If We Can’t Share Marriage, Why Do We Get Marriage at All?

If it’s so awful that half of you get divorced, why won’t you just let us try it too?

I had to delete a Facebook friend. This wasn’t someone I particularly cared about, but it was someone who I thought was better than his recent posts would suggest. Even though this guy, John, was the weird kid in school who kept his head buried in a book for most of junior high, I would have defended him, and I did when other kids called him nerdy or awkward.

I’m sad to say that I can no longer defend John because he has no intention of defending me or my right to marry the person I love regardless of gender. Earlier this week, John posted this article. With a title like “I Was Wrong About Marriage,” I was under the impression that John, a Mormon, had come around, like much of the country after Obama came out of the I-actually-like-the-gays closet. But, as it turns out, I was wrong about John, and he is still wrong about marriage.

In that lovely link, I found a very well-organized argument for why the gays are too morally bankrupt to provide to the family system in a healthy way. According to this article, letting gays get married would be a crime not against humanity, but against humanity’s children. Can you imagine innocent kids growing up in a household that embraces equal love and compassion for all? It’s disgusting.

All sarcasm aside, I take a deep breath and remind myself that in a country that promotes freedom of speech, it is important for John to be able to post that article and not be punished by law for being an unforgivable bigot. When I think of what bothers me most about John’s post, it’s the same thing that bothers me about this entire debate. The talking points used to defend this bigotry are based purely in hate and bad information.

I could debate every argument used to defend not allowing gay marriage, but it’s starting to feel like that would be a waste of my time. I can only scream the gays won’t kill the notion of the family or the world will not implode if Sally has two moms so many times. It feels like the folks who have put their foot down about gay marriage have no interest in seeing things through any other lens. In their eyes, there isn’t even room to find a common middle ground.

So is there a common middle ground on this issue? I can think of plenty, but the country doesn’t seem to see it this way. For the pro-gay marriage side, the phrase “civil union” isn’t good enough for the gays, and for the anti-gay marriage side, the word “marriage” is too good for the gays.

The best way to solve this issue reminds me of how my mother used to solve sisterly disputes. Let’s say that we both wanted to claim ownership of the same toy. Neither of us can find a way to share this toy. Instead of continuing to let us bicker over the toy, mom steps in and says, “If you can’t share it, then neither of you get to have the toy.” She promptly takes the toy away, hiding it in a closet somewhere, and now we must find the same fun in other toys.

If we can’t find a way to share marriage, perhaps it’s time to take marriage away from everyone. Let’s examine the benefits we get from marriage and reassign them to our other toys, our other legal unions. The way we are fighting about this, no one deserves marriage as anti gay-marriage advocates want to define it — but good luck trying to take marriage away from them.


8 thoughts on “If We Can’t Share Marriage, Why Do We Get Marriage at All?

  1. I understand where you’re going with this (I’ve read the French article myself, and it really steams my broccoli), but I think you might be making the same assumption that your opponent is. Marriage isn’t something that’s shared, really. When you share something, you cannot have as much of that thing as you did before. You have to sacrifice something. On the other hand, one person getting married doesn’t exclude someone else from getting married. Marriage isn’t something that can be shared because no one really “owns” it, and even if somehow they did, there’s plenty of marriage to go around.

    It’s important to make this distinction because it’s one that I see made in LGBT rights activism all the time: My marriage doesn’t affect your marriage. It’s a powerful point and one I think that needs to be consistent across the movement. Marriage isn’t zero-sum.

    Just some thoughts I thought should be made clear, even though I do think I understand your overall point with this piece.

  2. I think most people are on the middle ground, but its difficult. I’m not pro gay marriage. If its on a ballot before me to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, I’ll vote for that (though I think that definition is incomplete). That’s pretty much the extent of it though. I don’t associate with large anti-gay marriage crowds. I don’t attend rallys. I don’t think homosexuals harm children. I’m not about to rally people into thinking its an important cause, because ultimately I don’t think it is. I think marriage is an important cause, but gay marriage isn’t the battle ground and moreover I don’t think its about a battle. I think its about rebuilding.

    I suppose to be it concisely (though I’m exploring the definition and history of marriage on my blog), marriage is not about romantic love. Marriage is about the responsibility heterosexuals have to their biological children. It is about refraining from procreative activity until marriage so that you make a deliberate decision as to who the father of your children will be for their life. It is about reducing the number of single parent families who are trying to do a two person job. Its about reducing the number of kids in fostercare. Certainly there are limitations which is why we have fostercare and adoption. These institutions give kids who were conceived in less than ideal circumstances a chance to be in a stabler family. The more we see children as commodities or burdens, the more harm we do to children. If a convent can adequately run an orphanage, or a home for sick and dying children (I have an aquaintence who ran a home for abandoned and dying girls in China. She organized a group of women to take these abandoned and dying children off the streets so that they could be loved and cared for during their short life.), than I don’t see the harm in homosexual couples raising children.

    • The issue here is that marriage IS about romantic love for some people. Marriage is about SO MAN YTHINGS! It is cementing a connection you share with someone in legal terms, it is allowing your immigrant partner to join you in citizenship and build a family with you, it is getting the benefits granted to all when you merge with another human being in your life journey. That all probably seems really inconsequential when you can run to the nearest courthouse and get those things with a few signatures and a witness.
      I suppose the marriage I’m talking about isn’t about romantic love. It’s about the benefits, particularly legal benefits, that come with having a marriage. These are benefits that help the family, particularly the children.
      The immigration issue is a particularly compelling one when it comes to the family being harmed by not having equal rights. There are families who are paying more than any family should have to pay to stay together in one country. Check out how some of these family’s are struggling to create this stable home you are talking about because they can’t get married: http://www.immigrationequality.org/
      So, when you say that marriage is about the heterosexual family being able to build stable homes for their biological children and preventing the single parent home, I have to question when family became so black and white as man, woman, and a few biological children. This isn’t Leave It To Beaver.
      Family doesn’t mean what it used to mean anymore. We live in a world with step parents and half-siblings and adoptive parents. We live in a world where I would consider my best friend to be just as important and familial as my biological sister. Family no longer means what it did, and in some sense, it shouldn’t.
      This life is about creating a tribe, and for some of us, that might mostly include our biological family. But, I would argue that for a bigger portion of us, that isn’t the case at all. THIS is why it is important that marriage be an equal right, because every human deserves to build their tribe as they please.

      • The legal benefits involved in marriage are to help the family formed through marriage. They do not define what marriage is. Certainly we live in a world of step parents and half siblings, but this lack of stability (of moving around from relationship to relationship) does hurt children. The study recently done to condemn homosexuals couples is adquately critiqued in that a disporportional number of children listed as being raised by homosexuals were raised in broken families. These were situations where a homosexual married a heterosexual, got divorced and later identified themselves as homosexual and entered subsequent relationships. The fact that these children were more likely to be abused, live in poverty and be maladjusted compared to counterparts could adequately be explained by the lack of stability in their home environment, not in homosexuality itself.

        Certainly, life happens. People mess up their lives and life shouldn’t be made more difficult because people made poor decisions. Marriage, as an institution, still needs to be rebuilt as a stabling force, discouraging heterosexuals from having multiple sexual partners. But if anything this is an argument for a seperate legal institution that is not permenant but allows even a mother and daughter to gain legal benefits when they’re caring for the daughter’s child. Perhaps we need “next of kin” laws where we can legally identify who are next of kin would to our wishes. So some elderly woman without grandchildren who developed a close relationship with her neighbors and their children to the point that they were like family, she could name their family as her next of kin. That is fair.

        But, as for the title “marriage” we damage marriage the more we turn it into just a peice of paper with legal benefits. Its not that homosexuals should be considered second rate citizens, its that traditional marriage, however restricting and imprisoning it may sound to be, is still better for society than how we’re living our lives today. And it is likely for that reason, not prejudice, that so many support civil unions and not gay marriage.

  3. sharing doesn’t mean diminishing the thing shared. I share love with you but that doesn’t mean I have less capacity to love left for my parents or other friends or the random homeless guy on the street.

    Sharing != zero sum.

    In the toy example the toy could have been a ball and the kids could share by playing catch. Nothing lessened, nothing diminished.

    • I don’t think that your use of “share” here is appropriate. Cue Indigo Montoya:

      A part of a larger amount that is divided among a number of people, or to which a number of people contribute.
      Have a portion of (something) with another or others: “he shared the pie with her”.

  4. “The talking points used to defend this bigotry are based purely in hate and bad information. [Some better information on gays raising children: http://tinyurl.com/233aodm%5D I could debate every argument used to defend not allowing gay marriage, but it’s starting to feel like that would be a waste of my time. I can only scream the gays won’t kill the notion of the family or the world will not implode if Sally has two moms so many times.”

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