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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Twice-Divorced, Four Children By Two Different Women...

Posted by on Wed, May 19, 2010 at 11:11 AM

...and a spokesperson for marriage?

If we were talking about a conservative, twice-divorced, four-kids-by-two-different-women politician or preacher, gays and lesbians would be the first to point out—gleefully point out—that this person's private life disqualified him from serving as a spokesperson for marriage, traditional or otherwise. Certainly when Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Brit Hume, et al, open their mouths about marriage, we don't hesitate to point to their failed marriages as evidence that they're not to be taken seriously on the subject. But in this instance the person with two failed marriages and four children by two different women is Melissa Etheridge, and... we're okay with her marrying and making babies and divorcing and marrying and making more babies and divorcing again... because she can thoughtfully and persuasively make the case for marriage rights for gays and lesbians. (And, hey, God bless anyone who can pound a little sense into Elisabeth Hasselbeck's thick skull.)

Now don't get me wrong: gays and lesbians should be able to marry and divorce just as often as straight people do. Rachel Maddow should be free to marry and divorce attractive young lesbians at the same clip that Larry King marries and divorces attractive young straight women. And I'm all for legal gay divorce. Access to divorce proceedings—to the equitable division of marital assets, to financial justice for stay-at-home parents, to legally enforceable custody rulings—is an important marital right and its denial to same-sex couples is an injustice. And, hey, the way Melissa Etheridge's marital woes have been covered by magazines like People—that is, no differently than the marital woes of straight celebs—humanizes gay relationships for straight readers, many of whom have experienced failed marriages themselves.

But... still... am I the only homo out there who's a little uncomfortable with Melissa Etheridge being spokesmodel for gay marriage?

And, no, I don't think I should be a spokesmodel for marriage—my column is way too freaky, my positions on monogamy, drugs, adultery, kink, etc., are too out there. This isn't about sour grapes. It's about consistency.


Comments (36) RSS

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Banna 1
She's becoming an expert through trial and error.
Posted by Banna on May 19, 2010 at 11:27 AM · Report this
Vince 2
If you can have Palin's daughter lecture on abstinence, why not?
Posted by Vince on May 19, 2010 at 11:32 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 3
OK, we get it, you hate Canadians who love sex.

Stop pushing your attitudes on people from other nations.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 19, 2010 at 11:33 AM · Report this
Um, exactly how does Ms. Etheridge "make a baby" with any woman? Woman+Woman= delicious fun, but never a baby. Pesky sperm! And gay men, wasting so much of it...
Posted by Mrs. Charles on May 19, 2010 at 11:38 AM · Report this
How about this for consistency: accept Melissa Etheridge regardless of her marriage count, and stop using that tack against the assholes who oppose her marriages. Surely there are better, less ad hominem arguments against Gingrich et al anyhow.
Posted by crasher on May 19, 2010 at 11:41 AM · Report this
linda with a y 6
Considering that Melissa and Tammy have very, very different takes on why they are no longer together, I wouldn't give much credence to any advice she thinks she's qualified to pass along to the mis-wedded.
Posted by linda with a y on May 19, 2010 at 11:45 AM · Report this
Womyn2me 7
I think each lesbian or gay couple is the spokesmodel for gay marriage. everytime I say "I'm getting married in October" and start bemoaning wedding planning then out myself, I am doing a good thing for gay marriage..

we just have to show that marriage for us is just as hard-work, fucked up and complicated as it is for them. oh, and fun of course.
Posted by Womyn2me http://http:\\ on May 19, 2010 at 11:46 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 8
The bizarre thing, Dan, is that my sister (in Utah - yes I have multiple sisters and brothers) was recently getting asked for marriage advice, and she said she didn't think they should ask her, and most of my family said that she should tell them to ask you, Dan Savage, instead.

Bizarre, but true.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 19, 2010 at 11:48 AM · Report this
Geni 9
Well, how in the hell are straight people supposed to identify with someone happily partnered to one person for life? It's not like straight people have a lot of experience with that.
Posted by Geni on May 19, 2010 at 11:51 AM · Report this
mikethehammer 10
"And, no, I don't think I should be a spokesmodel for marriage—my column is way too freaky, my positions on monogamy, drugs, adultery, kink, etc., are too out there."

Screw that shit, Dan. Your positions on monogamy, drugs, adultery, kink, etc., are based in rationality and sound, empirical evidence. If only all of our politicians and spokespersons were so "out there."
Posted by mikethehammer on May 19, 2010 at 11:52 AM · Report this
crazycatguy 11
Perhaps Melissa can be a spokesmodel for failed gay marriages.
Posted by crazycatguy on May 19, 2010 at 11:57 AM · Report this
"am I the only homo out there who's a little uncomfortable with Melissa Etheridge being spokesmodel for gay marriage?"

I'm sure you're not, Dan. But the fact is you have an awful lot opinions about an awful lot of things, and you are fond of making rules for the proper conduct for us gays based on those opinions.
Posted by bobbo on May 19, 2010 at 12:03 PM · Report this
TVDinner 13
Can we nominate Ricky Martin? Granted, he's not married, but that could change.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on May 19, 2010 at 12:03 PM · Report this
I don't think that being divorced means that one can't be an expert on marriage. But there is a valid critiques of divorced people that try to sell marriage as a life-long, one-man-one-woman sacrament.
Posted by Cerulean on May 19, 2010 at 12:04 PM · Report this
LogopolisMike 15
No, you aren't the only homo who feels this way. My boyfriend made the same comment a few weeks ago. But I think using David Crosby's seed makes her pretty much unqualified for any judgment, so our household might not be the best with whom to agree. (we're just another happy gay couple who would be horrible representatives for the gay marriage cause)
Posted by LogopolisMike on May 19, 2010 at 12:10 PM · Report this
If I recall correctly approximately half of all American marriages end in divorce, and I think that skews higher each successive marriage.

Further, when you throw in the pressures and opportunities of celebrity, wealth, etc. the rate at which marriages fail increases.

I don't know if her life makes the case for marriage equality, but it certainly looks normative to me.

@5 On the other hand, many of these other spokespeople for marriage, attempt to frame the discussion in such a way that their personal lives are at issue, because they don't live up to the rules they preach.

Did I miss the part where Melissa claimed that marriage must be something other than equally available and then failed to live up to it?
Posted by Divorce Access Equality Now! on May 19, 2010 at 12:10 PM · Report this
This is unrelated, but two years ago at the Folsom Street Fair they sold t-shirts that said:


and Melissa Etheridge does.
Posted by beccoid on May 19, 2010 at 12:14 PM · Report this
It shouldn't matter who the speaker is or what his or her marital status is - never-married, thrice-divorced, or entering year fifty of happily wedded bliss to their high school sweetheart. What should matter is, do their arguments make sense or not.

If we focus on discrediting opponents of marriage equality because of their own chequered (or absent) marital pasts, then what do we say to an opponent who is an actual poster child for heterosexual marriage?

The arguments in favour of marriage equality are strong enough - and those against it are flimsy enough - that they remain valid no matter who presents them.

Divorce is a red herring.
Posted by Freedom to marry includes freedom to unmarry on May 19, 2010 at 12:14 PM · Report this
Southern Gentleman 19
Although another spokesperson may be preferable, I think it's misleading to compare Melissa Etheridge to Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich believes he should have the right to marry and divorce whomever he chooses. Melissa Etheridge wants the same right.

The difference is that Newt Gingrich goes beyond his own marriages and divorces. He wants to dictate what other peoples' marriages should look like.

Melissa Etheridge may not be the best person to speak on behalf of people who want to be able to marry a person of their choosing, but she's not suggesting that any couple should be prevented from marrying.
Posted by Southern Gentleman on May 19, 2010 at 12:15 PM · Report this
"...everytime I say "I'm getting married in October" and start bemoaning wedding planning then out myself, I am doing a good thing for gay marriage.."

You're not.
Tiresome prattling self-absorbed engaged bitches are a pain in any and every orientation.
Posted by sorry to be the one to break the news on May 19, 2010 at 12:16 PM · Report this
I think if straight marriage advocates can get divorced and married multiple times then we can have gay marriage advocates that do the same.

I think people accept divorce much more readily, and isn't really an issue. Those that have an issue would probably vote to disallow straight divorce if they could.

I nominate Jane Lynch and Neil Patrick Harris as our gay marriage advocates.
Posted by sil on May 19, 2010 at 12:19 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 22
I don't think anyone alive is an "expert" on marriage - gay or straight.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on May 19, 2010 at 12:20 PM · Report this
kim in portland 23
Marriage is hard work. No-one is qualified to be an "expert". Even my grandparents with 70 years under their belts aren't "experts", they'd tell you that it's work and you have to muddle through it. There is no gay or straight "expert" out there.

And, besides just because the marriage doesn't last until someone dies does not mean it wasn't a good marriage and it wasn't successful to some extent. Ms. Etheridge's four children sound like success to me and they are indeed something good.
Posted by kim in portland on May 19, 2010 at 12:40 PM · Report this
I agree with Southern Gentleman. The huge difference here is that Melissa is not trying to stop another group from the right of marriage.
Posted by Dale on May 19, 2010 at 12:42 PM · Report this
I think the reason we object to Newt and the others is their hypocrisy. They tell others how to live, but they themselves don't live up to the standard they hold others to. Also, passing laws or supporting the passage of laws that are supposed to defend marriage from the threats allegedly posed by gay people is a problem when, if there is any threat to marriage, it is divorce. And when you divorce frequently, it seems odd to claim to be a defender of marriage. None of this seems to apply to Melissa, however. While I do see the point of your being ill at ease over her prominence in the same-sex marriage movement, I don't think we should promote any same-sex marriage representative as being perfect in this area--it will only come back to bite on the ass when our perfect representative is caught cheating or divorcing.
Posted by DC Bill on May 19, 2010 at 12:46 PM · Report this
Vince 26
@22 Really! Who needs it. To me it's like slavery.
Posted by Vince on May 19, 2010 at 12:46 PM · Report this
Rachel Maddow should be free to marry and divorce attractive young lesbians at the same clip that Larry King marries and divorces attractive young straight women.

Have you seen Rachel Maddow's partner? She is most definitely not attracted to attractive young lesbians.
Posted by I Got Nuthin' on May 19, 2010 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Dingo 28
Melissa Etheridge is only a spokesperson for her same-sex marriage(s), not everyone's, just like Dan's only a spokesperson for his. That's a good thing because everyone's marriage (gay or straight) is not the same, and the fiction that every marriage is a 1950s TV marriage needs to finally die a well-deserved death.
Posted by Dingo on May 19, 2010 at 1:06 PM · Report this
HellboundAlleee 29
I don't understand. Does divorce make you less worthy of the same rights as other people? We need to stand up for divorce here, as well as sex. Just because we want marriage rights for gays doesn't mean we all want everyone to have to marry one person for life when it's really an unreasonable request. How do we really know kids are better off in the Dick and Jane system anyway? People are too scared to advocate anything else (like not having them at all).
Posted by HellboundAlleee on May 19, 2010 at 1:10 PM · Report this
Anne in MA 30
Enh, I think the difference is that she's not babbling hypocritically about the sanctity of traditional marriage. There's no real inconsistency.

The issue as I see it is PR - sadly, gays and lesbians ARE being held to a higher standard where marriage is concerned than straight people. That itself is an injustice, but a lawsuit brought by a long-term, monogamous couple seeking marriage rights is just more likely to be successful. It's certainly more likely to get public support. I guess sometimes gay rights activists have to make these kinds of calculations.
Posted by Anne in MA on May 19, 2010 at 1:13 PM · Report this
The goal is not to have the right to screw up like everybody else ?
Posted by Égalité=equality on May 19, 2010 at 1:15 PM · Report this
I don't really care much about who is or isn't a good role model for anything (barf) but...

"Rachel Maddow should be free to marry and divorce attractive young lesbians at the same clip that Larry King marries and divorces attractive young straight women."

Where do I sign up to get on Maddow's list? Because I am so there.
Posted by Faer on May 19, 2010 at 1:27 PM · Report this
heythere 33
Who says a spokesperson for marriage - gay or straight - should have only one monogamous marriage, or children by only one partner? It's only a problem if that person is hypocritical, saying one thing while doing another. Not getting it right the first or second time doesn't disqualify her as a gay spokesperson. In fact, straights may identify with her because she's emulating them.
Posted by heythere on May 19, 2010 at 4:00 PM · Report this
It's been said, but I wanted to add the weight of another voice. We pick on multi-divorce kids-all-over-the-country right-wing conservative "marriage is between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others, 'til death do them part" proponents because they're filthy hypocrites who want the rest of the nation to do what they say while they're busy doing the opposite. It's not at all because they're divorced-so-obviously-they-suck-at-marriage.

Melissa isn't promoting some over-the-top super-conservative standard which she herself is dismally failing to live up to, is she? She's saying that gay marriage isn't substantially different to straight marriage, and so there's no good reason to ban it.

By having two failed marriages and four kids to two different women, she's just doing her bit to prove that gay marriage isn't any different to straight marriage.

And Dan? I'd love to see you as a spokesperson, not for marriage, but for how do do marriage RIGHT. Anyone who's read your column has seen the marriages (current and future) you've saved. The failed-marriages-to-be you've prevented. The divorces-to-be you've forestalled, by getting spouses to ACTUALLY COMMUNICATE with each other. The barriers you've broken down.

You've done more for straight marriage than anyone else I can think of.
Posted by Rophuine on May 19, 2010 at 4:37 PM · Report this
You're not the only one by far. It is not my custom to give a fig about celebrity relationships, but I definitely was (and still am), in the eye-rolling and annoyed group of the public at large, when she and the Cypher woman separated. And yes, some part of me is very much thinking of the children involved.
Posted by Head-shaking Lesbian on May 19, 2010 at 7:26 PM · Report this
long-time reader 36
Allow me to hereby nominate Dan as Official Spokesman of Marriage--precisely because his column is so freaky. And because he's an example of a successful marriage.

I think 90% of the people who appear not to be freaky, and 99% of the people who are outspoken against things of a freaky nature, have their own freaky proclivities more or less well hidden in their own closets. Dan is a good spokesman precisely because he acknowledges the preponderance of freakiness out there and encourages people to be honest about it whenever possible. Even in the unlikely event that two completely "normal" people get married, they're not good spokespeople on marriage because most people aren't actually "normal". "Normal" is a myth forced on us by the bible-thumpers and other sundry fascists.

Tangentially--watching The Marriage Ref last night, I commented that nobody has any business judging others' marriages on that show unless s/he is currently in (or widowed/widowered from) a successful long-term marriage. Of course, since the talent pool is drawn from Hollywood, birthplace of the sham marriage, that eliminates 99.99% of the possible judges.
Posted by long-time reader on May 21, 2010 at 9:44 AM · Report this

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