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.