Just in case the title of this post wasn’t clear, or you haven’t ever read my blog before, I support marriage equality. There. I’ve said it twice now.
Yesterday, I had the unfortunate lack of sense to use Human Rights Campaign’s flashy red logo with the equals sign as my profile picture in several places. Yeah, my apologies to anyone I offended. I’m normally a person who does enough research to know whether something is a good idea. I had a pretty spectacular fail there, and I’m sorry. I have since changed it, of course, out of respect for others. Yes, it was hurtful to some people I care about, but I also care about not harming people who randomly follow me on the Internet. Kindness shouldn’t require personal connection.
Anyway, because I kept seeing people tweeting about the HRC logo, I did do some digging. Naturally, I came across some good information that explained the problem. Unfortunately, I also discovered several disappointing rants about marriage equality, and not from conservative religious people.
The main point of the anti-marriage rants wasn’t necessarily specific to same-sex couples marrying. It was more about marriage in general, and specifically marriage as it relates to family structure. The argument was that legal marriage perpetuates a certain type of family structure and is therefore discriminatory.
I don’t entirely disagree. I have long said that I think the government should just butt the hell out of marriage in general. Religious institutions can keep it as a sacrament if they want, but removing the legal stamp of approval would make it much easier on everyone. However, that has nothing to do with whether or not I think a certain type of family is “better” than another.
There are a few reasons why I still support marriage equality, despite the fact that I don’t think a legal document should be necessary. First, the way the law is written, there are literally dozens of legal benefits to marriage. It’s a worthy goal to strip those away and make sure everyone has those rights regardless of a piece of paper, but that isn’t going to happen overnight. I think the place to start is by giving everyone the right to marry if they so desire. (And in case you were wondering, no, I don’t include children, pets, and immediate family members in that, but I do include multiple spouses; that’s a post for another day.) I think marriage equality is a temporary patch, but a necessary one.
Second, I think arguing against marriage from a family structure point of view is on shaky ground. Even though the argument is intended to sound like it isn’t heteronormative and biased toward procreation, it actually is. It should not be surprising that of the three anti-marriage arguments I read, two were written by white cisgender heterosexual parents with long-term partners–in other words, people who have the freedom to marry but have chosen not to. I concede that “marriage,” with all its varying definitions over the course of human history, has indeed been at least partly driven by procreation. However, that is not what marriage is; it’s only one of the things marriage can do. Claiming that marriage only legitimizes a two-parent family structure assumes that every married couple wants to parent, or that the potential for parenthood was their only reason for getting married. Should they not have bought into the system? Should they have remained unmarried because there were no children to be “harmed” by their lack of legal contract? It also assumes that there are absolutely no other family-related benefits to legal marriage other than making sure kids have two adults in the home.
Third, no one said that marriage equality is the last battle–or even the first one–toward an inclusive society. I have never heard that as an argument in favor of marriage equality. Maybe I need to read more, but I’ve never read anything in which someone tried to claim that if same-sex couples can marry, it will end all discrimination. But even if someone did say that, so what? Saying something doesn’t make it true, nor does it take anything away from protecting other rights. If one person wants to spend his or her time and money on marriage equality, why would that prevent someone else from making a different choice? As long as a person is not actively supporting discriminatory legislation, I don’t see the problem here. (I feel differently about whole organizations, though, especially when they claim to speak for a community. I certainly don’t want, say, Concerned Women for America suddenly claiming to support “women’s rights.”)
Finally, people want to get married. Couples everywhere want to get married, and not all of them do it because they know the secrets of the tax code. Not all couples need religion as their reason either. Since there are many, many people who want to be married, I support that. I support their right to have a legal document stating that they are married. I don’t really care what their reasons are for doing it; I just want the law to reflect their right.
I do understand why some people feel differently, but I still stand behind marriage equality. Not everyone will choose to marry, but everyone should legitimately have the right to make that choice.