In just nine days, I'm getting married to the love of my life - a fun, hilarious, sweet, adorable, fantastically geeky feminist boy who amazes me every single day with his ability to make me smile and his capacity for love and sensitivity. Since probably our second month as a couple (we've been together now for about two and a half years), I haven't doubted for a second that I wanted to marry him, but at the same time, I have been hyper-aware of the feminist issues surrounding marriage as well as the problematic nature of marriage as a statement of heterosexual privilege in a society that discriminates against non-straight couples.
Nothing could reaffirm those conflicted feelings about this privilege like reading the language from my state's constitution, which is displayed front and center on the website for my county's marriage license department:
(Text reads: "Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effect of marriage. Adopted November 2, 2004.")It broke my heart to read that, and it breaks my heart to type it out right now, thinking about the violence and bigotry in each and every word of it.
I do feel conflicted about the choice to go ahead and get married despite the glaring inequality, and I feel just as conflicted about writing a whole post about this as if this issue is somehow more about poor little me and my straight-guilt than it is about the people who are on the receiving end of the discrimination. But it somehow seemed worse to not write about it.
So here are the decisions the groom-to-be and I have made to try to own our privilege and mitigate the problematic nature of the straight wedding. Moat of it has been thought of before or is already covered in Sarah's post, but here it is for the sake of sharing.
1. Much to my mom's chagrin, we're not submitting an engagement or marriage announcement to our local newspapers. While we are excited to share our commitment with our friends and families, I don't really feel like displaying our privilege on the pages of a newspaper or making our lives together anyone's business but those we actually want to share it with. I believe a tiny blurb got or gets printed when we got our marriage license, but seeing a picture of us in all our heteronormative glory and contributing to society's definition of marriage in such a public way just doesn't sit well with me somehow.
2. When our minister gave us a copy of the ceremony he usually uses with couples, I combed through it and made the language gender-neutral wherever possible. I hated the idea of the language in our ceremony implying that only opposite-sex people are capable of making loving commitments to one another. The idea behind this choice is that it subtly communicates that love doesn't have to be gender-specific.
3. We made a donation to a local LGBT organization in lieu of favors, and we noted this in our ceremony programs, along with this quote from the Massachusetts marriage case. It reads like this:
”Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family… Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition. Tangible as well as intangible benefits flow from marriage. The benefits accessible only by way of a marriage license are enormous, touching nearly every aspect of life and death… It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a civil right.”
--Justice Margaret Marshall,
Goodbridge v. Department of Public Health, Massachusetts, 2003
With the loving wish for all couples to be able to exercise the civil right to marry, Tracey and Daniel have made a donation to Equality Ohio.
It's not enough, but it's something. I don't know how some of our older or more conservative family members will react to the statement we're making in our programs, but I really don't care. Since it's "our" day, I doubt anyone would say anything, and, hopefully, they will just sit and think about the message and maybe think about the issue is a different way.
For anyone else struggling with these issues, I really suggest reading the two posts I linked to and their comments sections.