Thursday, September 09, 2010

Divorce the State

A Solution to the Same-sex Marriage Problem Everyone Can Get Behind

Originally published in the Cubby Missalette

That recent Federal Court ruling overturning CA's Proposition 8 was at best a necessary evil, and at worst a diversion from a better strategy for solving the same-sex marriage problem. I say necessary because it is always best to eviscerate explicit injustice and discrimination from the law whenever possible. But I also say evil because—as a tactic in the fight for justice and equality for LGBTQ people—the ruling hurtles us further down a path that takes us in the wrong direction.

State involvement in determining who should get married is bogus. Marriage should not be a power of the State. As long as the State is involved in deciding who can get married, the underlying injustice and discrimination that is inherent in the old-fashioned model of marriage will be perpetuated.

The crusade to legalize same-sex marriage only seeks to empower the State to be more involved in our private lives, and in a perverse way just extends and reinforces a centuries-old way of thinking about class and privilege. The vision of justice that same-sex marriage proponents want is incomplete. They want certain rights for themselves, and they don't see that their goal will just re-draw the lines between the haves and the have-nots. Achieving state-sanctioned same-sex marriage will do nothing to advance the rights of ALL individuals, or afford protections to the underprivileged.

Marriage undeniably has its place in society, and I even believe LGBTQ people should have equal opportunity to participate in the ritual and pageantry of marriage. As one of my like-minded friends put it, “I love weddings.” But weddings and marriage are not the same. Weddings are events that two people and/or their families co-create to ceremonialize and solemnize their vows to one another. I wish we could focus on making marriage about these vows, about the promises two people make to each other. In other words, make marriage totally private—between the parties involved alone—and not involve the State one iota.

Married to the State demo @ NY Public Library
"Clones for Marriage" | Frank Susa © 2004

Ceremony, pageantry, declarations of love, sanctification—even legal compacts between two individuals if they so choose—are all fine. But there's no inherent need for the State to be licensing marriages, gay or straight. Let whomever bond however they wish. But let's empower the People, not the State to make it all official.

I say, let’s form a movement to divorce the State from being a part of any marriage. Let people who wish to marry handle all their issues privately. Contract law is robust enough to legalize so called "unions" between two people. And the state doesn't have to be involved at all, unless the contract is violated or one party wishes to dissolve it.

It's a solution that should work for everyone, if we all thought about it a little more. Fundamentalist religious people can have their anti-gay churches. Gay people can have their shared property. Liberals can have their fun suing each other in the courts. Libertarians can get on board because we’d be calling for more rigorous separation of Church and State. What's more, anarchists should also agree since nobody will be denying anyone access to anything. Even polygamists can get in on the fun.

Divorce the State and make marriage a completely private affair. It's the only way for us all to get what we really want—the basic human right to freely love who we want, how we want.


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