This morning the 9th Circuit Court overturned Prop 8, the proposition that outlawed gay marriage in California. There was one dissenting opinion from Judge Randy Smith. He argued that traditional marriage can be harmed by changing the definition to include same-sex couples. I’d like to argue the opposite: opposing gay marriage harms the sanctity of traditional marriage.
When I was dating women, marriage was never a possibility. To take the relationship to the next level was to move in together, and in typical lesbian fashion that happened pretty quickly. We didn’t give any thought to whether we wanted to be together for all of eternity because we’d known since the time we came out of the closet that that wasn’t an option. If being queer meant being swallowed in a lake of fire, so be it. We’d accepted it.
Now I’m in an entirely hetero-normative relationship. One man, one woman. And guess what? I still don’t think about marriage. I know that it’s an option, but I don’t fantasize about wedding gowns and bridal showers like some of my straight friends do. To them, marriage has always been the measure of love, because that’s what people do when they love each other. To prove they love each other. But it is hard to believe in the sanctity of marriage when you’ve been in love, and done just fine without it.
But that’s a young person’s game. What every queer wants, even a Godless heathen like myself, is equal rights. The right to leave our pension to our partner, the right to visit them in the hospital, the right to add them to our health insurance, the right to file jointly on our taxes, all of the rights that straight couples get when they sign that piece of paper. Most Americans, even those who support the sanctity-of-marriage argument, recognize this as an injustice that should be rectified. Arguing against giving queer couples the same rights as married couples is a losing argument. Too many people saw If These Walls Could Talk II I suppose, or they have a gay friend, or they get their hair cut by a friendly-but-opinionated gay stylist. Over and over statistics show that the younger generation has no problem with gay people, thinks they aren’t going to stop being gay just because you guilt them, and believes they deserve equal rights.
Enter civil unions. Civil unions seem like the perfect compromise to keep our grubby, queer, little hands off your precious wedding rings. But it seems obvious to me that civil unions are only going to further destroy the sanctity of marriage. Let me tell you why.
Sally Straight says, “I Can’t Wait
To Get Me One of Those Civil Unions!”
They say that marriage is forever, and I’m told that’s a long time. An awful long time. Most marriages don’t work out. Got my own parents to prove that, and most of my friends’ parents too. I don’t want to turn out like that. I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep and I don’t want to be forced to stay with someone even though we’ve grown apart.
On the other hand, I love my man very much. I know that in the near future I’m not going anywhere, and I don’t need a piece of paper to know he feels the same way about me. We live together and share all the bills, and behave like grown-ups other than this whole not-being-married thing. I want him to be able to visit me in the hospital and I’d sure like to get in on that health insurance he gets from his job.
If marriage is sacred, we don’t want all that eternity mess. But what about a civil union? Well that’s not sacred, right? Isn’t that the whole point, that it gives the same rights as marriage without actually being a marriage? Well in that case, we’d just love to get a civil partnership. How long before straight couples start demanding the right to civil unions too? How long before a straight couple goes to the courts demanding the right to a civil union? How long before it becomes accepted for everyone to get civil unions, accept for some old-fashioned religious folks? I see no legal reason to stop this from occurring because civil unions by their definition don’t have the sanctity of marriage. And I can’t see how, over time, there won’t be straight couples that want the same legal rights without the promise of eternity.
Honestly, I would be fine with this scenario taking shape. The people who wouldn’t like it so much are the very people who are opposed to stopping gay marriage in the first place. By fighting gay marriage, they are creating a tier-system. Marriage can still be the high-end goal, reserved for those who honest-to-golly want to swear undying love. And maybe some of their grand-kids will go for that. More likely, the next generations will agree that a civil union is a better fit for their complicated, heterosexual relationship. They will not have any moral problem having sex out of wedlock (I guarantee this, as they seem to have no problem with it right now) and the civil union will give everyone the rights that married people have.
The only way to avoid this future, is to make marriage a right for all. If marriage had been a possibility, my queer friends and I would have had the same pressure to marry that straight couples have always gotten. If you’re really serious, why don’t you tie the knot, they’d say. Those who continued to co-habitate would be seen as fooling-around, indecisive. Queer couples would begin to question the love of their partner, if they aren’t willing to make the big commitment. All that marriage stuff would return to the status quo.
When Judge Randy Smith today argued against overturning Prop 8, he said that gay people aren’t the same as straight people because procreation is one of the purposes of marriage. I don’t disagree with Judge Smith. In fact, I’d like him to take that one step further. When you get past the legal rights (which civil unions offer) and the religious argument (which isn’t an issue for me personally) procreation is the only purpose for marriage. Raising a child is a huge responsibility and it is the sole reason I can imagine one would promise to stay with the same person forever. Everyone knows that many unhappily married couples stay together “for the kids.” And everyone knows that many teen marriages are the result of of an accidental pregnancy. In my fantasy world, anyone can get the legal benefits of a civil union, and anyone who has a child is automatically married. Knocked up? Congratulations, when’s the wedding?
Of course, we all know that’s not going to happen. Because to folks who do care about marriage, it’s really about being given permission to do the nasty. It’s about getting the seal of approval from G-O-D. And they don’t want to give us yucky queers that seal of approval, and they’re determined to destroy marriage to keep it from us.