Saturday, December 8, 2012

Do We Really Want To Define Marriage?

Yesterday the United States Supreme Court agreed to take on same sex marriage. Marriage Equality experts are rejoicing everywhere because its a good thing, right? Well, isn't it?

On one hand I'd say yes. I should be able to marry whomever I choose. On the other hand, I'm not sure "marriage" is the answer.

One of the perks of being gay, besides knowing a lot of good hairdressers, is that we've always been able to operate outside the norm of societal expectations. Where society has said women are supposed to be married by a certain age, or men are expected to be providers for the family, gay men and lesbians have been able to carve out their own lives, free of those expectations. Now if marriage equality becomes the norm, everything changes.

If same sex marriage becomes legal in all fifty states, what happens to those partners who have decided not to become married? Are their relationships suddenly invalidated because they chose not to sign the piece of paper the government provides saying you have a valid union? Instead of equality, we have judgment.

Personally, I don't think we can define any relationship (gay or straight) as valid or invalid. Each relationship is as unique as the two (or sometimes three) individuals who make up that relationship. Some relationships are open, some are hostage situations. Some are two people, some are triads. Some relationships are for convenience, some are arranged. Some are business transactions and some are to legitimize a birth. Unless someone is getting hurt, the terms of the relationship are no one's business except for those involved.

Recently my grandfather passed away, and he left behind a wonderful woman named Joyce. After my grandmother died several years ago, Grandpa met Joyce. They've been inseparable ever since. They attended all the holiday gatherings together. They came to see me in plays together. They did everything except what would have been unheard of a generation ago. They never married. I realized this week when I was telling someone about Joyce, that I was looking for a word as to what she was to my grandfather. Wife? No. Girl friend? Doesn't seem appropriate at 70 something. Life partner? No. Lady friend? Maybe. The fact is, she was just Joyce, a wonderful woman who brought joy to the life of my grandfather and all of us. Isn't that enough of a definition?

If we really have to define marriage, or any relationship, can we just say, "someone who brings you joy?" Maybe the joy isn't everyday, but there is joy in each of our relationships. That's enough to make it valid.

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