Same-sex marriage is a no brainer for me. Of course I agree with it. So, what the rhetoric of Proposition 8 did for me was make me question marriage’s purpose and why I decided to participate.
“Back in the day” marriage was a construct to keep “bloodlines” clean and help with the perpetuation of the species (too much interbreeding equals the tribe or colony dying out). Through property rights, marriage created a “secure environment” for its participants. It was another social construct that maintained order. Marriage, in essence, maintained order. Then, sometime in the 1500’s, the proverbial “They” decided marriages needed to be attended by a priest and witnesses, making marriage “sin-saving” and blessed. At one point, love even got thrown into the mix.
Now, it’s the 21st century: where couples meet in virtual realities over the internet, where government has granted rights, from citizenship to tax deductions and inclusion of benefits, for married couples, and where love seems to have become a central aspect. Men and women both earn educations and paying jobs and can *gasp* own their own property! So, what really is the point of marriage anymore?
Benefits, of course. But there seems to be a general frowning upon marriage for convenience. For the majority of the population, marriage takes on some sort of faith-based role, whether it is seen as a sacrament like in the Catholic church, or as the ideal state for a man and a woman in Jewish tradition, or practicing a ritual such as handfasting in pagan culture, many people view marriage as a part of their faith/spirituality. But what of us who do not view marriage as part of some sort of spiritual faith? Why do we do it?
If you type into Google “reasons to get married” the top five reasons, across websites are: 1. Companionship, 2. Romance, 3. Household support, 4. Family, and 5. Financial security.
This is interesting. I have a life-long companion that I trust and love, who I know is faithful and will be. We even have a family, under one roof, together and although our finances aren’t legally tied, we share our incomes. And we aren't married.
There seems to be this misconception in our culture that if you don’t “put a ring on it” there is no security in the relationship. And, in certain cases, even when a ring is put on it, there are pre-nuptials, just in case. This says a lot about our society’s view of trust and its issues with monogamy (of course, I’m not taking into account polygamist/polyamorous/open relationship marriages - how they subvert and redefine stereotypical notions of marriage is a post for another day). One website read, “Marriage provides security that part of the couple can’t just leave.” The divorce rate in the US defies this statement.
There has also been a trend recently where people have decided not to get married until their same-sex couple friends can. Although this action has a great sentiment, and can help raise awareness, there are better actions to take. Rather than deny yourself a celebration of love and commitment (or whatever your reasons), why not take a percentage (or all) of your wedding present money and donate it to the FCKH8 campaign or Marriage Equality USA. Or, cut your $5,000 wedding budget to $1200 and donate that money. Gather donated weddings dresses and sell them at auction and donate the proceeds. The activist possibilities are endless and I feel that cancelling the wedding becomes something passive that does nothing to change the system.
Really, what this comes down to, is questioning why marriage is seen as a goal and as something life-affirming in our society. I don’t think there is a wrong reason to get married, just that we, as a society, don’t tend to put conscious thought into why we get married (and I haven’t even touched on how over-industrialized the wedding industry is!). Maybe it’s something as simple, like for Funk and I, as wanting to throw a celebration to share our love and commitment for one another with our community and maybe it’s something as complicated as spirituality and tradition. Whatever the reason, as with most values and actions in life, it’s important to know why. And should everyone be able to participate? Hell yes.