Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting Gay for Marriage

Here in New York, on the Friday before the city’s Gay Pride Parade, the last members of the New York State Senate who had been holding out switched teams and said they’d vote in favor of gay marriage. Joy permeated the air as people in the Big Apple celebrated: rainbows sprung from the sewers as unicorns danced in the streets and hot lesbian couples made out on every street corner. OK, it wasn’t really that great, but people marked it as a moment of great joy nonetheless. Many New Yorkers wear their progressive politics as a badge of immense pride and it really burned some of them up to have been beaten to the marriage equality glory hole by the likes of Iowa and New Hampshire.

And as it is part of the government’s responsibility to make sure all of its citizens are treated equally under the law, gay marriage is just. Consenting adults should be have the same rights and abilities to have relationships and form legal bonds with one another, no matter how objectionable others may find it. If you want someone of the same gender to be considered your lawful spouse for all legal purposes and business with the state, it would be wrong and un-American to deny you that.

But a larger issue is overlooked among the debating and celebrating, and that is this: Should the government have any right to regulate, approve or conduct marriages at all? I understand your needing a license to drive a truck, perform surgery or even sell real estate. But should you have to apply for the government’s permission to form a partnership with someone you love? (I’m still going to call gay couples partners, not because I like gays any less, but because I love the English language more. “I now pronounce you husband and husband” may be a great leap for equality, but it sounds like fingernails across a blackboard to me).

The question of defining marriage is none of the government’s business. The definition of marriage is often dictated by religious and deeply-held personal beliefs. Why throw the machinery of the state into a moral argument that can’t be won. And whether someone is married or not should not be anyone else’s business. The government should have no say over the romantic relations between its citizens. Why should married couples get tax penalties or benefits for being married? Whether you are married or not is strictly a personal matter.

Most people who get married don’t have a city clerk marry them; they go to a church or chapel most of the time. Let everyone get married on their own time and with their own money and file their marriage/gay marriage/partnership agreement with their city clerk. Their documented vows constitute a legal agreement that can be enforced in a civil court without any commentary on the morality of homosexuality or the validity of anyone’s marriage. Gays can call their unions marriages and religious fundamentalists will disagree, but so what? Why should they fight it out with our tax dollars in courts or state legislatures?

And the religious right has itself partly to thank for the gay marriage cause. I don’t think gays by and large wanted to get married until people started telling them they couldn’t. Gays and lesbians viewed traditional institutions like marriage and child-rearing as trappings of a stifling religious society that rejected them. They didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on weddings or be hassled by their parents about grandchildren. But times change, and marriage is now embraced by the gay community as a measure of their equal standing with the straight world.

And so state-by-state the U.S.A. will wage a gay marriage debate, I only wish we weren’t burning up our scarce tax dollars to do it.

1 comment:

OfTroy said...

I think the state has an interest in childrens welfare. and marriage is how they stake their claim.

marriage has always been a contract about jointly held assets.. the wife brought her dowery, the husband his ability to earn. together, they made a home for children (and provided for them)

(and for many years/countries, the church was a record keeper of many legal documents, and got involved with marriage )

I don't think marriage licencing is an issue.. gay partners might not have children (and they might) but they have assets, and legal responsiblities (real estate, leases, hospitals, benefits) and there should be ground rules for how these are managed. I would much rather the state decide than insurance companies, or landlords.