The recent decision by the NY Massachusetts Supreme Court that ruled against any bans on marriage between adults, regardless of gender, may finally make it possible for anyone who wants to get married to do so. Judging by the coverage, I wonder who cares?
The response is hardly monolithic. In interviews with about 20 couples and people who study gay culture, those most interested in marriage had children or pressing concerns about health or mortality. Younger couples, from an era when gays were less closeted, were inclined to consider marriage an entitlement that would erase their perceived second-class status. And couples who came of age in the 1960’s and 1970’s were more likely to see marriage as a heterosexual institution, symbolizing a system that they could not, or would not, want to be part of.
I see this as relating to how one defines marriage. If you strip away all the baggage and look at it as a promise, a commitment, to that other person and extending out to their family (the vows in our wedding were sealed with ‘I will’ not ‘I do’ as a sign that it wasn’t about today, but for all days), perhaps it’s easier to digest. But when I read comments about how people are rejecting marriage as a patriarchal institution or otherwise finding reasons to reject it, I have to wonder at the strength of their commitment. At its core, that’s what marriage is: commitment.
Some couples in the article are described as “not being ready” for it but there’s a tone of superiority, that only they who have been excluded understand the commitment: “it’s not just a slip of paper.” I suppose this refers to the generally brittle state of marriage as an institution in this culture, but at the same time, generalizations are a poor excuse. As for readiness, who can say if they’re really ready? The commitment is not to being ready, but to being willing to make the effort.
The other argument is also used by straight couples who pair off without a ceremony, protesting all the while that they are committed but don’t need the “approval” of the state. The state isn’t approving anything, but acknowledging what some people claim as fact but won’t commit to (that word again). I don’t buy the idea that one can just back into marriage as it were a land claim or squatters rights. Going through the motions for some period of time isn’t the same as openly committing yourself to someone else and a relationship. To hold the relationship — and your commitment to the alleged partner — at arm’s length is bad faith.
And it seems to me that a display of commitment would go long way to defeating the generalizations about promiscuity and anonymous sex as a big part of what the gay community is about. I know there are committed gay relationships: I’ll have an example to dinner tomorrow as my nephew and his partner join us. But articles like the one quoted don’t help.