It’s happened again.
Every so often it happens. A straight friend, or acquaintance, or just human who I’ve met, makes an announcement “I’m not getting married until everyone can get married!”
Sometimes they make the announcement in a general sort of way, and sometimes it is aimed directly at me (“it’s just not fair to you!”) Sometimes these people are engaged, sometimes they are single, though typically they are at least partnered. Sometimes I get the impression that they are using this political stance to avoid a commitment they probably don’t really want in the first time, and sometimes I get the impression that they desperately want to be married and are so appalled that some people can’t have the thing they want so they are denying themselves. What all these people have in common is that they care, they deeply care, about what they perceive as a great injustice. So before I go on, before I say what I have to say, I want to stop and thank every single one of them. If you are a human being who can legally marry the person of your choosing, and you are so upset that some people (like me) can’t legally marry the person of their choosing that you are considering forgoing the whole thing: THANK YOU SO MUCH. Thank you for caring, thank you for thinking of us, thank you for your empathy and your compassion and your frustration.
But just get married if you want to. Seriously. I understand that your compulsion to bypass on marriage comes from a good place, but please, don’t make me part of your decision to marry or not to marry. Here are just a few reasons you should just get hitched already:
1. Despite what they want you to think, the government is actually not a business, nor does it work like one.
It makes sense to boycott businesses that have practices or support policies that you find abominable. It’s that whole vote-with-your-dollar thing. It’s the reason you don’t eat at chick-fil-a (unless you are vegetarian or vegan, in which case that is probably the reason you don’t eat at chick-fil-a). Businesses are driven by profits, so if you give your money to businesses that do more good than harm, and enough other people do that as well, then arguably those “better businesses” will be stronger, and the ones you don’t like with struggle. It makes a ton of sense when you are talking about a business.
Except the government, it’s not a business. Many politicians would like to treat it more like one, but the fact remains that it still isn’t one. The government is not driven by profits the same way a business is (no, I’m not saying the government is better or is driven by anything inherently better than profits, just making a point about how it actually works) and so it isn’t vulnerable to a boycott in the same way. If a bunch of liberal progressive and radical straight people choose not to get married, it does not punish the government, the government does not loose enough money from the marriage license you didn’t get to make it think twice about its position on gay marriage. There are a lot of ways to pressure a government into offering more equal marriage laws, but this way just doesn’t work.
2. Your conservative relatives don’t get it.
You are in your twenties, you are liberal, you have a live-in-partner, and you choose to put off marriage. Unless you are walking around wearing a T-shirt that says “I would be married by now if you weren’t so homophobic” your conservative relatives assume that you are not married for all the other reasons twenty something liberals aren’t married. They might think you don’t value marriage, they might think you’re lazy, they might think you are afraid of commitment. I’ll tell you what they almost definitely do not think: “Gee, I bet Martha and Johny would be married by now if only I hadn’t voted for that anti-gay-marriage amendment back in 2004! Boy was that ever a mistake!”
There’s a better way to send this message. Go ahead and get married. Make sure you get married in a church or institution that isn’t bigoted (cause you should do that anyways) and then have your officiant make an announcement during the ceremony. Bam. All of your relatives just heard that. Now you made a statement. Good work.
3. You are going to be waiting an incredibly long time.
As I’ve discussed before, so-called marriage equality isn’t actually about making marriage equal, it’s about slightly widening the exclusive group with access to marriage rights and protections. So if you aren’t getting married because you want EVERYONE to be able to get married… you know what? You probably aren’t ever going to get married. And if you don’t want to ever get married, that’s fine, but please be honest about your reasons.
4. Marriage benefits are not a finite resource.
It isn’t as though if you forgo all the good stuff that goes along with a legally recognized marriage, there’ll be more of it to pass around to us gays… If I had access to the kind of legal benefits that a state recognized marriage confers, I would take them because they are extremely helpful, and because my refusing to take them wouldn’t make life any easier for say, poly families.
5. Marriage rights are NOT the most important issue facing the LGBTQ community today, nor are they the most important civil rights issue of our time.
I’m really just repeating myself here. But yeah, you know where this is going.
6. I’m getting married, and you can too!
It’s not just me. More and more gays are choosing to get married, to have weddings and celebrate with their families and live as married people, regardless of their state’s position on it. I am getting married in September. I am excited. As of this writing, my state will not recognize my marriage, so we will have no legal benefits whatsoever. But that’s not the point. Very few people get married just for the legal benefits, and if you are a straight person who wants to get married, odds are you aren’t doing it just for the legal benefits either. I’m having a ceremony and a party and a cake and a crazy dress, and there is no reason you can’t have those things too.
8. I love weddings.
Have you ever been to a wedding? Weddings are so much fun! I even like the ceremony part (though I know plenty of people who find them boring, but hey, I’ve always enjoyed that sort of thing) and then after the ceremony there’s a big party! People get emotional together, which is always sort of nice, and then there’s dancing, and food, and booze, and dessert! I’ve recently learned that planning one of these big to-dos can be a bit stressful, so I’m probably only going to do the one. But if you are thinking of getting married, and you want to do something nice for gays, you should have a wedding and then invite me. Please have a vegetarian option at dinner. Thanks!
There. I’m happy to reassure you that you can, in fact, get married, and that you’re refusing to marry does nothing whatsoever for me. You’re welcome, and congratulations!