I have an announcement: Ms Perfect and I are engaged! I proposed on Christmas Eve, and amazingly she said yes, despite knowing me for years.
Members of my family were pleased. At last, our relationship would have legitimacy! (No, they didn’t say that. They said, Have the wedding in winter so we can come to Australia in summer!)
Before the engagement, we lived in delicious sin as a committed couple, ready to spend the rest of our lives together. Now, post-engagement, we’re living together as a committed couple, ready to spend etc. No difference, really. So why did I decide to do this? It’s not like we had to get married. Besides the ring, some photographs, and a certificate, things won’t be noticeably different. And as Dean once said, secular atheists don’t need marriage. But I could think of a few reasons why I might want to be married.
It’s a party. Okay, we can always have a party. But not one as theatrical. Or cinematic. So it’s something.
Okay, next reason. It’s a narrative of how your life is supposed to go. You grow up in your middle-class suburban home, watching movies with weddings and thinking, “This is the goal.” That’s not very good either, but we’ll add it to the pile with the other reasons.
Having children out of wedlock would be a stigma, but that’s only an issue for a few more years, as all the people who think this will assuredly die off soon. So let’s move on.
How about this: It’s a way of making your relationship public and real. Well, what about now? Aren’t we already public and real? And yet…
It’s like I don’t really have a reason at all for wanting to be married, not a reason anyway. But all the little reasons add up, plus an urge that says, “This is what I want to do. With her.”
As I weighed up my reasons for marriage, I found myself (not for the first time) considering the situation of gay guys and gals, and wondering why they might want the same thing. I also reflected on the reasons people had for denying them marriage.
Why do they need marriage? say the Moral People. Why don’t gay people just live together? Well, we ‘just’ lived together, and it was lovely. But I decided I wanted to do it ‘for real’. What if someone had come and told me we couldn’t, because their god disapproved? And since theism is massive projection, they mean ‘because they disapprove’. I’d tell them to get bent, and I’d hope any gay couple would do the same.
Well, we’ll give them a civil union, the Moral People continue, but we won’t call it marriage. Isn’t that good enough? What’s the difference? Well, is a civil union a marriage? I’d say no, it’s not. So what is a marriage? A marriage is where they say “It’s a marriage.” If they don’t, it’s not. And that matters to me.
And I guess that takes us to a Big Reason for marriage. Marriage is the way our society confers favour and approval on relationships, and some of us — however iconoclastic and rugged we be — desire it. We want the whole thing, cake and ring and all, however silly and clichéd that is. Religious conservatives (ever the tribalists) know something about societal approval too, and they oppose gay marriage because they don’t wish to confer societal approval on those types of relationships.
At least, I think this is what’s going on. I have no idea if this is what goes through the mind of a religious conservative or not, though, because strangely not once in any of the many discussions I’ve had on this topic has one of them ever said this. They come up with log-stupid arguments about reproduction, polygamy, or incest, but they never say ‘I can’t stand them and won’t have them in the club’. Either they’re ashamed to admit that’s the real reason, or I’m totally off-base. But I don’t think I am.
How lucky I am to be a straight guy, able to marry the straight girl of my dreams. How unfair that not everyone can have what comes so automatically to us.