Monday, June 16, 2008


On marriage, same-sex or otherwise

I’d been contemplating a different sort of entry today, another technology-related one, but as California enters the world of same-sex marriage, and as I read the New York Times, a change in plan comes to my mind.

The title of the Times article is what first caught my eye: Gay Couples Find Marriage Is a Mixed Bag.


Has anyone seen an article titled Straight Couples Find Marriage Is a Mixed Bag? Because it’s certainly as true, and why would anyone expect otherwise? Marriage is, as should be clear to anyone, a “mixed bag,” irrespective of the relative races, religions, ages, ethnic backgrounds... or sexes of its participants. Couples Find Marriage Is a Mixed Bag.

Some same-sex couples say being married has made a big difference, and some say it has made no difference at all. There are devoted couples who have decided marriage is not for them, couples whose lawyers or accountants advised them against marrying, and couples in which one partner wants to marry but the other does not.
All exactly, completely, entirely true without the “same-sex” qualifier applied. Does anyone expect otherwise? Should anyone expect otherwise?

This is something that’s bothered me since the discussion of same-sex marriage started: that its opponents hold same-sex couples up for examination and criticize the whole concept if they’re not better than straight couples — better at getting along, better at being happy, better at keeping their marriages together.

News: They’re not. They’re not better. They’re people, with the same interpersonal relationship issues as everyone else, and, in fact, that’s exactly the point... that they are the same, and should have the same rights — and the same opportunity to be as flawed at getting through life without conflict as the rest of us are.

In other words, the fact that same-sex marriages sometimes fail is not evidence that it’s wrong. It’s not an indictment of same-sex marriage at all. Stop that. Stop trying to make it one. Until opposite-sex couples can claim to be trouble-free, there’s nothing interesting here.

Gay Couples Find Marriage Is a Mixed Bag
Dog Bites Man
Sun Rises In East.

And out there in the west, a second U.S. state comes to its official senses. Only 48 to go.


Charlotte said...

I see it like this. Marriage is a basic civil right that should be attainable by all Americans if they choose. For those who are uncomfortable with gay marriage check out our short produced to educate & defuse the controversy. It has a way of opening closed minds & provides some sanity on the issue:)

Julietta said...

Bravo Barry! Let's all just get over it and move on.

Dr. Momentum said...

I guess I see it differently. This seems to me an indication that gay couples are so very similar to straight couples, because they have very similar experiences once their rights are recognized under the law.

That last part is new, of course.

I get where you're coming from. Here in MA I find it's really easy for me to just get past the whole thing. And why do we have to keep hearing about it once we've accepted it?

But I think you're expecting too much of a large slice of the country. Some things have to be processed before people can move on, and this is simply part of that process.

There are years and years of commentary on marriage being a mixed bag for heterosexual relationships. Perhaps there are no articles with that exact title, but it's certainly been observed. And as a group, it's nothing new. Individually, every party in a marriage finds out what the union means for him or herself. But as a group, hetero marriages are not really title-worthy.

One look at the divorce rate should confirm that SSMs are going to be subject to many divorces. Because it's "normal."

Barry Leiba said...

That makes sense, James. I'll buy that, if that's what the Times article is doing. And it probably is, knowing the slant of the Times.

But I have — often — seen folks point at the fact that same-sex unions sometimes collapse as a reason the marriages shouldn't be allowed. "See," people say, "You let them get married, and they just get divorced. Why should we change things for that?"

Maggie said...

I wonder if they were trying to be clever with the title. You know, "same" and "mixed."

There is a big difference, though -- gay couples previously couldn't get married and there is no social precedent for this. There's a lot of cultural pressure for mixed-sex couples to get married, especially if they're in a monogamous long-term relationship. That pressure has been there for a long time. There isn't a similar cultural pressure for gay couples. So it's an interesting decision, really much more individual than the decision for a mixed-sex couple.

A contemporary of mine was actually married in shame because she was pregnant before she was married. The wedding was small and the family waited for the next sister to get married before they had the "big" wedding. There's a lot of baggage associated with mixed-sex marriages that isn't there for homosexual marriage. It's interesting.

Dr. Momentum said...

Barry, I don't doubt you've seen those comments, even though they don't make any sense. The divorce rate isn't used as an argument against hetero marriage, why should it be relevant to any marriages?

In any case, I think the whole problem is civil marriage to begin with. I think we should all have civil unions, drop the word "marriage" from law and leave "marriages" to ceremonies and unions recognized by non-governmental organizations such as churches.

Civil unions will be an exclusive union between any two people, with the rights of what was previously called a marriage. If you want to get married, find a church or other organization that will "bless" your union (shouldn't be hard.)

Maggie and I got "married" "officially" in two churches, and we're atheists. Of course, at the time we weren't very outspoken about it.

Come to think of it, I'm probably excommunicated by now.