I'm not a big fan of marriage. I think I've made that abundantly clear. When people ask me what problem I have with marriage, I reply, "You get married in a church, but divorced in court." People tease me with "oh, you'll get married again, you just wait."
I won't. I will never be married again. Not when hell freezes over. Not when pigs fly. Not when it means the difference between letting someone else make medical decisions for someone I love. Not when it denies me the ability to inherit property. The answer is no.
That is not to say that I don't hope one day to have a long-term monogamous co-habitating type relationship. I would like that very much. But it will not involve walking down the aisle and saying "I do." The first reason is purely selifsh. I want someone to choose every single day to be with me. Not to be there out of obligation or because it is too expensive to think about getting out. Trust me, I know the toll such conditions can take. My blood pressure toward the end of my marriage was 160/91, I drank Pepto Bismol for breakfast, I had a constant headache, my teeth hurt, and the skin on my head was taught from the never-ending aggravation. I recall thinking that death wold be preferable to spending one more day in that house with him. The second reason is that I firmly believe that my personal life is none of the state's damn business. End of discussion.
The real reason I've come upon this topic is that I have been thinking about the Equal Rights Amendment lately. Many of you have probably never heard of it, but in the mid-1970s, the Equal Rights Amendment was the culmination of the women's movement. It proposed, quite simply, that equality of rights would not be denied based on sex. The Amendment was hard-fought in Congress, but never ratified. What I didn't know until I started poking around on this topic, was that the ERA has been proposed in every congress since, and STILL it isn't taken seriously. But, I'll get back to that later.
Marriage has entered the political arena over the past decade or so as the gay community has pressed to have same-sex unions recognized as marriages. They maintain, and I have to agree, that marriage comes with rights and privileges that they are denied. Currently, marriage between men and women is permitted, albeit regulated, by every state in the union. Marriage between same-sex couples is permitted by only two states: California and Massachusetts. What do I mean by regulated? I mean that the state gets to decide whether a marriage is legal and has the right to prohibit illegal marriages.
Call me a libertarian, but my ultimate question is, why the hell is the government involved in my social, sexual, economic, and familial relationships? Interesting question that, so I set out to do some research.
Turns out, the government got interested in regulating marriage about the time some black and white folks wanted to tie the knot, jump over the broomstick, or take a spin around the altar. Since we all know what sorts of mayhem can result when big black bucks weave a spell of romance over our lily-white daughters, the state got involved by requiring a marriage license. Efforts to outlaw miscegenation is how the states got involved in your love life. IMO, the marriage license is the state's silent but subtle support of white morality--more specifically, white male superiority--over the other dirty races. It's like asking the KKK if it's ok for you to get married. I believe that marriage licenses were the way for white men to prevent themselves from becoming obsolete and to maintain white privilege and white power. I'll leave it at that.
The marriage license is an insidious little instrument that basically says that marriage is a privilege, not a right. So you have a marriage license, a driver's license, but a death certificate. I guess everyone has a right to die.
So, my original flippant remark about marriage isn't exactly right. The states are involved up front. Any marriage conducted without a marriage license isn't valid. Common law marriages are the only exceptions. Not all states recognize common law marriages. And this is where is gets muddy. States with common-law statutes don't say a damn thing about the gender of the participants. Only that they are husband and wife. Since husband and wife are not, to the best of my understanding, legally defined, it stands to reason in my head anyway that same-sex partners need only identify themselves as husband and wife, not husband and husband or wife and wife. Shrugs. I'm sure there's a loophole in there somewhere.
The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 defines marriage as that between a man and a woman, and offers a specific exception to the Full Faith and Credit Provision of the Constitution. So a same-sex marriage in California or Massachusetts need not be recognized in Kentucky or Colorado. Furthermore, the DOMA specifically prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions as marriages, even if the states do. This is pretty heady stuff. For instance, the Full Faith and Credit Provision is what prevents deadbeat parents from fleeing to other states to escape support orders. It is what accounts for our liberal extradition laws. I'm not sure, but I would imagine that the Full Faith and Credit Provision prevents other states from disenfranchising felons, when the state in which they were incarcerated enacts laws re-establishing their suffrage. (I bring up the right to vote because it is holds special significance in our republic. Four of our 27 Constitutional amendments deal directly with the voting rights of the people.) The second provision (that prevents the federal government from recognizing the state marriages as marriages) seems inherently unconstitutional. Why? Because any right not specifically given to the federal government is given to the states or the people. If the states are the ones with the right to determine what is a legal marriage, then that seems to prevent the federal government from abridging those rights. Without a Constitutional amendment establishing marriage as that between a man and a woman, the DOMA (at least as it pertains to the federal government), seems to be unconstitutional.
But I'm no constitutional scholar.
So why the hell have I just researched and written all this on a subject that I'd rather die than enter again? It's the issue of rights. As I understand it, the Equal Rights Amendment has been proposed in every Congress since 1923. In 1970, it managed to get to the floor but it was not ratified before it expired. It has been proposed in every Congress since.
The state maintains that marriage is a privilege. In fact, the issuance of a license (and not a certificate) reinforces the precedent that it is a privilege, not a right. However, it seems to me that there are certain rights afforded married persons that are denied unmarried persons. For instance? Well, husband and wife are considered to be "blood family". They have rights of inheritance, rights to make medical decisions on behalf of their spouses and children, and so forth. Family rights are most definitely seen as off limits by the states. Therefore, these "family rights" should appropriately be considered civil rights, not privileges. If they are civil rights, they can't be denied or abridged by the state. So while marriage itself may be a privilege, the rights assigned to married persons are specifically denied to unmarried persons. Therefore, certain civil rights are provisional and are being infringed by denying same-sex couples from marrying.
The Equal Rights Amendment as proposed in the 70s said that no rights may be denied or abridged based on sex.
Do you see where I'm going here?
We could kill two birds with one stone. If the gay community and the feminist community managed to get the ERA ratified, it would be a de facto ratification of gay marriage. All it would take is one successful court case that argues that rights afforded to married persons but denied to single ones is based on sex.
The reasons that the ERA failed to be ratified in the 1970s are many. It had to do a bit with the cultural climate--women had only begun to enter the workforce in numbers. Remember, Title Nine was enacted in 1972 and think of the stink it causes still.
In the end, I have no idea why gay people would want to marry. I don't see any use in the institution at all. But if they are determined, no reason they shouldn't have the right to suffer high blood pressure and chronic headaches, too. I hope they like Pepto Bismol. It's the breakfast of married people. And I wouldn't scream if it did something--anything--to address income, opportunity, and other inequalities of women in America.