a shining example of someone who quietly but firmly resists those who would harass him because of his gay parents.  Check out this short video, and see how a cool guy explains things calmly and reasonably.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSQQK2Vuf9Q)

Why do you think marriage is so important and special?

Long ago I realized that marriages are like funerals; they’re for the witnesses’ benefit, not the immediate participants.  When two people get married, they already know they’re committed to each other.  They’ve made a lifelong promise.  The marriage ceremony is a chance to declare that privately-made promise before God, family, and friends.  That makes it official.  And hopefully permanent.  At least a lot more stable and permanent than without the ceremony.  Only those with a shallow understanding of the Bible say it’s wrong for two men or two women to commit to each other forever.  The joy and stability of marriage shouldn’t be selfishly hogged by those with the majority sexual orientation.  It belongs to us minorities, too.

I’m so proud of you for asking these great questions and listening to people’s answers!  I’ll bet you’ll go on to a terrific academic career, and a lifetime of great contributions in some form to your family, friends, community, and world.  All the best to you, Hannah.                                    ~Paul Hartman

(Please check my website: www.CarpeKairos.com)

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3 Responses to Dear 8th-grader Hannah…

  1. Hannah says:

    thank you so much paul for your answers and jim for your encouragement’s!

  2. admin says:

    Thanks very much, Jim. Mostly for taking time to encourage young Hannah, but also of course for your compliments.

    Best~
    Paul

  3. Jim says:

    Hannah, if you read this I want you to know that your questions are remarkably thoughtful, mature & more sensible and understanding than virtually all of the “questions”/answers that you hear or read in the media, offered by people/”experts” who make seven-figure salaries. Because there are young people like you I have high hopes for the future of our country and the world. Please stick with your principles!
    When I became close friends with the woman who became my second wife in our middle age, the first gift I gave her was a little wall plaque that quoted Albert Einstein as saying, “The most important thing is, never stop questioning!” Believe me, she hasn’t!

    I am 73 years old and, like Paul, have lived through many of the civil, woman’s, homosexual and other rights battles since the ’50’s. Like Paul, and like our kind & thoughtful president, Barack Obama, my attitudes have “evolved.” Fortunately, you are much farther along in your evolution than any of us were at your age! Your parents can be so proud of you!

    When you get discouraged, remember your history. There are tragic traumas happening around the world every day. Some natural, some man-made. But I see our trajectory improving. While today we read of some mass atrocities, the numbers are “relatively” small. Just in my lifetime you had humans killing millions (!), in Germany, Russia, China and elsewhere. Natural disasters killed many thousands, but because communication, construction and relief efforts today are better, those numbers are smaller. Stay positive, and keep working for betterment of both humans and the environment, out of love!

    To you, Paul, your answers are exceptional (getting better with practice!). I hope sometime you can compile some of your work, perhaps in a contemplative memoir. I’d buy that one too! I am honored to be your friend.

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