Why I'm Not Getting Gay Married (redux)

May 16, 2008

I'm starting to see the appeal of this whole blogging thing. It was so neat to get a few great comments about my post, and now it's great to be able to respond. It's like having a conversation with all of the coolest people you know AND all the coolest people THEY know. Forgive me if I run a little long, but I want to respond to what was said:

In response to my Gay Marriage comments, erg wrote, passionately:

My sister and her partner have a kid. They don't want to get married, but they have to carry around Power of Attorney paperwork at all times. This is one of the best things ever to happen because we *CAN*. Whether one chooses to excercise their choices, or has issues with the status quo is a whole 'nother ball of wax. We can. We will. And we will not be ashamed, and no one can take what we build together away from us, the way they could yesterday.

I restate my agreement with this. When I said in my original post that I "celebrate" this decision, I meant it. As a purely practical matter, it would be sad indeed to deprive or begrudge anyone the things they need to take care of their families. I've worked for the passage of equal marriage in other states, played (and wept) at a few gay weddings, and am happy to see people getting what they need from the government that's supposed to serve them.

But I was writing about my own personal choice and my reasons for it. We have no kids. We're both U.S. citizens. A fight over our assets if one of us died would pretty-much resemble that cartoon where the two starving animals fight over the pea. imtboo felt that there was some resentment in my post, due to the way the government has handled this issue in the past. She wrote:

I can totally get the feeling of you forbid me to do this thing for so long and now everyone is jumping up and down over something that should have been possible for all people always.

I didn't intend to throw a turd in anyone's punch-bowl. By all means, people should jump up and down!

My objection was not that this should have happened sooner or come with an apology (although it should have). I simply think it's important in times of change--even positive change--to reflect on what's lost as well as what's gained.

California is, what, the third largest economy in the world? This decision is a major step toward toward this society's full acceptance of gay people. The bad news? This decision is a major step toward THIS society's full acceptance of gay people.

If you detected any resentment, I think it's because I'm not quite ready to be fully accepted by this society. Maybe I've just taken too many Women's Studies classes, but if you spend any time a gay man trying to understand homophobia and its causes, you start to develop a pretty comprehensive list of the messed up ways we deal with gender, with property, with child-care, etc, etc. It's hard to ignore all of that once it's set in.

The right-wingers object to gay marriage on the grounds that we're going to change what marriage means and, instead of saying "Yep, you got that right, and it's about time", we campaigned for it by saying "No, no, no, we'd never do that. We're just like you."

Here's a loose analogy: It's like the jocks who've picked on the nerd for years suddenly wanting to include him. The nerd, having spent years carefully cataloging the jocks' failings from afar, having crafted an armor made mostly of sour grapes and partly of his own special way of doing things and made a mantra of "I'd never hang out with those guys anyway", is likely to view those jocks with some suspicion and confusion. Self-respect would dictate that he at least hesitate a moment and think about what may change before he hops into their convertible and rides off to harass strippers.

When I wrote my post, I actually wondered what your reaction would be, imtboo. Though we've never met in person and only just now met online, I know through our mutual friend blackwingedboy that you're recently married. I wondered how my "Marriage=Broken down old jalopy" idea would go over with the newlyweds.

I imagine that your wedding was a joyous occasion. As a musician, I've been to many, many weddings. And, despite my cynicism and skepticism about the whole idea, I'm very often moved by the celebration. I even gave the speech at blackwingedboy's wedding and we see how well that turned out.

Would your wedding have been less joyous if it had had nothing to do with the state of Washington? If, some other time, you had sent some papers down to the courthouse and applied for a Civil Partnership Agreement between the two of you that stated your financial and contractual obligations to one another in the eyes of the state of Washington, then had your ceremony independently of that, wouldn't your wedding have been just as awesome?

Honestly, probably not. There IS something special having the ceremony be a conclave--a gathering of the civil, the religious, the familial, and the social elements of your life in one place and having them all give their blessing (one hopes). It's something, I suppose, that sacred, the social, and the society all agree that this union is Good.

Which brings me to nezumiko, whose balanced, thoughtful post was really eye-opening.

She said, in part:

...marriage, as flawed and archaic a thing as it is, with roots in the notion that the female was the property of the male, is also a deeply ingrained cultural institution that carries far more meaning than the legal rights and responsibilities the state attaches to it. I want to go to that ceremony for you and Cody, and to think of you as married, not because I give two figs what the State of California thinks, but because of the symbol there. The archetype. I want to believe in the romance of a life partnership.

This is the best explanation I've ever seen for Gay Marriage. I know that there are a lot of practical reasons for Gay Marriage, but the truth is that none of those practical reasons justifies the word Marriage. We want the word Marriage not because of some vague "separate but equal" concerns, but because we DO want acceptance. A lot of people who debate this subject insist that they don't want acceptance, just equality, but still won't stop at Civil Unions.

This is the first time I've heard anyone go beyond "acceptance" and into something deeper and older. nezumiko, I think you're talking about a primal need to participate fully in an ancient ritual of union that was shared by our ancestors. It's not about whether the state of California accepts us or whether the U.S. accepts us, but whether we can perform those old rituals and customs in the sight of God, Family, AND Country the way people have done throughout history.

As progressive or rebellious or radical as we may (or may not) be, we're all drawn by the appeal of deep tradition, even if we intellectually know that tradition to be archaic and sullied by some bad history. I think that's understandable.

I've certainly been given a lot to think about. I see the appeal of Marriage in a larger context now and don't see it as simply giving in to society's norms. But I still think it's important for to resist or at least critically examine the appeal of tradition. The appeal of tradition has gotten us into a lot of messes over the years, after all. So I'm still not getting Gay Married.

Sigh. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

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