On this lovely National Coming Out weekend, I thought I’d give a big fat thank you to the entire gay community for unwittingly performing group CPR on the near lifeless body of marriage.
Just in case you’ve been mislead by vocal individuals who say gay marriage is destroying blessed unions. That’s a big load of crap.
I don’t think I’m alone here (though my perspective may be skewed because I live in Austin, TX). You hear about gay friends marrying and you think, “How lovely!” And you’re filled with hope and joy. You hear about straight friends marrying and you think, “How wonderful!” And you, uh, desperately hope they make it.
Because, let’s face it, the odds aren’t in their favor.
The institution of marriage has been sustaining wounds for a long, long time, and now it’s in ICU fighting infection.
And while our society has gotten super crafty at blaming people now for the sins of their predecessors, it’s simply unintelligible to blame homosexuals for injuries against the sanctity of marriage that they haven’t been permitted to be around to commit. Nope. Gays have a solid alibi. They’re not the culprit. You can’t blame them. What you can do instead is thank them for providing marriage a metaphorical antibiotic drip.
As far as I see it, marriage exists for two reasons. The first, for legal protection and benefits related to property, child custody, finances, health care, etc. Simple (or at least it should be, if we properly exercise the division of church and state).
There is absolutely nothing wrong with anyone marrying for legal protection and benefits. But this “sanctity,” or sacredness, people get so excited about doesn’t come from the legality of marriage.
The second reason marriage exists is more complex…a declaration of a promise. (I say a declaration because you can easily make or live this promise without formal marriage, plenty of people do.) A promise that you will be there for your partner for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ’till death do you part.
If we’re assigning sanctity to marriage, this is the source of it:
The sacredness of a promise. And…
The most sacred thing about marriage, actually.
It’s not to be confused with, “I promise to marry you because you’re handsome/beautiful, I think you’re the best I can do, you come from a good family, my parents will love you, and you seem to have a promising career ahead of you.” Or perhaps equally prone to a lack of success, “you’re a mess too, let’s never grow out of our childhood trauma together!”
The confusion identified above is actually the primary suspect in the assault on the sanctity of marriage. A long history of heterosexuals marrying for business, money, connections, obligation, whims, “you’re going to get me out of this town!”…and a whole slew of other wrong reasons.
(To my friends who married for all the wrong reasons, don’t get defensive. I wouldn’t be here today if two people didn’t make that mistake. I’m tremendously grateful for my parents’ error…and for their subsequent divorce.)
I’m just saying, does it make any sense to blame gay marriage for harming the sanctity of marriage while leaving Vegas out of the line up for suspects in the case? Hypothetically, I may know someone who went to Vegas for a teachers’ conference and ended up married…. despite the fact that she and her new husband were already married with children. Surely, hypothetically, the sanctity of marriage experienced a bit of a death rattle that weekend?
(To my friends who married in Vegas, don’t get defensive. None of you are accidentally married to more than one person…that I know of… and you’re probably one of those Vegas success stories.)
Gay marriage is not an offender. It’s a pleasant reminder to us of why people spend half a year to a year’s wages to declare a promise to each other.
It’s so refreshing. I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it. Marrying, because you really, really want to?!?! Hurdles overcome, you’ll fight for it, you’re in love?! Holy shit, that’s beautiful!
Oh, gay marriage. I heart you!
It’s a lot of pressure, I know. But you’re not in this alone. Inter-racial marriage. Inter-religious marriage. Not being sold to your husband because you come with a title, a nice dowry, and a goat. You are in good company. Historical and present-day challengers are with you. Holding the mirror up to society’s vision of marriage. Revealing its dysfunctions and stripping it down to its sacred source.
Please know, gay marriages will become average too. You can marry for legal protection and benefits. (I won’t be disappointed, or push you from this pedestal I clearly have you on at the moment.) You’ll have problems. You’ll feel societal pressure to marry when you don’t have to. You’ll marry on a whim. You’ll marry in Vegas. You’ll marry for the wrong reasons. You’ll encounter infidelity. You’ll experience the kind of discord that becomes unbearable, or worse, abuse. And you’ll need divorces. Don’t feel pressured to be perfect.
Just know, that you’ve been a lovely, preservationist, reminder of what’s beautiful, worthwhile, and validly sacred in marriage when it’s a promise.
Note: Do not send me hate mail about Vegas. My husband and I both agree that we totally should have saved a year’s wages and declared our sacred promise to each other at the hunka hunka burnin’ love wedding chapel (or something like that) in Vegas. It’s our only regret. But that ship has sailed unless one of us ends up infatuated with a fellow attendee at a professional conference on the Strip.