What do you call it when two people who love each other want to spend the rest of their lives together? And what is it called when those two people want to have a great big party and spend more money then is necessary, to proclaim before their chosen deities and their friends and the world that they intend to be faithful to one another for the rest of their lives? And what do you call it when two people stand before a justice of the peace at city hall and vow to love one another for the rest of their lives?
It won’t matter whether it’s a civil union, a common law marriage, or a Papal blessed marriage, the two people involved will still consider themselves to be married to each other in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do they part. The point is it won’t matter what it is referred to as in the eyes of the law. If you’re married, if you’ve taken vows to each other, you are committed to one another no matter what it is called.
Bill Clinton played semantics on the definition of sex, and opened up a whole can of ugly with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Suddenly oral gratification was not considered sex, as far as he was concerned. Now I’m hardly as experienced as Bill Clinton (who is?), but in my mind any time I reached orgasm I had sex.
However, my personal gratifications, or lack thereof, are not the topic here. The topic is semantics. You see, if we start playing semantics with marriage as a union between two people who pledge to be faithful to each other until death do they part, by denying those same rights of marriage to same-sex couples, then we are opening up the definition of marriage for those already in a legally and Godly sanctioned marriage to redefine their view of marriage.
Nowhere does it say in the vows that you are married to your partner if you are not in the same room, or same state as your partner. Think how convenient this would be for all those businessmen who frequently travel apart from their spouses. I mean, now they could slip off their rings and say to their perspective partner for the night, “I’m only married when I’m in the same state as my wife.”
Suddenly the mindset of marriage takes on new meaning. After all, marriage is really primarily a state of mind anyway. So now one could say, “I’m only married when I’m in Los Angeles and Tampa, and then only on Tuesdays from two to four and seven to nine P.M.” Or, “I take my marriage vows seriously, unless it’s a month with an ‘R’ in it.” Or, “since I consider myself bisexual I’m allowed to have sex with other men because it’s not cheating, like it would be if I were to cheat on my wife with another woman.”
Marriage is a contract. It is a legally binding agreement between two parties that grants each party a number of rights not granted to individuals who are not in a relationship. The rights are legal in nature, meaning mostly financial. One right that is transferred by marriage is debt. If you are in a legally sanctioned marriage, upon your death your debt becomes the responsibility of your spouse. Not only are you and your spouse married, but your credit scores are also married.
Personally I don’t associate finance and marriage. Aside from the fact I am a gay male denied the legal rights of marriage, I’ve never even given a thought to the idea that by marrying someone I could improve my financial status. I am one of those fools who believe the only reason to marry is because of love. If you don’t have love you don’t have a marriage.
I’m not talking about loving someone because of what they can give you financially, or because they can take care of you better than you can take care of yourself. I’m talking about loving someone because to not love that person would be unthinkable. I’m talking about loving someone because your own life would be incomplete without that person.
That to me is a marriage, and I don’t care if it’s called a civil union, a common law marriage, or a holy wedded union sanctified by law and God. If I ever meet someone I love with all my heart, soul, and mind, enough to remain faithful to him until death do us part, then in my mind I will be married. He will be my partner, my lover, my friend, my mate, and my husband. And I defy any married heterosexual, who truly believes in their marriage, to tell me they feel any differently about their partner than I would about my partner.
So granting legal rights is a state issue, and allowing someone to call their union a marriage is a religious issue. We come back to semantics once again. Church and State are separate. That’s it, there is no semantic “only in Cook County or Bakersfield on Thursdays” disclaimer. If Church and State are not to be considered separate, than we as a nation have a lot more to redefine than the word “marriage.”
George W. Bush is slowly opening up another can of ugly with his support of a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman. Semantically speaking, that definition already has to be revised because it does not leave room for divorce. Nope, they need to add the phrase “at a time” to the end of the amendment so people understand they are entitled to second and third and so on marriages as long as they first divorce their current spouse. Such definitions cannot be taken for granted.
Obviously Bush hasn’t learned the semantics issues are ones that come back to haunt the public forever, like the phrase “weapons of mass destruction.” After all if a gun is capable of killing more than one person, than isn’t it reasonable to consider a single handgun a potential weapon of mass destruction if it is used to kill multiple numbers of people? No one said weapons of mass destruction had to be nuclear or chemical or biological in nature.
An airplane was turned into a weapon of mass destruction. There you have semantics. Playing a game with words, twisting their meanings to suit an individual or an entire nation is simply part of human nature. Hitler called upon his country to purify itself of the Jews. The world called it the Holocaust.
Marriage is marriage; denial ain’t a river in Egypt.
Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.
ABOUT ROBERT A. MELOS
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
3.22.04 @ 2:39p
I agree. The only reason someone would want to forbid same-sex "marriages" is because they are anti-gay. That's bigotry, plain and simple.
3.22.04 @ 7:06p
I can see why individuals wouldn't want gay marriage to happen. There's a portion of this country who find that wrong.
There's also a percentage who find Darwinism wrong. Or pre-marraige sex wrong. Or African-American civil rights wrong. But just because you (in the general sense of "you") find something wrong, it doesn't mean it's wrong. (See: Slavery, et al.)
3.22.04 @ 7:26p
The whole gay marriage thing is a civil rights issue plain and simple. If one bunch of people are allowed to get "married," however you might define that, then all of us should be allowed to get "married." My pesonal experience with the institution is that it ain't all it's cracked up to be, but there are people who have had better experiences than I and feel it's more than it's cracked up to be, so that just tells us that it takes all kinds of make a world (or an institution) and why can't we just get along? Huh? I am so frigging tired of bigotry in all its evil faces I could just hurl. And this time I really mean it.
3.22.04 @ 8:05p
I just love the people who sermonize on the sanctity of marriage. If you're so worried about protecting the sanctity of marriage, who don't you go after the 50% of marriages who get divorced?
3.22.04 @ 9:14p
Currently two of the people heading up coalitions for family values and sanctity of marriage are in the midst of a very bitter divorce. I find this hypocritical, yet that barely makes the news. Christian Coalition Divorce
It is also interesting to find out just how misinformed Americans are. A recent poll in the Advocate showed that many homosexuals actually thought same-sex marriage was already legal.
3.23.04 @ 9:09a
My favorite thing to hear lately regarding this issue is that to allow same sex couples to marry jeopardizes the sanctity of marriage in general. You know what? Allowing same sex couples to marry has NO EFFECT on my marriage thank you very much you bigoted ass! If I can legally go to the courthouse and apply for a marriage license (my 3rd for those of you trying to say that heterosexuals revere marriage), then who am I to say that another couple can't because they're both the same sex? What do I care? Seriously.
For those "Christians" that stand around screaming that it's against their religion to allow this to happen, I'd like to remind you that people are given FREE WILL according to your religion. That means that regardless of what YOU think they should do, they still have the right to choose. Your church or synagogue or whatever still has the right to say they won't perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples, that's where you still have your little circle of control.
3.23.04 @ 10:25a
Although I have my own feelings on the matter, I could probably argue both sides of the issue if cornered. Personally, I think it's absolutely amazing that something that was discussed in hushed tones and whispered conversation 10 years ago is a topic of public debate today.
For me, the absolute scariest thing about this is that Bush is trying to use the Consitution to restrict, not protect, people's rights.
3.23.04 @ 10:40a
One would think that most would be glad that more individuals want to enter into a committed union.
However, many backwater people, like Iowa State Representative Betty DeBeof, still believe the only reason to marry is to procreate "because that's the only reason animals form mated unions."
(she was recently quoted in the paper saying this very thing.)
Guess I missed the memo. Also didn't realize as a human, I'm on the same caliber as a backyard squirrel.
3.23.04 @ 11:34a
If the only reason to marry is to procreate, should we make it illegal to procreate if you're not married? Maybe we could rationalize that by quoting the number of unwed mothers and the burden on the welfare system? I'm stopping myself now because I'm scaring me.
3.23.04 @ 12:12p
Marriage isn't really a right, it's a privilege. Like driving, you have to have a license and competence is generally required to get one. In most places, you can't if you're drunk or otherwise lacking sound mind, bankrupt, already married, doing it to subvert immigration law, etc, so I don't buy the rights argument wholesale, but I can say competent folks should not be denied licenses based on gender.
There's bigotry on all sides of this little gem.
Gender says nothing about marriage itself. Anybody who takes marriage seriously as a commitment should be commended. Opposing same sex marriage, for lack of a better metaphor, is cutting of your nose to spite your face.
The divorce rate also says nothing about the general state of marriage. Why should people who stay married be reflected upon negatively by those who do not? Collective guilt, I thought, went the way of the Nazi's.
If we're going to end divisive bullshit on one hand, we have to end it on the other as well, and we might as well start with the fabricated terms hetero- and homosexual. They are summarily useless and bigotous.
On a side note, That Christian Coalition Divorce article is amazing. The guy's rights are getting trampled. He had a prenup but the court still dinged him and threw him in jail. Where are the mens rights advocates? Oh yeah, they don't exist, I keep forgetting men already have too many civil rights. ;-)
3.23.04 @ 1:33p
However, many backwater people, like Iowa State Representative Betty DeBeof, still believe the only reason to marry is to procreate "because that's the only reason animals form mated unions." -- tracey kelley
Tracey, someone ought to inform Ms. DeBeof of recent animal behavior studies that show some animals actually engage in sex for pleasure. They should also point out those cute little male penguins sharing a nest together in (I think it was) the San Diego Zoo.
Dan, a license to operate machinery does require a level of competency. A license as a form of permission to marry brings humans down to the level of cattle. Truthfully the legality of marriage has nothing to do with love. Licensing people is merely a way of keeping track of them for tax purposes. It's like tagging them.
I personally have seen enough of "legal" and "less than legal" unions crumble over money and fidelity issues to know, while I feel everyone should have the option of marriage to the partner of their choosing, I will not partake of this option should it be legalized for me.
3.23.04 @ 2:12p
A license as a form of permission to marry brings humans down to the level of cattle.
Not to quibble, but the license, as I understand it, is not for permission, it's an application for legal recognition. That doesn't controvert your point, however.
Licensing people is merely a way of keeping track of them for tax purposes. It's like tagging them.
Good point, well taken.
I personally have seen enough of "legal" and "less than legal" unions crumble over money and fidelity...
I knew your viewpoint on this, and I agree that the same factors contribute to the demise of unions, civil, religous, or otherwise.
3.23.04 @ 8:51p
When it comes right down to it, a marriage, or civil union, or any agreed upon partnership including simply shacking-up (do they still call it that?) is only as strong as the two people involved. If a person doesn't make an effort to make a relationship work, eventually it will crumble.
I think it has been made very easy to jump in and out of marriage. If getting a divorce were a bit harder, or more costly, people might either think about it a bit more before getting married, or the number of "crimes of passion" will greatly increase as murder becomes a more lucretive way out of marriage.
3.24.04 @ 12:09p
Man did I kill this thread or what? I really did like the article.
I agree that the divorce rate has gone up as courts adopt more libertarian, no-fault types of approaches.
I'd also like to add that getting divorced doesn't mean one didn't take it seriously either. I know that sounds odd, but the so-called divorce-rate tends to belittle everyones efforts, not just those whose marriages last.
3.24.04 @ 5:51p
Dan, that's very true. I know couples who have been married for 50+ years. My own great aunt And uncle eloped as teenagers and were mrried 63 years before my aunt died. In contrast, their grandaughter has been married 4 times so far. Their granddaughter firmly believes in marriage, and truly believes each one will be "the one."
I also know people who married for money. Their marriages seems cold, and come across as distant. Marriage, like everything in life is what you put into it. It really is a state of mind.
3.25.04 @ 10:07a
The thing is, the objections to gay marriage are so thoughtless. NO ONE has yet come up with any kind of objection that can even be stretched into logic. "Gay marriage will cheapen my marriage" - HOW? "Um... it just will."
3.25.04 @ 10:30p
One of the big problems is, no one is actually seeing the benefits of gay marriage. While everyone is so frightened that same-sex couples might actually get married and stay married, showing up the heterosexuals by doing marriage better, they are overlooking the fact that married couples spend more and help improve the economy.
My problem with the issue is that I don't believe it should have ever been an issue. The rights should've been there right from the start, and since they aren't it is obvious a case of one segment of society trying to control another.