I gotta get something off my chest.
Everyone I know is getting married. Again. This keeps happening--you'd think they'd all be hitched by now and we'd be done with it. I guess some folks are on their second round, though, so maybe it will just be a perpetual cycle. At any rate, I have at least three weddings of close friends and/or family on my agenda in the next year, and counting. So I am thinking, once again, about the "M" word.
Here is the part where I put in the disclaimer: If you are my friend or family member and you are married or planning to be, you may want to stop reading here. If you don't, you may end up feeling hurt or insulted. I am, completely and honestly, sorry about that. I will, as I've likely already told you, do all I can to support your decision to get/be married. If you want me to put on an ugly dress and be in your wedding, I'm there. I'll even throw you a shower. But none of that is going to change my essential feelings about the decision you're making, and those feelings are what I'm going writing about here, on my soapbox, so read at your own risk.
Now. About marriage.
Marriage in the U.S. is a fundamentally discriminatory institution. Clearly, it discriminates against anyone not in a male-female relationship, but that's just a part of it. It also discriminates against anyone who is unlucky enough not to have someone to marry, or anyone who chooses not to participate. It elevates one set of citizens over another by virtue of their personal relationships and how they choose to legally codify those relationships. This is never going to be OK with me. While it's not by any means my only problem with marriage, it's the top of the list, and it's the one that makes me feel fine about making the following analogy:
When you choose to participate in a legal heterosexual marriage, you are, in essence, choosing to drink from the "white only" fountain. You may not have put that fountain there, you may not agree with its existence, you may do whatever else you can personally and politically to open it to people of all colors but you are still partaking in it. You are buying into an inherently discriminatory system, and by participating in it you are helping, in the slightest way, to keep that discrimination alive and kicking. You may have any number of personal and financial reasons to have made that choice, and some of those reasons may be very sensible, but the bottom line does not change. That isn't OK with me. For me, watching my friends and family make that decision isn't something that feels celebratory. I can be and often am nothing but happy for friends and family members who have found wonderful partners and want to build a life with those partners--but that happiness does not extend to their choosing to participate in legal marriage.
I honestly don't believe that the small number of us who choose not to marry for this reason (or for this among other reasons) are doing anything particularly effective to protest in favor of same-sex marriage. That's really not the point. Even if my getting married doesn't make the slightest difference in eradicating this particular discrimination, I am still committed to not being married. I want no part of an institution built on treating women as chattel, an institution built on "legitimizing" children, or an institution wherein rights and privileges are based on personal or sexual partnerships. And it's not just a "this is my personal preference, you do what you like" type of thing. I think it's morally wrong.
This clearly isn't some sort of deal breaker between my friends and I--if I didn't have married friends, at this point, I'd have few friends at all. Just as I am sure there are decisions I make with which the people who are important in my life disagree, this is a decision that most of the people in my life are making/have made with which I disagree. The difference that I can see is that it's a decision for which most of society will laud you. When you get married, or announce you are going to, you expect congratulations, presents, parties, etc. That makes sense. And it might make it even more insulting when someone among your friends (like, say, me) isn't excited for you, and doesn't say congratulations. Like I said before, I am not going to try to convince anyone I know not to get married. My friends and family members are, by and large, grown ups with their own decision-making processes and I have to respect the decisions they come to. But I am also not going to pretend I'm OK with it, because I'm not, and the more time passes, the less OK with it I get. This is, increasingly, the hill I am willing to die on.
So. There it is. A few of my thoughts on marriage. There are more, but on the slight possibility I still have friends left, I'm going to stop here.