I’ve been thinking about marriage of late. This isn’t at all coincidental, as the universe appears to have done everything in its power to ensure that this is the case. In the past week:
- I visited my sister, for the first time since she got married.
- I flew to Winnipeg, partially to attend a friend’s sister’s wedding.
- I learned my dad and his partner plan to get married.
- And Proposition 8 was overturned in the USA.
That’s a substantial number of matrimonial events weighing on my mind. The last one is probably the most pertinent, as it’s the most overtly political. I mean, same-sex marriage has been legal here in Canada for a long time. But it’s good to see that it’s slowly moving forward in the USA as well. That being said, allow me to say something some may find shocking (though not, really, if you pay attention to what I’ve said in the past, in various outlets).
I don’t actually believe in marriage.
Or rather, let me clarify: I don’t believe in marriage as a path to legal recognition. As a ceremony of commitment between two (or more) people, I think there’s a lot to be said for it. I mean, I certainly feel it’s possible to have a committed relationship outside of the framework of marriage, but I’m not about to tell anyone their wanting a ceremony to mark said commitment is wrong, or bad. That would be silly.
But I don’t think the government should be involved. A lot of the discussion in the marriage debate has centred around rights–rights married couples have that unmarried ones don’t. Hospital visitations. Joint taxes. Myriad other things (I freely admit I do not know every single way couples benefit from a legally recognized marriage. But I know that in the USA there are over 1,000 benefits at the federal level). I think that, inasmuch as there is a system that grants access to these rights, it is certainly unjust to exclude queer/same-sex couples from that system, which is why I very much support the legalisation of same-sex marriage, and celebrate when it occurs in various locales.
My question, though, is simply this: why must marriage be necessary to access these benefits at all? I mean, yes, in Canada queer married couples have access to all of the same rights as straight ones. But poly relationships, for example, meet with no legal recognition.
Privileging marriage–whether same- or cross-sex–is privileging one kind of relationship above others, and above people who aren’t in relationships, but still trust each other intimately. And that is something I have a great deal of trouble with. I feel, to put it bluntly, that it’s really messed up.
So, no, I don’t support marriage. Not as a legal construct. As something emotionally meaningful to many people, certainly. And that’s not insignificant! But I don’t think it should be the path to tangible benefits, encoded into law. I’m not about to start crusading against same-sex marriage; as I said above, if it is going to have legal benefits, I support those being made available to as many people as possible.
I just feel that it’s a decidedly flawed model.