On Marriage I Go With Brad Pitt

Today I’m excited to share that we have another guest post by the multi-talented Gry Tina Tinde. (Many of you will recall Tina’s first guest post, the wild and wacky adventures of A Ski Instructor to Die For.)

Tina has spent a lifetime working around the globe for the betterment of the human condition. With many years’ experience working with the UN on international development, refugee affairs, repatriation, human rights, electoral reform, women’s livelihood, gender issues and the like, she’s also been a think tank researcher and an advisor to both the Norwegian Ministry of Defense and the Council of Baltic Sea States. Currently she serves as Diversity Advisor at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC.

Tina has been working on a novel set in a UN mission in Cambodia, but every now and then she writes short stories from life experiences. Since she doesn’t have a blog, she has a standing invitation to share her work here with us.

The following is a personal piece on the serious side. Tina had been asked to write a piece for a website that encourages young women not to rush into marriage; when she submitted this piece, they apologetically said no thank you because, of all things, it was a little too positive on marriage!

Well, their loss is our gain.

Oh, and for the record, Tina HAS met Brad and Angelina in the course of the latter’s work for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She found them highly engaged and engaging, and is a big fan onscreen and off.

[Per the usual disclaimer, the views below are Tina’s alone, and not necessarily reflective of her employer.]

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by Gry Tina Tinde

Photo of wedding rings on www.adventuresinexpatland.comI’m a single woman and lately I’ve been going to marriage seminars.

Many are held  near my office in Washington, DC. I excitedly find a seat up front, take copious notes and often grab a microphone to ask questions or cheer on the presenters.

I boldly state that marriage is really important. As I am not a native English speaker and feel daunted by crowds of strangers, I stumble over words and fail to hide my corny Norwegian accent.

Sometimes I shed a tear or two due to heart-rending testimonials by speakers or members of the audience. During the breaks shy glances and nods of recognition fly across the room. Participants from across the globe hug and slap each other supportively on the back. E-mail addresses and telephone numbers are exchanged. These meetings mean the world to me.

Family and friends might be surprised by my sudden passion for marriage, as they know tying the knot has hardly been on the top of my priority list.

Except twice, when I proposed to the fathers of my two children who were born six years apart. The first dad happily agreed, but forgot that he was already married, and in a country that prohibits divorce (the Philippines). The second, whom I may have chosen for his Viking looks, gave it some thought and declined. Oh well.

Focusing on the wonder of becoming a mom and the daily toil, I felt quite comfortable being independent and defying social conventions. Marriage was, after all, an archaic institution that had kept women and not insignificant numbers of men in their place for centuries.

As I was 30 when I first gave birth, I had completed a master’s degree and had worked five years for the United Nations already. A lack of a marriage certificate was not going to stop me from holding my own beautiful babies in my arms. (I conveniently overlooked that they would one day become teenagers.)

Why then, this recent interest in marriage? A main reason is that I work as a diversity advisor in human resources in an international organization. It’s a dream job that involves attending seminars on same-sex marriage, where I admittedly tear up sometimes.

Marriage laws and practices around the world can make anyone cry, I think. I will not delve here into child and forced marriages, dowry, honor killings or widow burning, as I wish to focus on same-sex marriage in this piece. Often out of sync with gender equality and social justice, marriage laws or customs may prevent adults and children from leading happy and safe lives, and are also known to prevent international mobility (which is a human resources concern for international companies and organizations).

As I see it, a couple that wishes to get married should have the option to do so; all the while this type of formal contract exists and may bring advantages to those who sign.

At marriage seminars I learn about challenges faced by employees and employers,
which helps me support an inclusive work environment and propose policies that
are fair to everyone. As employers we know that people bring their whole self with them to work. By feeling respected for who we are, with all our differences, we have better chances of reaching our full potential as professionals. We also become more fulfilled as individuals.

But there are many groups of people who experience prejudice at work about who they are, regardless of how good their professional performance is. One issue that employers grapple with is discrimination in national legislations against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people.

Such discrimination, including regarding same-sex marriage, directly affects people’s personal and professional lives. A growing number of companies and organizations, including where I work, ensure the same partner, adoption, bereavement and other benefits to non-heterosexuals as to heterosexuals. Yet employees and employers continue to encounter national laws, insurance limitations and other practices that prevent full equality. (For further information, see Wikipedia overviews LGBT rights globally and of same-sex marriage legislation.)

Getting married and choosing one’s spouse is a human right, as stated in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights that was adopted by the UN General  Assembly in 1948:

“(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution; (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses; (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by  society and the State.”

Marriage laws favor heterosexuals in all countries except ten, as of October 2011. Advantages to being married may include: a work permit in the foreign country where your spouse was just hired; inheritance, adoption and child custody rights; and the list goes on.

We can think what we want about the institution of marriage, but as long as it exists in a country’s laws, I believe it should apply to everyone.

One of the best arguments I heard in favor of same-sex marriage came from a lawyer who spoke at a panel discussion I attended at the Aspen Institute last year. According to him it is futile to challenge same-sex marriage in court. In order to have a legal case, one needs a plaintiff who presents how he or she has been or would be hurt. One cannot find evidence that passing same-sex marriage legislation would hurt or otherwise compromise anyone, he argued.

This is why I campaign for marriage. I am thrilled that Brad Pitt supports the cause. He maintains that he and Angelina Jolie will not get hitched until everyone can, including LGBT individuals.

Tina asks:

What are your views? Do you support Brad and Angie’s marriage strike?

You can follow @TinaTinde on Twitter

[Image credit: dieraecherin, MorgueFile]


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