Gay marriage is bad for America.
I mean it; I think gay marriage is a terrible idea, and I want nothing to do with it.
Evan Wolfson, founder and director of the marriage-equality organization Freedom to Marry, argues that the term “gay marriage” suggests we’re asking for special privileges—privileges that straight married people don’t have. Me, I take the opposite view. As I see it, any adjectival or nominal qualification can only limit the idea of marriage, can only make it less than just plain marriage and all it encompasses. A menu is a menu, but a kids menu is a very particular kind of menu, sharing some but not all of the qualities of other menus. Soup can be refreshing in any clime on any day of the year; chicken soup can’t. “Marriage” is marriage, and offers a host of possibilities. “Gay marriage,” I think, offers fewer.
(If we need a noun, I offer “marriage equality.”)
If you had told me on May 4, 1993, that in a decade and a half I would be desperately researching waiting periods for marriage licenses in Connecticut and Massachusetts because otherwise my boyfriend was going to drag me to his home state of Iowa to get married (“But corn is fun!”), I would have laughed in your face. Then, if you are a boy, I would most likely have asked you out, since that’s what I spent most of my sophomore year of college doing, and you would have said no, since that’s what the boys I asked out spent most of my sophomore year of college doing, and I would have gone back to my dorm room to cry.
But the next day, the Hawai’i Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry probably violated the state constitution, and everything changed. I mean, the boys I asked out still said no, but the possibilities of what they were saying no to had been cracked wide open, so I cried much, much harder.
Seventeen years later (though, extraordinarily, I seem to have aged only five), I have at last found a boy I was able to trick into proposing to me. After getting engaged two and a half years ago, we’ve made a few attempts at planning a wedding, but none of them have come to fruition, mostly because the damn rules keep changing. “Honey, let’s go to Massachusetts and get married! Oh, wait, now we can only get married in Massachusetts if we live there. Okay, well, let’s go to California and get marri— whoops, we weren’t fast enough. Never mind California. Wait, maybe we can still go to California! Nope. Um . . . oh, crap.”
Since May 17, 2004, when a Cambridge city clerk pronounced Tanya McCloskey and Marcia Kadish married under the laws of Massachusetts, same-sex couples have followed their lead in the United States — over 150,000 all told in Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, Washington, D.C., and the Coquille Indian Tribe (within the boundaries of Oregon).
And that’s the thing: McCloskey and Kadish, and the multitude of other married same-sex couples—theirs wasn’t a gay marriage. It was a marriage.
When Roman soldiers, forbidden in the first and second centuries A.D. to take wives, were finally allowed to wed, they weren’t military marrying; they were marrying.
When former slaves freed by the Emancipation Proclamation stood before clergymen and spoke their vows, they weren’t getting black married or freedmen and -women married; they were getting married.
When Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter said “I do”—they were the interracial couple whose victory in the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia made it illegal in America to prevent mixed-race couples from wedding—they didn’t get interracial married; they got married.
Same-sex couples today are in no different position. I don’t want to get gay married.
I want to get married.