Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Beyond Marriage

First, I just want to say that it is snowing - teensy, tiny little flakes that you would almost miss if you didn't look closely. And when I looked out my window and saw this, I felt my heart leap with joy. Really. I don't want to see it on the ground yet, but falling gently through the air is really nice.

It's also really nice to feel my heart leap with joy. I haven't felt very joyful lately. I don't like what my anger does to me, and I've felt a lot of anger in recent days and weeks. You've probably noticed an angry edge in my posts about abortion. Know that I'm working on a post about what this "us-them" polarization does to us and about what I see as my personal failures in writing about the abortion wars. It's exhausting even to write, but it will be up soon, I hope.

Second, Jon Hoadley of South Dakotans Against Discrimination posted this in the comments of my post on the Argus Leader and Amendment C:
"In addition to not doing their homework, they repeatedly denied requests for representatives from South Dakotans Against Discrimination to meet with the editoral board.

Feel free to write letters to the editors about all of this!"

Indeed. Click here to write one now!

And third - I want to give voice to an idea that has gotten erased in all of the furor to save "traditional" marriage. Yes, same-sex couples deserve the same legal rights that different-sex couples (who may or may not be heterosexual, by the way) get through marriage. But, why should we attach these rights to marriage at all? Why not simply ensure that everyone, regardless of marital status or blood relationship, have health insurance? The ability to visit a loved one in the hospital? And so on?

I think we need to get the government out of the business of determining that families are the unit by which we should measure rights, and that some families are more deserving than others. This is not just a battle for another day: we know that if Amendment C is passed, the next step will be to chip away at health insurance, custody, and any other legal rights or benefits that unmarried couples of any gender currently have. So we have to fight Amendment C, but beyond that, we have to put the pressure on our elected officials to introduce and pass legislation that does not punish anyone for not being married.

This may be the "threat to marriage" that we keep hearing about. The fear is that without these legal benefits, people won't get married. And it's true: some might not. I can think of two marriages I know that are only marriages because one partner needed health insurance (in one case) and because another partner wanted to stay in the U.S. and not be separated from her then-boyfriend (in the other case). But what's also true is that people who get married out of a strong feeling of commitment and love and not, for example, out of the need for health insurance, are more likely to have a happy, lasting, committed marriage.

I also know of several different-sex marriages in which one or both members of the couple are gay or lesbian, have love relationships with other people, are very good friends with their spouses, and live in a marriage for financial reasons. "Gay marriage" happens all the time, folks!

Anyway, for more on severing legal rights and privileges from the marriage contract, click here.


ken said...

Thanks for the post, PF. As someone who actually resides in the one state I can get legally married to my current partner and chooses not to, I am grateful when others send the reminder that the government should really end its contentious relationship with marriage. A divorce is indeed in order in this case.
And yet it becomes so difficult to remain anti-marriage in principle when all these atrocious infringements on civil rights are being implemented all over the country. It makes me hesitant to leave the state.

Kelsey said...

Agreed agreed agreed. Get the government out of the marriage business.

blackpointyboots said...

In South Dakota getting married if your not Christian is an interesting ordeal. We found out how biased it was when we got married over ten years ago here. According to the law your only options were to be married in a Christian church or try to arrange for a magistrate judge to marry you either in his courtroom in his spare time or outside of the courthouse after hours. We were one of the last couples allowed to use a magistrate judge outside of the courthouse. They killed that option about a month later. So now the only options left are a Christian church or try to find a magistrate judge who is not swamped during business hours. Your other option of using a local church has lots of strings attached. The church pastor is the gatekeeper and you have to convince him to marry you. Not being Christian makes that not going to happen. Now if you add other things into the mix and that you are begging someone to grant you a marriage. This is so wrong. I know someone who became a ULC minister for the specific reason to be able to legally marry people who didn't want a religious ceremony or didn't want to go through the begging ritual at a local church. Marriage needs to be drastically changed. The government needs to be in the business of issuing legal documents only. They should issue a civil union document that is the legal record of a union. Churches and other religious organizations should issue seperate marriage licenses that are recognized only by that religious group and prove the religious union. You could get a civil union without a religious one but all would require that generic legal document to have a religious one recognized by law. I found it horribly descriminatory that we almost could not get married in the state because we were not Christian or members of a church.

Plain(s)feminist said...

blackpointyboots - wow, I had no idea. Thanks so much for posting!! I'm surprised (well, sort of not) that this hasn't come up in the larger discussion.

I may blog about this in future.

And I look forward to reading your blog!

Kelsey said...

Actually, I found getting non-church married in South Dakota pretty darn easy.

We went to the courthouse, asked the clerk if she would marry us, filled out some paper work, wrote a check and left. It probably took 90 minutes, tops.

We ended up having a church wedding later for our families and the fact that Royce isn't Christian wasn't really an issue. But my church has a pretty awesome priest (we basically got to take out anything we didn't like in the ceremony) and I'm sure most places aren't so friendly.