AKIE BERMISS: My position on same-sex marriage has — I’m proud to say — been the same for over 20 years. Even an eight year-old armed with basic 2nd Grade logic can tell you that if marriage is a taken alone as a state of legality of two persons AND that if two persons of the same gender being together isn’t illegal THAT same-sex marriage is a no-brainer as far as legality goes. Sure, there are some messy issues where religious faiths are concerned but, even being brought up Baptist I never understood why faithful people have so little strength of character that they feel people doing things differently from them is an assault on their beliefs. I never felt that two men getting married in my country was somehow a denigration of the institution of marriage. After all, marriage is not simply a matter of religious belief, but also legal status. Some people go in for both. Some do not. And there can be no question, to my mind, in a country founded on liberty and intellectual freedom (among other things) as to whether or not same-sex marriage should be legal. And, as such, I agree that it is quite possibly the defining civil rights legacy of the current era.
That said, there are times when even an honest and noble platform can be taken too far.
As in the recent petition on Change.org to have Bert and Ernie — yes! of Bert and Ernie — get officially married on Sesame Street. Like I said, no question whether same-sex marriage rights should be legal, should be championed, and are worth supporting. But why force Bert and Ernie into rolls that aren’t really theirs? Yes — through the years I too have made hay over the fact that they are clearly to men who live, work, eat, and sometimes seem to bath together. And yes they sleep in the same room (but different beds, if I’m recalling properly). And yes their dynamic is sometimes a bit difficult to peg as just heterosexual best friends. Agreed, agreed, agreed. But I think I’d have to draw the line with suddenly super-imposing sexuality on Bert and Ernie. They occupy a very peculiar place in our cultural conscience and I actually think it is much more supportive for them to remain in that sort of nebulous place. I don’t recall Bert or Ernie going out on dates, or singing love songs, or anything that implies mature emotional desires. Bert collects things. He’s a nerd and stickler and kind of a jerk. Ernie wants to go to the moon! Their desires are perfectly asexual. They could even be described as pre-sexual.
As per the part of the petition that asks for Sesame Street to have a transgender muppet, I’d like to see how they’d differentiate that muppet from host of gender-ambiguous muppets on the show. While there are some characters that I think are decidedly male-ish — Oscar the Grouch comes to mind — many of them are harder to really come down on. Elmo? We call him “he”, but Elmo could easily be a little boy or girl. Big Bird? Is Big Bird a she? I always thought so, but she could also be a large, yellow he, as well. I guess the pronouns probably give things away, but I think petitioning Sesame Street to be more sex/gender-conscious is a waste of resources. You are unlikely to find a better source of principles of open-minded acceptance and universal friendship than on Sesame Street.
It does occur to me, though, that there are human actors on Sesame Street and they present a good opportunity to demonstrate same-sex relationships and gender flexibility. I think that’s a much better way of going about it than trying to force a love-life and sexual preference/appetite on Bert and Ernie.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Like a set of parents determined to inflict a chocolate fountain on helpless guests, those who share my view that same-sex marriage should be the law of the land have nevertheless gone too far by proposing that Bert and Ernie marry. I feel this way not because I oppose their union, or because I think it is silly for puppets to marry.
I object because no one has asked them if they even want to.
July 1969 was the moment when America truly learned what was possible- it is the moment Bert and Ernie appeared before a test audience in a Sesame Street pilot. The response, as you’d expect, was extraordinary. In the following decades, the couple has lived together, experienced any number of hijinks, and entertained millions of children and adults.
Why would they want to alter things now?
The two complement each other perfectly, but do they really have the shared interests one looks for in a marriage? Ernie’s never displayed the slightest interest in Doing the Pigeon, Bert’s signature dance. Meanwhile, Bert’s need for cleanliness seems tailor-made to make bath time, and any singing it might inspire toward a rubber ducky, problematic at best.
I am all for Bert and Ernie tying the knot if the two of them wish. But after 42 years together, I don’t think it is up to us to force matrimony upon them, simply to prove a political point. Same-sex marriage, like any other kind of marriage, should be entered into for the right reasons.