In Defense of Marriage: No Need for Love Here

In addition to the quick little video below that I posted earlier today on YouTube about the Supreme Court hearings on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, it may be helpful to clarify a few more points that are worth keeping in mind this week (and hopefully beyond that).

The more radical progressives hesitate to give support to marriage equality because “marriage” – as a historical institution – has a pretty shady past wrapped up in the exchange of property, or more accurately, the exchange of people as property, or even more accurately, the exchange of women as property. In such relationships, there is a clear and problematic difference in power between a husband and a wife. But don’t be fooled. History and its influence on marriage hasn’t changed all that much. When marriage is defended these days as being between “one man and one woman,” such words are often still colored by rigidly prescribed gender roles that imply other “marriage-y”  things like “what he says goes,” or that determine “who wears the pants” and who “belongs in the kitchen.”So let’s be clear about at least one thing, gay and lesbian couples who want marriage equality aren’t really looking for those kinds of marriages anyway.

The fight for the right to marry isn’t about fitting into a heterosexual framework or mimicking heterosexual married couples, as if what all the queers really want is to say, “Look, straights! We are and can be just like you!”  See, one of the the really cool things about gay, lesbian, and other queer relationships is that they are not like traditional heterosexual relationships. That’s what makes them queer. Thus, rather than striving to be equal in the sense that gay relationships are judged to be just as “normal”  as straight relationships, the point is to have queer relationships recognized as legally legitimate relationships. By the way, legitimacy, here, should have very little to do with what is deemed “normal” since “normal” heterosexual marriages aren’t doing so well, anyway.

And that is one reason why love should have nothing to do with the right to marry. Of course we, as a culture, love to believe that marriage is all about love. But it’s not. Marriage is about the ability to legally secure certain rights, benefits, privileges, and liberties. Straight people can (read: are legally able to) marry for all of the reasons that give people warm, fuzzy feelings. But they can also marry for all of the “wrong” reasons, like to dig that gold of a sugar daddy or sugar mama, to get health insurance from a spouse’s employer, or to become a naturalized citizen of the great U.S. of A. Some “defenders” of marriage may be inclined to say, “But that’s not what marriage is for! Such shams don’t embody what the institution of marriage is really about!”  And a lot of people would probably agree that marrying someone just to get access to  health insurance may end up getting kind of complicated, perhaps even too complicated to make it worth it. The implication, then, is that you’d be much better off if you first fell in love with someone whose job offered them benefits. Things like health insurance, inheritance protections, hospital visitation rights, certain tax breaks, and the possibility to immigrate to be with your lover are simply secondary perks to loving someone (registered as of the opposite sex) first. Well, grab a glass of water because this pill may be a little hard to swallow.

None of the love stuff or marrying for the “right” reasons matters when it comes down to legal issues of justice. Regardless of what one might think God has to say about how men and women ought to relate to one another, or what science today might suggest about gay genes, or even whatever insights are presumably gleaned from talking about how heterosexual intercourse can lead to procreation, none of that matters. The most important thing on the table is that straight people can legally marry whereas non-straight people cannot. In other words, some people can choose to opt into the web of advantages and benefits that arise from participating in a legally recognized, contractually-based relationship whereas others are not even granted the opportunity to do the same. That, dear reader, is a matter of fairly distributing access to rights, protections, and privileges. It’s not about love. It’s about justice. It’s about fairness. It’s about equality.

To end, here’s one more pill. If, at the end of this little wave of social media activism and Supreme Court hearings it turns out that queer folks can’t get legally married or those who are already married won’t be federally recognized as such, it’s not going to prevent women from having relationships with other women or men from having relationships with other men. Queer people will still continue to have sex with one another in queer ways, they’ll still form their own families, and they’ll still find support within their own communities and from lots of straight allies. They will even continue to LOVE each other and maintain healthy, committed relationships. Queer folks will still be able to live their lives and have their loves in ways that make them happy and gay. These things will continue precisely because they, unlike certain civil rights and liberties, are not dependent on the legal recognition of same-sex and queer relationships as legitimate in order to be realized.

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16 thoughts on “In Defense of Marriage: No Need for Love Here

  1. Cori, I have to disagree. While the non-straight community would like the rest of the country to think that “marriage” is really a legal issue, it’s not. It’s a moral issue and all societies structure their benefits according to those moral standards. This is just hiding the real issue that the gays and others want to be approved of and that their actions are ok by societies standards. While they may succeed in getting this done, it is not based on truth.

    The abortion fight was also not based on truth. There was no national consensus for the legalization of abortion, so two lawyers decided to manufacture that consensus by taking out false full page ads stating that there was a consensus. This is from the mouth of one of those two lawyers who did it. Later, this particular person say the wrong that he had done and changed sides.

    So, calling it a legal battle doesn’t make it one.

    And not everything the people want is right. That’s called the tyranny of special interests. One of the darker sides of modern democracy.


    • It’s clear that we fundamentally disagree with one another. You make an appeal to truth, but I reject your claims to “truth” (and vice versa). I actually am pretty comfortable moving the conversation into the territory of morality, too. But, of course, I would say that your position is on the side of being morally wrong because I hold different principles about what is “right” and “wrong.”

      I have thought a lot over the years about what happens when people reach a conflict at the bedrock of our assumptions and I was already planning on making a video that addresses these situations. So I did. Your comment is part of it. The video will be up on Youtube very soon.

  2. Excellent post and response to comments. I will definitely keep reading your posts. I like that you cut through the hyperbole to talk about the actual points up for consideration. I think we lose track of the difference between the legal meaning of the word “marriage” and the myth surrounding the word “marriage.”

  3. Yeah. What’s really in danger is patriarchal marriage in which a man has power over a woman. In gay marriage who’s the male head? And if one man is dominant the other man is submissive. That’s a no-no. And of course there can’t be a male head in a lesbian marriage.

  4. I agree with everything you have said, and was said brilliantly. My only issue would be your use of the word ‘queer,’ I know it was not meant in a derogatory way, but it is still a word that has a derogatory connotations, food for thought maybe? Keep writing, it is good to see people tackling the issue properly.

    • I very much approve of her use of “Queer”. The “bad” words are not some how inherently wrong as words. “Bad” words from “Cunt” to “Nigger” to “Queer” are bad words because they are only used in bad context. This context then get applied to the word. You can’t stop idiots from using foul language. You can dilute the affect of that language by removing the context. Change the context change the word. Compare “Dick” “Cock” and “Cunt”. All three words are insults of genitalia. The harshness of “Dick” and “Cock” have been worn away by gross over use. “Cunt” remains as a very offensive word precisely because it’s use is so limited. It’s contextual meaning has only been reenforced, not diluted. I very much approve of her use of “Queer”. It is clearly not intended to offend in this context and dilutes the contextual meaning of the word.

    • Hi Julian, thanks for your comment. My use of the word ‘queer’ is intentional and certainly not meant to be derogatory. Following in the vein of “Queer theory” or “Queer politics,” ‘queer’ can be reclaimed as an term that has an explicit, politically-resistant valence to it that, in some ways, is meant to arouse that type of discomfort to the surface (precisely because of it’s oppressive past usages). In response to genderneutrallanguage, I do not think that my use of the term ‘queer’ is less harsh simply because of its increase in usage; it’s more political, thoughtful, meaningful, and deliberate than that.

      Thank you for your encouragement to keep writing. 🙂

      • ‘Queer theory” is something I have not actually come across, but will now look into. In response to the bad language and context, I don’t think that you can dilute the affect of a word by it’s increased use or removing the context. If the word is used at is meant to be, as with queer, it originally meant strange then it is placing it in the ‘correct’ context, or as with this new found (for me) ‘queer theory’ then the word has a greater meaning, otherwise it is derogatory whether it is overused or not. Possibly a debate that could be created at another time. I look forward to reading more posts.

  5. So true! Love this entire post, and the down-to-earth rather than militant feel of it. Looking forward to reading more of your stuff! And also thanks for following 🙂

    • Thank YOU for writing on feminist issues! I’m happy to read along with your thoughts. And thanks, too, for commenting here; I’m pleased to hear your impressions.

      • You’re very welcome! Though I’m not sure if an ongoing preoccupation with women makes me a feminist, it’s at least nice to hear the term used positively for once!

  6. Pingback: “I Now Pronounce You . . . Oh Hell Wait!” “Just Marriage” | myCultural Conversations

  7. This is one of the best explanations I’ve read !! Your passion and compassion jumps off the page Cori and I think for the apprehensive reader……. This just might make them ” think” for a change! It’s a new day dawning people and we are awakening so let’s wake up!!!!! Equal rights for equal human souls! That is the Right course of action! Great job!

    • Thanks, Susi. I’m very happy that it got you thinking in a way that proved helpful. 🙂 I very much appreciate that you’re reading along, and I always like to see your comments.

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