a blog with cultural bulimia.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Gay Marriage: Update

"It's still too early to see what the final outcome of the Massachusetts legislature's struggle to prevent or allow equal marriage rights in the Commonwealth. The amendment that passed the preliminary round is by far the least objectionable. It would enshrine a semantic difference between heterosexual and homosexual marriages by calling the former 'marriage' and the latter 'civil unions.' But it would uphold the Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court's ruling that there should be complete substantive equality in terms of all protections and benefits. In other words: Vermont, but by constitutional amendment, not law. What bothers me about this is that it amounts to the constitutionalization of pure stigma. There's no possible reason to give gay couples something that walks, talks and squawks like a marriage but is called something else - except to maintain a purely semantic distinction, whose purpose is to reaffirm the inferiority of homosexual couples. Since many of these couples will get married in a religious ceremony as well, they may well describe themselves simply as married anyway. In time, common parlance will simply refer to all of the above as married. The only real difference may be that a civil union will be less transportable to other states. But that will also surely change, as some states will agree to recognize such civil unions, just as New York state has said it will agree to recognize Massachusetts' civil marriages. Of course, this process in Massachusetts is not, in many ways, a bad thing. It really has initiated an extraordinary public debate that has enriched many of us. The legislative and judicial processes in that state are signs that the system is working on a state level, and there is no need for clumsy federal intervention to pre-empt this state-by-state process and impose a premature 'solution' on the entire country through the drastic option of a federal constitutional amendment. That also goes for California, where the judicial process should be allowed to continue unmolested by Washington."

and, in an act of civil disobedience,
Dan Savage gets married to a lesbian
Amy Jenniges lives with her girlfriend, Sonia, and I live with my boyfriend, Terry. Last Friday I accompanied Amy and Sonia to room 403, the licensing division, at the King County Administration Building. When Amy and Sonia asked the clerk for a marriage license, the clerk turned white. You could see, "Oh my God, the gay activists are here!" running through her head. County clerks in the marriage license office had been warned to expect gay couples sooner or later, but I guess this particular clerk didn't expect us to show up five minutes before closing on Friday.
The clerk called over her manager, a nice older white man, who explained that Amy and Sonia couldn't have a marriage license. So I asked if Amy and I could have one--even though I'm gay and live with my boyfriend, and Amy's a lesbian and lives with her girlfriend. We emphasized to the clerk and her manager that Amy and I don't live together, we don't love each other, we don't plan to have kids together, and we're going to go on living and sleeping with our same-sex partners after we get married. So could we still get a marriage license?
"Sure," the license-department manager said, "If you've got $54, you can have a marriage license." ... It's not the marriage license I'd like to have, of course. But, still, let me count my blessings: I have a 10-year relationship (but not the marriage license), a house (but not the marriage license), a kid (but not the marriage license), and my boyfriend's credit-card bills (but not the marriage license). I don't know what a guy has to do around here to get the marriage license. But I guess it's some consolation that I can get a meaningless one anytime I like, just so long as I bring along a woman I don't love and my $54.
via Andrew Sullivan