A crucial point of the
crazy-as-hell-shit-storm-logic rhetoric against gender-neutral marriage license presents the idea of marriage-regardless-of-sex as a notion that’s “radical.” Marriage, so the argument goes, was a divinely inspired institution that existed in a type of prelapsarian utopia before the insidious threat of no-fault divorce and homosexuality filtered into various cultural and political vessels, and performed a type of wicked usurpation on all that is holy and moral. The theology of mathematical marriage (marriage = 1 man + 1 woman) insist that the vestiges of the Old Testament holiness can only be preserved on God’s earth once pagan-like rituals are completed eviscerated from the world. (This somehow ignores assimilated pagan rituals that serve as the foundation for our various holidays, but I digress.) Somehow, by allowing gay and lesbian couples into the institution of marriage, marriage will be changed, society will transform, and individuals and their other-sex spouse will face cumulating tumult because two men or two women tied the knot.
Except, straight people have spent years and years and years and years and years changing marriage to better suit their socio-cultural vicissitudes. But there is one things that opponents of same-sex marriage do get right: marriage does change people. Marriage, regardless of the genital combination, is radical, and transformative. And it’s the type of radical transformation that makes individuals stronger as a couple, couples stronger to lead families, families stronger to act within communities, communities stronger to work within society, and society stronger to better the future. Am I say that a universal mandate allowing gay and lesbian couples will end poverty, murder, genocide, and all the other challenges humanity faces? No, of course not. That would be ridiculous. However, I am saying that strengthening relationships and family structures through the vehicle of marriage does increase one’s health, happiness, and overall ability to function within our society.
To avoid belaboring the point of marriage’s transformative powers, I will cite two profoundly beautiful quotes, one from a movie, and one from a conservative politician, that shed light on the way marriage promotes personal evolution, and helps eliminate ego-centrical thinking:
“I don’t believe in marriage. I think at worst it’s a hostile political act, a way for small-minded men to keep women in the house and out of the way, wrapped up in the guise of tradition and conservative religious nonsense. At best, it’s a happy delusion - these two people who truly love each other and have no idea how truly miserable they’re about to make each other. But, but, when two people know that, and they decide with eyes wide open to face each other and get married anyway, then I don’t think it’s conservative or delusional. I think it’s radical and courageous and very romantic.”
“There’s something special about marriage. It’s not about religion. It’s not about morality. It’s about commitment. When you stand up there, in front of your friends and your family, in front of the world, whether it’s in a church or anywhere else, what you’re doing really means something. Pledging yourself to another means doing something brave and important. You are making a commitment. You are publicly saying: it’s not just about ‘me, me, me’ anymore. It is about we: together, the two of us, through thick and thin. That really matters. And by the way, it means something whether you’re a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and another man.”
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron understands it, and a nascent movement among American Republicans who support marriage-equality is rising. The argument for same-sex marriage rights boils down to two ideological camps. The left often, correctly, paints gay rights as the civil rights struggle of modernity. The right (and a few ambivalent Democrats) has begun to discuss the right to marry as independent of the government. “The government has no right telling one who they can and can’t marry” goes the rhetoric. While I often can ignore the vehicles necessary to reach the final destination, I do find the libertarian argument dehumanizes gay and lesbian couples and frankly misses the point.
I think the argument for marriage equality should be made a human issue. It is necessary to discuss the benefits that gay and lesbian couples are excluded from due to the sexist nature of opposite-gender marriage laws. But tax codes, pension, and property rights lack the real momentum of speaking to the core of human decency. Opposition for gay couples marrying begins to decline once someone knows a gay or lesbian person and/or couple. And friends and family of gay and lesbian couples realize the importance and gravity of their friends’ relationships. It may sound traditional to say, but marriage, in many ways, the cementing of a relationship. It’s a promise to stick it out through thick and thin.
And it’s a promise rooted in feminist victory. The idea that same-sex marriage weakens man-and-woman marriage is ridiculously false on many levels. First, states who have ratified gender-neutral marriage laws have the lowest divorce rates in the country. Second, gender-neutral marriage is the apotheosis of the promise originally intended in autonomous opposite-gender marriages. By allowing women to have access to the same rights as men in marriage laws, egalitarian opposite-gender marriages paved the way for gender-neutral marriage laws. Opposition to same-sex marriage should be called what it really is: sexism.
To conclude, I will have to suspend any facade of academia. Marriage is important because it acts as a social zone of proximal development. All people carry their own set of flaws and qualities that may be the most desirable. But long-term loving relationships (the type that often end up in marriage when allowed) are transformative because they allow the tools necessary for you and your partner to be better people for each other. And that’s something that should be universally praised and celebrated. Your political stripes should not determine your understanding of human decency, connection, and sense of community.
Also, weddings are really fucking fun!
*I’m probably not going to keep this promise.