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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 21, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 51
Confessions of a marriage doubter
Arts & Entertainment
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Confessions of a marriage doubter

There's so much more to LGBT rights. Why all the fuss about marriage?

by Abby Dees - SGN Contributing Writer

I've been writing about marriage a lot lately, which seems weird to me because even up until my own wedding in 2008, I had mixed feelings about the massive focus on marriage equality over the last decade. I mean, when I came out in... well, a different century, we weren't talking much about marriage as a major goal. We talked about rights, dammit. All of them. Marriage too, I guess, but there was some odd mix in our collective Queer psyche that both pooh-poohed marriage for aping heterosexual norms (we talked this way back then) and thought that achieving marriage equality was about as likely as changing the word 'God' to 'Goddess' on our money. There were more important things to fight for, anyway.

We could enumerate our demands like we could count Madonna hits on our fingers: an end to workplace discrimination, sodomy laws, and Gay bashing; access to hospital visitation and adoption; the right not to be declared an unfit parent just because you were Gay or Lesbian; positive representation in the media; recognition of binational couples, and the right to political asylum based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The closest we got to marriage was domestic partnership, which we fought for and won in many places.

All of these things were so practical and necessary and all are still pressing issues somewhere, even if we've moved forward in other places. We wanted then, and now, to live our lives like anyone else without running headfirst into stupidity, ignorance, or violence.

Marriage, though, was different.

Marriage had baggage. If you were someone's wife not long ago - and still today in some cultures - you were his property. Marriage in history was about securing money, property, and power. And for me, chronically single and compelled to chase after indecisive idiots throughout most of my 20s and 30s, marriage didn't have a thing to do with my freedom as a Lesbian. If you asked me in 2000 what the biggest issue facing our community was, I'd have said employment discrimination. Domestic partnership was important too, of course, and I was happy, single as I typically was, to fight for it. It made good, practical sense if you were lucky enough to hook up with a normal person.

THE DIFFERENCE IS DIGNITY

What's happened now that I'm beating the drum for marriage equality? Did I finally drink the Kool-Aid? Am I a patriarchy-and-heterosexuality-blinded zombie? No, and I still don't like to be called anyone's wife. I just got to the core of the thing - namely, that the difference between marriage and domestic partnership, aside from the fact that 'domestic partnership' will always look better on an administrative form than it will embossed in fancy curlicues, is a sense of dignity.

If we had civil unions under the law for everyone, and marriage were only a spiritual contract, then I'd be all over the domestic-partnership thing. But that's not the way our culture does it. Marriage is the brass ring of arrangements. The courts have held it to be the bedrock relationship of our society since the Magna Carta. (In fact, the 1879 Supreme Court case that upheld bans on polygamy didn't mention morality - instead, it spoke about protecting the democratic system. If a man could have a dozen wives, he essentially became a despot.) In its most basic form, everyone knows, more or less, what you mean when you say, 'We're married.' Likewise, everyone understands why you sometimes need a divorce, but I once had to explain to someone, repeatedly, why she needed to dissolve her domestic partnership when the relationship tanked.

As the right wing reminds us, marriage is special and important - which is why we're fighting so hard for it. Marriage equality nationwide could happen as soon as 2013. It could move us dramatically closer to legal equality in all realms, regardless if we're single, married, or otherwise arranged.

I get why some people don't give a toss about conventional marriage. I'll fight for their rights too. But most of us, LGBT or not, and me too, are inevitably drawn back to our cultural roots. It can be a beautiful thing as long as we don't get all zombiefied about it.

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