Thursday, March 28, 2013

Just going to define marriage for you

In an effort to avoid any future discussions about this, I've attempted to compile all my thoughts on the subject in this post. Maybe it's arrogant of me to think that a single blog post could effectively address every point of this issue, but I've given it my best shot.

I know, I know. If you're anything like me, you're sick to death of hearing about this crap. After writing this post, I hope I never talk about it again. Well, this is the definition of marriage as I came to understand it in my lifetime:

Marriage is a holy ceremony in which a man and a woman pledge before God to live together as husband and wife for as long as they both shall live.

Didn't see that coming, did you?

So, this week, the Supreme Court is arguing as to whether the federal government has any authority to define or legitimize marriage. Arguments have raged about whether it's acceptable for us to outright redefine this cherished traditional institution.

Many people, my father included, have said vehemently that marriage has been defined as being between and man and woman, and it's wrong to suggest we should redefine it. To this, all I can say is... Are you kidding me? We already have. Repeatedly.

The destruction of an institution:

Marriage didn't even start as a religious institution; I realize that. It was at best a business transaction between wealthy lords who owned land and wanted to arrange a partnership between their families. The way to do this was to have the lord with the daughter offer her up to the other's son, much in the same way you might have offered money, livestock, or other property as a part of the trade agreement. How romantic, huh?

Well anyway, marriage as we understand it today was a religious institution, and that's great. Two people pledging to each other before God and witnesses to stay together forever. It's beautiful. It's a shame that magic is gone now. Today, marriage isn't between the couple and God. It's between the couple and the state. Even if they marry in a church, the marriage license is a legal document that the state must declare as valid or invalid. (Come on, atheists, even you have to admit that's pretty stupid)

Still, even when utterly secularized, it's wonderful that two people would make a lifelong commitment to each other, right? Except they don't. They can get a divorce if they decide it's too hard. Divorce isn't even a last-resort kind of thing, it's commonplace. People marry knowing full well that the vows are meaningless because they can break it off whenever they like and face no ramifications. (I mean, beside the financial hardship, the scorn of the other person, and the callous destruction of their children's sense of security, love and family, but nobody really thinks about that stuff before tying the knot, so it obviously isn't that important).

It's practically a joke now. People can make up their own vows. They can skip out on whatever traditions they don't like. They can just walk down to city hall and file the paperwork without a ceremony of any kind if they want to. How can anyone even call that a marriage?

Where we drew the line:

This is one of the things that blows me away. Nobody fought the advent of divorce culture. Hardly anyone fought the secularizing of marriage, making it a legal institution. Maybe a few did, but the real backlash, the real anger and vitriolic demand for the defense of traditional marriage values didn't come until two people in a taboo relationship wanted a marriage.

The irony: they were a one-man-one-woman couple like everybody wanted. The only hiccup was, racially speaking, one looked like a photo negative of the other. One white, one black. And they wanted to get married. That's when people started getting mad. That's when rhetoric about defending the traditional values of marriage started circulating.

And so, the cycle continues. People proudly shout their intolerance to anyone who will listen, cynically calling themselves defenders of morality, values, tradition, or whatever other rationalization they can muster, all while most of the values of marriage they claim to care about fell by the wayside long ago.

Real, Traditional Marriage:

This has nothing to do with morality or values. If I take a flight to Las Vegas, find a hooker, then pay her to go to a drive-through chapel with me, nobody will care. We can mutter our way through some phony vows while blackout drunk, go consummate the union behind the dumpster of the Wendy's parking lot, and wake up early the next morning to get it annulled before I catch a flight home. Not one person, not one person, will approach me and accuse my marriage of being invalid. They may say I was a bad person who was belittling the institution of marriage, but they will acknowledge it to be a legitimate marriage, because I'm a man and the hooker was a woman.

Can we please just be honest here?

I don't think you're a bad person if you oppose gay marriage. I don't believe you hate or fear gay people. Mostly, you just try not to acknowledge their existence.

So, when you say you don't want them to redefine marriage, it's because you find it inconvenient. You don't like the idea of having to change your understanding of that word; it's simply too much to ask. You'd rather just keep things the same and let the gays suffer in silence like they used to.


If you acknowledge that gay people have been denied legal rights in this country because they were unable to enter into a legal marriage, if you acknowledge that civil unions were made to appease rather than legitimize gay people in the eyes of the law and society, and if you further acknowledge that people in many parts of the country (especially teenagers) are at risk of verbal and physical violence from random strangers simply from the suspicion of them being gay, then you might have to take a look in the mirror and acknowledge that you knew it was happening all along, and you did nothing. Your fellow human beings were - are - suffering, and you turned a blind eye to it because doing anything about it was inconvenient for you.

Calling for a Return to Traditional Values:

You know what? In spite of everything, I still believe marriage is traditionally defined as between a man and a woman. You know what else? I believe in my values of compassion, patience, understanding, and forgiveness. I believe no one should be made to feel like an unwanted outsider because of their sexuality. I further believe that some things are a lot more important than how we define a word.

So, can we please acknowledge that gay people are a naturally occurring element of the human race, and as human beings, they deserve better from us than begrudging tolerance and looks of disgust? This was never going to be an overnight cultural shift, but I like to think it was inevitable, and the faster we get through it, the sooner we can stop hearing about it.

While We're At It...

Ideally, we'd abolish all forms of legal marriage. I don't care who you're married to, or if you're even married at all. The fact that your declared relationship status affects your taxes, benefits, and other legal rights in the first place is a horrible and outdated idea that needs to be phased out as soon as possible.

Even so, if we could just acknowledge gay marriages legally before doing away with legal marriage, it would at least make the statement that the government considers gay people completely equal under the law, and that's all anybody is fighting for here.

Middle Ground?

I'm sorry to the middle-of-the-road folks, but civil unions weren't good enough, because even if they really did grant equal protection under the law, they're still a proviso on traditional unions. It makes the statement that straight people get married, but gay people get "married." It's alienating, dehumanizing, and it quietly encourages discrimination.

To really make progress in ending that discrimination, we can't given an inch to those who would discriminate. To properly call gay people equals, for it to really mean anything, we have to let them have the word marriage too.

Redefining a Word?

I'm sorry to say it, but at the end of the day, it's just a word. Like I said, some things are more important. In a traditional marriage, you love your spouse, you'll do anything for them, you maybe want to raise a family with them or already have, you stick it out in sickness and health, through good times and bad; you're committed to them for life no matter what. Those are the important things. It doesn't matter what it's called at that point; you know that commitment is real.

But no matter what you choose to call that beautiful commitment you made to each other, if a gay couple wants to make the same sort of commitment to each other, you should have enough respect for them as human beings to call it the same thing.

Marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman? Stop clinging to that distinction, because whether you like to admit it or not, it's hurting people.

Some things are more important.


Alright, I have little illusion that I'll be convincing many people with this post. If the human mind's capacity to rationalize could be defused with logical argument, gay marriage wouldn't be a debate to begin with. Also, we probably wouldn't be embroiled in several wars overseas, but that's another discussion entirely.

I mostly just hope that if I'm ever drawn into a discussion about gay marriage, I can just link the person to this post and ask them to please leave me alone so I can go back to enjoying my sandwich, or whatever I was engaged in prior to them deciding to spoil my day with yet another fruitless argument.

Seriously, if I had my way, this blog would be exclusively about fiction writing, web comics and video games, but other people keep screwing that up for me.

Okay, I'm done ranting. Thanks for sitting through it. I love you all (even the stupid ones). Goodnight, my fair blogosphere.

1 comment:

  1. You don't need to convince me Dan. I agree with what you say almost entirely. I say almost entirely because I can't be bothered to read it all again to make sure.
    And anyway, when I think about it, why should gay people be spared the misery of marriage? Only half joking here. :-)
    Great post by the way.