Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Devaluing Marriage

Adam Felber offered a fantastic essay on This American Life:
This gay marriage thing is tearing my wife and me apart. Now, because of activist judges in Massachusetts and overzealous officials in San Francisco, our union is hanging on by the thinnest of threads.
Back in the simpler days of 2002, when we were planning our wedding, Jeanne and I used to coo fondly at each other about the joys that lay ahead. It wasn't that we were unsupportive of our gay friends, no. We were just looking forward to the government's validation of our relationship's specialness - a license that affirmed that the two of us had made a unique and personal eternal vow to each other. Something uniquer and specialer than any of our homosexual acquaintances could
ever even hope for.
We're all for the separation of church and state, naturally, but if the government doesn't define marriage as the sacred union between a man and a woman, who will? Are Jeanne and I expected to treasure our union solely on the basis of our deep love, personal beliefs, public vows, and the government's blessing? Sorry, Judge Pinkypants, but that's just not good enough. Not for us. We need to know that we've
got something that's only available to 90% of the population, the select and upstanding few.
Sure, some of us are criminals. Murderers, even. Some of us have committed rape, beaten children, tattooed swastikas on our bodies, abused animals, broken into houses, bilked the government out of millions of tax dollars, lied under oath, cheated on previous spouses, dishonored our fathers and mothers, failed to keep the Sabbath holy, mowed down pedestrians in our SUV's while intoxicated, coveted our
neighbors' stuff, gotten ourselves put on death row, sold military secrets to the Chinese, urinated in public places, beaten up people who looked or sounded different than us, and sold drugs in schoolyards.
But we're straight, and that means we can get married. And that's special. Or, at least it was. Jeanne and I could look around at other married couples - at least the ones that aren't currently dealing with serial infidelity, divorce, spousal abuse, or bigamy - and think to ourselves, "Yes, that's what we're striving for. That kind of
Are some gay people serious about their commitment to each other? Sure, of course, that's not the point. Let me give you an example. Jeanne and I know this couple, these two men. They've been together for years and years, longer than we have. They live on a farm in Pennsylvania and treasure their time together. They're loved by their community, have saved lives as members of the local fire department and have opened their home to youth groups from the city. They've built a life together based on love and trust. BUT - and here's my point - they're gay. They're both men. And if they're allowed to marry someday, where does that leave us, my wife and me? See what I'm saying? It'd cheapen everything we have.
And that's not a knock on gay people. No no no. America loves its gays. Look at the TV, with all those funny gay people on "Will and Grace," and "Queer as Folk," and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." They're funny! Funny, colorful people - they're nature's clowns, really. Like penguins.
And we don't allow penguins to marry, do we? No, these are dark times in my household. My wife and I look at each other with haunted, suspicious eyes, feeling like we've bought a whole bunch of shares in a stock that is about to be devalued. Suddenly, the eternal, personal vows that we swore to each other will mean very little. We'll basically become roommates who happen to wear matching rings, while
meanwhile out our window we'll see gays and penguins feeding each other wedding cake willy-nilly on our very own street corner.
That's why we need a Constitutional amendment that will protect marriage for straight people. Until we have the right to enter that sacred union, violate it, exit it, and enter it again with somebody else, again and again, regardless of what crimes we commit, until we're too old and feeble to mouth the words, "I do," - unless we have
that right and gay people don't, then there is truly nothing sacred in the United States of America.
The big question that opponents of Marriage Equality can't answer reasonably is the one that is the focus of this essay.
How do gay people marrying impact heterosexuals who also choose to marry?

Give us a reasonable answer or stop wasting our fucking time. If you can't answer that question convincingly, take your marriage defense legislation off the congressional schedule and disucss how america will help stem the tide of global warming, audit the iraqi defense approrpiations decesions, fix the non-protected pensions so many workers have, or make sure hurricane prep has been adequate this year...preferably do all of those things. at least do something. go do something useful congress. hint: gay bashing doesn't qualify.


At 6/06/2006 , Anonymous alan said...


At 6/06/2006 , Anonymous General Anna said...

The answer to your question is that gay people marrying each other messes up the power dynamic implicit in a "traditional" hetero relationship. The religious right doesn't just care about preserving heteronormativity, it also cares about reinforcing a male-dominated vision of what marraige is. And if two same-sex people are married, who is dominant and who is submissive? It screws with their model. This all relates back to "Don't Think of an Elephant" by George Lakoff, which everyone should read, and the Strict Father Morality schema in which our families and societies should be governed by an authoritative, dominating, tough, powerful male.

At 6/12/2006 , Blogger ZT said...

general anna,
i think you are right on in terms of the actual reasons why many conservatives oppose the progression of marriage. i suppose the question next turns to how to expose the fact that "pro-family" actually means
frankly i am not sure how to bring that to the fore in a pithy rejoinder.
They aren't pro-family they're ______!
let's fill in that blank.


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