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Traditional Marriage? What a Crock!

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No, the dog did not get married.

In all the years we’ve had to listen to the tiresome blatherings of the right, I can’t recall anything quite as absurdly sanctimonious as their intellectually pathetic defense of ‘traditional marriage’.

The truth is that there are many ideas of traditional marriage. Here are two.

Example number one. Good looking, upstanding and generous to a tee, his and her High school sweethearts in a picket fence town betroth themselves to each other, date at a distance throughout the tempatations of college, and marry in a dreamy ceremony picked by their wedding consultant from the pages of numerous magazines. Their loving silver-haired parents look on as the vows are spoken, and then the whole retinue retires to a sumptuous reception which is happy, heavily scripted, full of obscure ritual and raucous in a very controlled sort of way.

Example number two. An older rich widower seeks a very young wife. Word reaches the poorer parents of a beautiful girl, who he’s never met, Her parents keen to find a ‘good home’ for their best looking daughters offer to add to the old man’s wealth with a substantial dowry to close the deal. The old man agrees. The meeting between the two is brokered by a matchmaker who is paid by the old widower when the alliance is sealed. The alliance also has mutual advantages for the landholdings and businesses of both families, and is deemed socially acceptable the widower, and a useful advance is social standing by the bride’s parents.

Marriage in the West has only been ostensibly about ‘love’ for a couple of hundred years now. But you’d never know it, listening to the ‘protect traditional marriage’ crew, the supreme irony of whom is that they garner most of their support from states, cities and communties where more marriages fail or linger in agony than among the hated bourgeoisie. Naturally, to compensate for their failings, the red staters delude themselves by focusing on the trappings of marriage and its religious associations (themselves bogus).

There’s no question that within the current view of marriage as some kind of panglossian panacea, gays and lesbians should of course have the same rights as any heterosexual couple. That goes without saying. But the ‘gay marriage’ debate is smaller than it should be. Rather than being upset that the gays are trampling on traditional marriage, we should use this moment as an opportunity to get real about what marriage is and has become in the modern world, not just for gay people, but for everyone.

It’s time to separate the word ‘marriage’ from the fundamental, hard won legal precepts that have come to underpin it.

Those legal precepts are the key to the equality that gays and lesbians seek. They don’t need a law to give them a right to a marriage ceremony of their choice. But they do need a law to give them a ‘marriage license’ (or what many married people call ‘a piece of paper’). Changing one word would alter the debate completely. Man and woman, man and man or woman and woman would no longer get a marriage license but a ‘civil union license’. Until death or divorce they’d be legally tied together, as they are now.

If they chose to, they could walk out of city hall with that constitutionally cast iron ‘civil union license’ and call themselves married, or have a full on marriage ceremony of their choice, in a church, synagogue, mosque, or circle of stones, with a priest, a rabbi, an imam or a druid, or they could just share a quiet dinner for two, and call themselves ‘fused’, ‘as one’, ‘united’ or if they want to, just ‘together’.

The ‘gay marriage’ debate is as much cultural as it is legal. We should celebrate the wider boundaries of equality that this historic moment has brought us, but we should also do more, and examine exactly what it is that our deluded right wing friends are ‘protecting’, and what we all overly idealize and romanticize.

Modern ‘traditional’ marriage is yet another example of our masochistic urge to raise expectations to a place where disappointment is almost inevitable. Nowhere is this more true in the ‘traditional marriage’ heartland, but in truth we are all to blame, even the deliriously happy gay couples soon to be married.

Written by coolrebel

August 5, 2010 at 3:55 am

Posted in Washington