On not being married.

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Over on Name that Mama, Em posted this article from the New York Times (if you want the text and don't have a login, she posted at least some of it). My friend T., from Ceci n'est pas un blog emailed me the same article. Neither of my friends gave a comment, so I have no idea what their views on the article and the subject are, but I have some views, and I haven't talked about them in a while, so I'll share them.

Mark and I are among those 20 and 30-something different-sex couples who are intentionally unmarried (mostly) because we don't want to take part in a discriminatory institution. We have both thought about it and talked about it fairly extensively, and what it comes down to is that neither one of us is comfortable becoming married, or identifying ourselves as married, while married has the meaning it currently does in the U.S. We both know that our "marriage boycott" does nothing to help gay and lesbian couples who want to get married. It's not a substitute for actual political action. We don't feel like we're on some kind of strike, denying ourselves something we want for political reasons. Rather, because of what marriage is, a discriminatory institution that only affords benefits to those with the "right" sexuality, we don't want it.

I think that's an essential difference, and it is one the article didn't pick up to the extent I had hoped it would. For us, at least, the decision not to marry is not about self-sacrifice. It's about making the conscious decision, in order to live with ourselves, more than to "help" or "support" anyone, to reject an institution that feels wrong to us. While I do, like one of the couples in the article mentioned, go out of my way to point out to people who assume otherwise that Mark and I are not married and tell them why, I'm not convinced doing it makes any difference. There is no reason that I can think of that anyone with any power to change current marriage law (that is, anyone) cares one way or the other whether or not I get married, so not getting married is a pretty ineffectual protest.

My thinking on this has changed quite a bit over the past few years. It used to be that I thought I wasn't going to get married as a form of protest--just what I'm disparaging here. However, it has been pointed out to me numerous times by lesbian friends and acquaintances, that I'm not really doing them any favors by not getting married, particularly if not getting married is the only thing I'm doing, or if I think just not getting married myself is enough. And it's kind of...patronizing, I guess...to think that it does make a difference.

So that is what the article made me think. I understand why these couples, from Brad and Angie on to the folks who sound a bit more like Mark and I, are making the decisions they are. And I fully support the choice not to get married--for whatever reason you make it--but I think there's a real need to be careful in stating or even thinking that you are making that choice in support of or on behalf of other people. At the end of the day, Mark and I aren't getting married because we aren't comfortable with it, and assuming that should make any difference to anyone but us is pretty self-centered.

4 Comments

I heard about a group of people who ARE getting married for the same reason--if you're not married, you have nothing to lose by marriage being open to gays, but if you are married you have more at stake int he institution. i think a lot of bigots would point to things like the declining marriage rate as all the MORE reason for why marriage must be protected. it's interesting to me how both sides (getting married for a political reason, not getting married for a political reason) can be sustained.

i guess i feel like, it sucks that people are starving and i wish i could do more for them, but i don't think me starving would be a useful political statement.

however i don't understand why people would want to involve the government in their love affair, either, so, perhaps i am not the target audience.

you know, i've been arguing with a friend about this for a few weeks now (not warlock, a different friend) and i keep meaning to email you and ask you for your actual experience of being unmarried but maybe it would give you blog fodder to write about whether or not you get pay more for health insurance, taxes, etc? are you worried about making medical decisions for each other? are you going to do power of attorney type stuff? if you want. whatevs.

my reasons for rejecting marriage don't have as much to do with gay marriage as much as it's just that i don't support straight marriage. marriage serves to help ONLY the 1950s ideal nuclear family while simultaneously HINDERING those that don't conform to that. i also think that the benefits of marriage are benefits that shouldn't be tied to a sexual rel'ship. a person shouldn't be required to be married to have health care or a retirement safety net.

This article made me really envious. You know I support you and Mark, Grace, and I wish I was still there with you in fact as well as in spirit. :\

Rachel, before I did the deed, I was paying 449.03 per month out of pocket for health care for my SO. The budget just couldn't sustain it, and that was a major factor in my decision. At my old company, he was covered, but the company's contribution to his health care counted toward my total income. (It's called imputed income - I think I've seen some folks refer to it as the gay tax. And for good reason, since straight folks can just marry themselves out of this penalty for $75 or less and a trip or two to city hall.)

Have you ever checked out the website for the Alternatives to Marriage Project? It's a great resource.

have you read "the meaning of wife?" i have been meaning to get to it.

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