Sunday, April 15, 2012

Why Call It Marriage?

I just started reading this blog, which I like a lot.  The author is a lesbian from a conservative Christian background.  I don’t know how she currently identifies herself, but it seems like she is still pretty religious.  I read this post

and it got me thinking, once again, about why marriage matters.  I’m a secular feminist, and if I was straight it is very likely I would not be married, so why does it matter to me that I am (gay) married and not civil unioned? 

I had always told Badger that I wouldn’t get married, so I had to get past some issues in order to feel comfortable with marriage.  The history issue is a huge one—historically marriage is an institution based on and designed to reproduce the unequal status of women, so when I think marriage I think coverture.  I also think marriage is a distinctly stupid way to distribute rights and privileges—why should marriage affect the amount a person pays in taxes, for example.  I find the consumerist aspect of modern marriage off-putting.  And of course, there’s Joni Mitchell’s classic argument that “We don’t need no piece of paper/from the city hall/to keep us tried and true.” I guess that last one is where I go so far to the left that I end up on the right sounding like a libertarian.

But, despite all that, I got married.  Mostly because I love Badger so dearly, and I was happy to tell the world.  And I got married because of the court case Flanigan v. University of Maryland Hospital

In this case a California man was visiting Maryland with his male domestic partner.  His partner became very sick and was admitted to the hospital.  Despite having evidence of their registered domestic partnership and despite the fact that the men had the correct paperwork to show that they designated each other as respective medical decision makers, the hospital claimed that “partner” did not qualify as family, and denied Flanigan access to his partner during that man’s last lucid moments. 

What this case says to me is that as long as marriage means so much to the people who hate us, it better mean something to me.  You can have all the civil unions in the world, and those civil unions can carry with them all the rights in the world, but if you show up at the hospital any person sitting behind that registration desk can deny you because they believe that only a marriage is a marriage.  Those same people see power in the word marriage.  Because it means so much to them, they are reluctant to deny the same rights that they would deny a person with a civil union.  I wish there was a way that those who don’t wish to share marriage with gay people could have their institutions, while still protecting our rights, but I think we tried that, and those same people did everything they could to make sure we would be not only separate, but unequal.

So now I have a lovely wife, a daughter conceived a month after we married, and a kitchenaid mixer—how conventional can you get?


  1. Thanks for the shout out. I enjoyed this post very much!

  2. I'm glad you liked it, your post inspired me!