29 October 2008

The 'Rite' of Marriage vs. the 'Right' of Marriage

Beginning June 17th, county clerks in California began issuing marriage licenses and performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, thanks to the recent California Supreme Court ruling that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage, making California the second state in the US where marriage is legally recognized for same sex couples. In addition, the California Supreme Court refused requests to stay the decision pending the outcome of the November elections, specifically, before the voters cast their ballots for or against Prop 8. This is important to me for a number of reasons:
  • I am a native Californian, and it makes me feel proud that my home state is taking steps to eradicate discrimination against g/l/b/t/q people.
  • California is a trend setting state. By this I mean that historically speaking, what happens in California in regards to civil law tends to have a far-reaching impact; it spreads across the rest of the United States, not necessarily quickly, but consistently, and occassionally with the help of the United States Supreme Court.
  • Thanks to dubious efforts by religious conservative groups, California voters are going to the polls to vote on a proposed amendment to the constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman only. This is happening in Florida and Arizona, as well. Because the Supreme Court refused to stay their decision, Californians will have the opportunity to see the results of same-sex marriage (or as I like to call it - marriage - calling it anything other than what it is contributes to the notion that it isn't equality for a basic civil right we are asking for, but a special right or privilege in addition to the rights we already have, and that is a lie) and recognize that, just like Massachussetts has shown, marriage equality will have absolutely no negative impact on society. In fact, the positive economic impact on the state of California is expected to exceed 600 million dollars over the course of the next 3 years.
  • Anyone from any state can get married in California, and perhaps as a result, Massachussetts took steps to open their doors to out of state couples as well. Starting in a couple of weeks, Connecticutt will be the third state to practice true Marriage Equality. It might not be recognized in their own state, but lack of current state recognition does not make the marriage any less meaningful or valid in the eyes of the couple, their friends and family, or to God, for that matter.

I admit that I have not always been much of a marriage equality activist in my lifetime. It was never really that important to me, as I never thought I would truly want to be with someone for the rest of my life. My view of relationships was this - people come into your life for a variety of reasons, stay awhile and then leave when there is nothing more you have to offer each other. Why would you want to muddy the water with marriage, making it more of a hassle to make a clean break? This is how I used to think, until I met Angie, and we started dating. Now, two years later, we own a house together, we share our lives together - and suddenly I find myself looking at her sometimes and thinking things like 'This is the woman I'm going to be with for the rest of my life' and 'What would happen to her if something bad happened to me?' I imagine this is how many people who are considering marriage think - gay or straight. I want her to be protected, the same way I want to be protected. When we bought our house, we made the decision to go ahead and have a lawyer draw up our wills, powers of attorney for healthcare and general decisions, etc...$1200 for some documents that provide us about 1/4 of the rights and protections a straight couple gets just as soon as they sign on the dotted line of their $35 marriage license. When I forked over that money, I recognized what g/l/b/t/q people have been fighting for...equal protection under the law...and I deserve it just as much as my straight counterparts. I'm going to marry Angie next year. We are planning a religious ceremony (the 'Rite' of Holy Matrimony) in Georgia through the United Church of Christ, which is open and affirming, and recognizes marriage equality, even thought the state does not. Then we plan to exercise our Constitutionally guaranteed, basic, fundamental civil 'Right' to Marriage by having a civil ceremony in one of the states that respects our right to marry. Once again, lack of recognition on my state's part does not make my marriage any less meaningful or valid to me or to Angie, and we feel confident that it will be recognized in all states in our lifetime.


John Bisceglia said...

I sincerely hope PROP 8 fails miserably.

BUT - if it DOES passes, is everyone prepared to spend another ba-zillion dollars on PR and possibly wait 20-30 years to "win" equality in CA?

AND - if it does NOT pass, which state will we focus on next so we can spend another ba-zillion dollars to purchase civil rights?

I know I am virtually alone here (except for Charles Merrill and his partner), but I think all of you are insane. Truly crazy....one step away from writing-on-the-wall-with-your-feces crazy.

Because if ALL of us truly believed we WERE equal, we would not be so patient as tax-payers and U.S. citizens. We'd simply KNOW we ARE equal, and refuse to pay into a system that not only denies our familes civil marriage but doesn't even acknowledge our existence (wait for the 2010 census).

I'm 43, and I will NOT wait until I'm 73 for fair and equal treatment. It's OK for the country at large to be ignorant, bigoted, mid-guided, and mid-informed. But that's not my fault. So until people GROW UP and show my family the same "civil" respect heterosexually-identified families are given, I owe this country and the IRS nothing.

How many times do I need to say this?


Donna said...

Excellent essay on the Right to Marry. You have stated very succintly why we here in Ca are fighting so hard to defeat Prop 8. Tis true this apple doesn't fall far from her aunties tree.