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FIRST-PERSON: Genderless marriages and genderless bathrooms?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
EDITOR'S NOTE: Joseph Backholm is executive director of a pro-traditional marriage organization in Washington state, where citizens will vote on the definition of marriage in November. Read his previous columns on the issue of gay marriage here, here and here.

LYNWOOD, Wash. (BP) -- For many people, agreeing that marriage should be redefined is simply how they prove they are a good and decent person. If, however, they allow themselves to consider the possibility (and reality) that there are people of good will on both sides of this debate, suddenly our public policy decisions can be guided by good, old-fashioned, critical thought.

In June, Green River Community College in Washington state celebrated "Gender Neutral Bathroom Week." At first blush, this might not seem to have much at all to do with same-sex marriage. But it does.

Here's the connection.

Those trying to redefine marriage take the position that there is no meaningful difference between a relationship involving two men or two women and a relationship with a man and a woman. Therefore, they argue that there is no meaningful difference between men and women in relationships. The move toward genderless bathrooms also asserts that it is improper to assume that gender represents a real and fixed difference between people.

The state of Massachusetts was the first state to create so called same-sex marriage. They have since added "gender identity" to the list of protected classes under their hate crimes law which gives legal protection for men to enter the women's restroom. This represents a disturbing but consistent next step.


At the end of last year, a Macy's employee in San Antonio lost her job because she attempted to keep a man dressed as a woman out of a woman's dressing room.

Once we decide that gender is meaningless in one context, it raises some other questions as well.

Should we eliminate Title IX, which forbids gender discrimination and requires women have the same access to opportunities as men? It would seem a bit obsolete now that we have realized men and women are actually the same.

Should we eliminate boys and girls sports leagues lest we continue to reinforce the archaic notion of gender difference with our youths?

Should we eliminate Mother's Day and Father's Day in favor of a more inclusive "Parent's Day"?

Should women be included in a future military draft?

Should the women's studies programs at our universities be mothballed? How can women have unique issues if they are not different?

After all, separate is not equal.

This year the left has spent a lot of time complaining about a war on women. Also this year, four states will vote on the marriage issue. It is ironic that they are concerned about a war on women in a year in which they will repeatedly argue that men and woman aren't meaningfully different, particularly when children are involved. Are we different or not?


Of course, political pressures sometimes persuade people to use contradictory logic. But for those of us free of such pressures, our ability to separate the forest from the trees and actually think about the long-term implications of our decisions is critical. Otherwise, we may find ourselves in a world where both our marriages and our bathrooms are genderless.

Joseph Backholm is executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, online at, where this column first appeared. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ) and in your email (

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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