"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Marriage Post

I've been meaning to post about this for quite a long time, but now that there are conversations going on about it at both Feministing and Shakesville, I thought I would weigh in with my own take.

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.


Anonymous said...

"3. We made a donation to a local LGBT organization in lieu of favors, and we noted this in our ceremony programs, along with quote from the Massachusetts marriage case."

I LOVE this idea (along with the others, of course, but I hadn't thought of this specific manner of doing so). I have long struggled with the similar dilemma of wanting to someday get married, but feeling horrible that - at this time - my best friends cannot. Whenever I get to the point where I'm engaged, I'm definitely using this idea.

Happy wedding and best wishes to you and Dan both :)

Erin said...

I love you. Reading this post, I teared up just a bit. Someday, I'll invite you to my wedding, too. :)

Tracey said...

It's just so completely unfair, and I don't even know what to do with it sometimes.

Jenn said...

You rock. :o)

I could wax political, and moan about the fact that my only other really serious relationship didn't make it mostly because of just one right (immigration) among those 1100+ rights that straight couples get when they marry, but then I'm much happier now, so...I'll settle for "You rock."
(And Erin rocks...my world.)

Anonymous said...

Wait, I'm sorry, surely I must not be reading this right. Did you say . . . NO FAVORS? Why the hell else am I coming to this thing?

zombietron said...

Wow! I'm so in awe of how wonderful you are, donating, making sure everything is gender-neutral, that's just such a beautiful idea.
I realise this post is old, so I hope you had a wonderful day and continue to have a wonderful life together :)