After my post about being child-free (and loving it), I’m compelled to share some thoughts on matrimony that may make me seem like even more of a crusty curmudgeon. After all the press about a certain fast food chain and its executives’ support of “biblical” marriage (whatever that really means) which disallows marriage between same-sex couples, it seems timely to do so.
Here’s the executive summary: marriage is not a sacred bond, it is a social contract and always has been. Even in “biblical” times, marriage was a binding contract to join families or tribes for a socially-agreed upon duration of time, with negotiated privileges and rights. Doesn’t that sound romantic?
I’ve thought about rooting around for scholarly links to post here, but anyone with a bit of time on their hands can do that themselves. Go to the library and check a classic book on the subject like Robin Fox’s Kinship and Marriage and educate yourself on the wacky combinations we humans have come up with over the years to create our most intimate social bonds.
With all the romanticism stripped away — and that includes the religious romanticism that people insist on overlaying — marriage can be examined with a different perspective: a purely practical one. Couples who are married have gained certain privileges and rights in regards to each others bodies, property, and means of production. That’s it in nutshell. (I suppose there could be an argument made that it also has something to do with children, but keeping it in it’s simplest terms, children could be considered property since they are pretty much legally treated as such.)
I think every practical aspect of marriage can be legally or socially granted through other means: inheritance of real property, power of attorney over assets, medical power of attorney, even sexual privileges. The reason why legal support of marriage rights in the LGBTQ community is so important, though, is two-fold:
1) denying a legal right to an individual based on that person’s race, gender, or sexual orientation is illegal under the U.S. constitution;
2) through this single legal act, a couple can wrap up all of these legal and social privileges in one, neat package.
So I totally get why marriage equality is such a big deal. I have lesbian and gay friends who are engaged to be married, who are married, or who are involved in committed relationships that may result in marriage. I’m a big fan of Dan Savage, and admire his eloquence (and irreverence) on the topic. But I kind of wish that the LGBTQ community could be leaders here, showing the rest of us a better way create the social bonds embodied in current day marriage.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been married and have been through a divorce, but I don’t see marriage as this wonderful, great thing to which all couples should aspire. Marriage can really use some improvements. Getting into one is pretty damn easy for most of us, while getting out of one is lengthy, expensive, and painful. Think about your worst break up experience. Now think of how awful it would be if you had to go to court to get rid of the person currently making your life unbearable. And that it could take years to accomplish the break up.
I have a close, loving relationship now, and we’re not married. I wish our friends, loved ones, and leaders in the LGBTQ community would say “Screw you hetero people and your hang up on a rigid definition of marriage. We’re shooting for something else, something better, and we’re going to show you how truly backward you are.”
If people choose to flip the bird to an outdated social construct does that make it better than the “separate but equal” BS that is “civil unions?” I don’t know, but I sure wish we’d give up on this ideal of marriage that is at the root of all the hubbub. We need to admit that there is nothing “sacred” or “sanctified” about it, at all. It’s just business. Business with benefits. 😉