Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I have noticed over the past week or so that a good dozen of my friends on Facebook have signed on to a group stating, "I will vote No on the marriage amendment." Like many other U.S. states in recent years, Minnesota will have a measure on the ballot next year trying to codify in the State Constitution heterosexual marriage as the sole legitimate form of marriage. It's been one of the lynchpin issues of the religious right in this nation, who are hellbent on keeping the GLBTQ community oppressed, marginalized, and vilified.
While I appreciate the sentiment of the Facebook page, and articles like this one, my views on this issue are more complex, and not easily measured by a yea or nay vote.
First off, I plan to vote No on the ballot measure next year because using the Constitution to restrict people's rights is astoundingly stupid in my view.
However, here's where I diverge from the norm.
The pro-Gay marriage movement has always felt like a conservative response to a conservative attack on the GLBTQ community. One of the underlying assumptions being that once gay folks can marry like straight folks currently do, things will be better. Which is true in one sense, but not necessarily true for those who aren't, for whatever reason, interested in getting married.
And those reasons are far more diverse than many of us tend to imagine. Some people are simply players, or afraid of commitment. Some are just exploring. Some haven't healed from past relationships. I know older folks who want to be in an intimate relationship, but have no interest in going through another marriage ceremony. Some are deeply invested in polyamory, and have found ways to sustain long term relationships with multiple people.
One of the driving points behind the Gay Marriage movement has been that gay folks deserve to have the same social rights and privileges bestowed upon married straight couples. And the way I see it, gaining legal gay marriage will certainly open the door to many more people, it doesn't address some of those examples I listed above which can fall under the "long term, committed relationship" category.
There's another issue though. Marriage is a religious ceremony, and plenty of people for a variety of reasons aren't interested in doing religious ceremonies. Furthermore, while I deplore the bigotry of these conservative Judeo-Christian institutions pushing for things like marriage amendments, I feel a strange sympathy towards their general fear of being controlled by the government. The intertwined nature of marriage's current relationship with civil society is problematic when you consider desires for a separation of church and state. At least, it's problematic in my view.
It seems to me that a better course of action would be to leave marriage to the spiritual/religious sphere, where those of us who are members of said communities can choose to partake of these ceremonies as a part of our commitment to our partners.
And as such, the government's role would then be to offer civil union to all who wish to make a commitment to another, with all the financial and social rights, privileges and responsibilities that currently are tied to marriage.
This would open the door for more folks in general, remove the church and state marriage tangle, and also, I believe, would lessen the intensity of opposition from the religious right. Certainly, there are plenty of people who will argue that offering civil unions is still an "affront" to marriage, and I doubt there's anything legally that will get these folks to either stand down or change their minds. However, when the leaders of conservative church X or mosque Y aren't feeling like the government is going to come in and shut them down for not performing a marriage ceremony between two men (that's the standard fantasy), I bet some of them will move on to other issues. It's much easier right now to rally the right wing troops when amongst their worries is one of being told by the government what they can and can't do.
So, I'm not sure what to do about that Facebook group. To join or not join, that is the question.(Not a terribly serious question, but it is the one that led me to this post.) Your thoughts?