Friday, May 18, 2012

Wedding Bell Blues

“The American culture promotes personal responsibility, the dignity of work, the value of education, the merit of service, devotion to a purpose greater than self, and, at the foundation, the pre-eminence of the family. (snip) Culture matters. As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.” -- Republican Presidential nominee Willard Romney, Liberty University commencement speech – May 12, 2012

I read the transcript of Willard Romney’s speech to the fresh-faced and chaste graduates of Liberty University and had to remind myself that we are in the year 2012, not 1952. Never mind that the majority of the quote above is laughably out-of-touch with the current goals of modern Conservatism. The fact that he confirmed his belief of the fundamental principles of marriage at a school named Liberty University in order to establish his commitment to deny liberty to those who disagree with his personal beliefs is somewhat (completely?) ironic.

Allow me to dissemble a bit.

I like being married. I know that’s not a comment that you’ll hear from most Modern Males, but I have no qualms about stating the obvious fact that my second marriage to The Artist, now in its 26th year, has been nothing short of spectacular. Yes, we’ve had a few white-knuckle roller-coaster rides but, without a doubt, I would not trade a second of that time for ANYTHING. My first marriage? Doomed to failure from the start because we got married for all the wrong reasons, but at least we spawned successfully and produced the Awesome Daughter.

With the notable exception of a slight reduction in divorce rates over the past few years, it has been established and confirmed that around 50% of all marriages end in divorce. This includes hetero, gay and interracial marriages… the type of union may change, but the stats remain boringly consistent. Marriage can be HARD, and it can take a toll on those who are not prepared for the neck-snapping changes that come with matrimony and State-approved co-habitation. Add some rugrats to the mix and you have the potential for romantic flame-out, simmering banality and the unspoken hostility that comes with dreams blunted by reality.

Or not… it’s really up to the parties involved to make or break the union.

Everyone is looking for love and companionship, no matter what they say or how strenuously they deny it. Humans are hard-wired to seek out that Missing Piece, and thus has it been since the Reign Of The Humans began tens of thousands of years ago. Our ancient relatives may not have been as self-aware as we like to think we are now, but they knew what mattered, and they made it a normal pattern of their existence. They met, they fucked, they started living together, they procreated, they parented. It was all they could do just to survive, but they always found a way to make their version of love and companionship and family work. And it did, for a millenia, without the notion or label of ‘marriage’.

Of course, there have always been roadblocks to the unfettered unioning that mere mortals wished to engage in. I’m sure there were differences on the primeval Serengetti plains that caused a tribal uproar or two and resulted in thrown spears and blood feuds and headless carcasses left for the hyenas. As the Middle Ages grew middle-aged, it was simply impossible for a serf or commoner to woo a royal, for fear of being tossed into the nearest moat as Gator Chow. When we were a brand new country, it was common practice for slave owners to bang their bestest slaves and produce offspring, but MARRY THEM?!?! Oh noes. Even in the 20th century it was practically a death sentence for a Black or Brown man to gaze upon a lily-White lovely who fluttered her eyelashes in his direction, not to mention the decision sometime ago that it probably wasn’t such a great idea for a middle-aged man to marry a pre-teen virgin in her ‘child-rearin’ prime.

Call it whatever you want, but the union now referred to as ‘marriage’ has undergone numerous reboots and redefinitions throughout time, mostly the result of changes in morals and mores, in laws and wisdom, for reasons both practical and philosophical. When Willard speaks to the ‘enduring institution of marriage’ he is of course referring to the religious ceremony and status he accepts and approves of, which is rather different than the polygamous relationships his Great Great Grandfather practiced with the approval of his personal American Lord not-so-long ago. And yes, this all relates to the subject of (gasp!) GAY MARRIAGE.

We currently have yet another in a long series of traumatic national dialogs going on, this one revolving around the idea of same-sex couples getting gay married. Many traditionalists and the religiously-inclined seem to think that allowing people of the same sex to receive the official marital paperwork will somehow force everyone to renounce their firmly-held beliefs, accept Satan as their personal savior and gay-marry their next door neighbor… or something like that. Honestly, the reasoning behind the opposition to gay marriage seems to be rooted in the old-skool lizard brain ‘fight or flight’ synapse reaction.

Of course, supporters of opposite-sex-only marriage moan about ‘the sanctity of marriage’ as if the only type of marital union that exists is the God-approved church-held Bible-quoting variety. This is a patently ridiculous notion. Up until the 12th century, marriage was strictly a matter of legal ownership, a civil contract that had nothing to do with any religious doctrine. Back then the church decided it was time to sanctify the union, bestowing upon it a far more hallowed meaning than had existed before, and it has continued to be viewed as such until very recently. Those who claim that marriage has always been the aegis of the church simply do not have history on their side, and any claims that only the church may define marriage are just plain wrong.

The Artist and I were married WAAAAY back in 1986 in a decidedly non-traditional mode, courtesy of Las Vegas, Sin City, USA. Yep, it was the second round for us both, and we tied the knot in the completely non-religious Little White Chapel on the Las Vegas Strip after paying for and receiving our state-approved and mandatory marriage license from the City Court. After the 30-second ceremony, officiated by Justice of the Peace Eva Tubbs (5-ft., 400 lbs., fresh black eye and stitches, I swear!) we snuck into the closed-off patio outside the chapel for some pictures, jumped into the limo, tipped the driver $50 and spent the next hour messing up the Brown velour back seat of that lovely long White Lincoln, OH YEAH.

About that marriage license... it is not a religious document, has nothing to do with God or the church or sanctimony or the Bible or any of that. We weren’t asked to pray or kneel or tithe or pledge allegiance to a deity or cleanse our souls or give our new union over to Jesus. It was a required formality that, if not procured for $50 from the civil court, would mean that our MARRIAGE would not be LEGAL. Get that? Our newly-minted Las Vegas Wedding was completely and totally secular in nature and was devoid of any relation to the religiously-tainted version that we wanted less-than-nothing to do with. We were free to marry each other as long as we met the basic legal guidelines that had been adjudicated and codified, all without stepping foot in a church or within a mile of a holy person.

This is an important point to make: in the U.S. of A., a person can get married in a holy church ceremony as many times as they want, but they are REQUIRED to have a state-approved LICENSE for it to be LEGAL. Without the civil approval that a state-sanctioned license offers, a church wedding is not a LEGAL union, regardless of how many saints are dancing on that particular pin's head. Those who point to their religion-of-choice as proof of their ownership of the term, act and approbration of marriage are simply and totally wrong-o.

Before I go on, I want to make something very clear: I do NOT have a bone to pick with the idea of a religious marriage ceremony, because whatever your doctrine or belief of choice, it is an individual choice, a belief that works for you. I applaud that choice, because we only get one shot at this life, and if you choose to cede aspects of your life to the precepts of a sectarian belief, more power to you. It's been done for a long LONG time, and we all know how hard it can be to buck tradition, right?

My issue with the 'opposite-sex-mariage-only' proponents is this: who put THEM in charge? Most people I know who espouse that perspective base it on a strongly-held religious belief, but that doesn't pass muster when we are discussing a legal and secular contractual agreement. Last time I checked, our Constitution made it pretty clear that (as stated in Amendment 1), "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." In my feeble brain, I read that to mean that freedom OF religion also means freedom FROM religion, and when we are referring to the legal definition of marriage, the law and its implementation simply must be devoid of any adherence to a particular sectarian doctrine. I mean, COME ON... it isn't that hard to understand, is it?

Here are some real gems that were used to argue in support of 'traditional' marriage and to denigrate an alternate view:

"It's unnatural."

"It's contrary to God's will."

"It's about illicit sex, not committed relationships."

"The majority of Americans oppose such marriages."

Wait a minute... did I mention that these are the arguments used in 1948 when a bi-racial couple challenged California's interacial marriage ban in the Supreme Court? The same arguments reappeared when miscegenation (look it up) went to the Supreme Court 19 years later in the Loving v. Virginia case. By the way, the plaintiffs, an interracial married couple, won that one, but... the same freaking arguments are being used today against the approval of same-sex marriage. How very circular!

Here's the rub: marriage is a union between two consenting adults. It used to be for only the wealthy, then the poors could do it, but only WHITE poors. Then it was OK for old men to marry young girls, but then things changed and then it wasn't OK. Then it was a REALLY BAD THING for lovers of different races to get hitched, but then it was OK too. Except in Mississippi (heh heh heh). Nothing can be more important than the love two people share with each other, and the ability to join in a legal and healthy union to foster and grow that love, create a family and a legacy by enjoying the benefits that legal status affords... it must NEVER be subjected to the narrow religious or tradition-bound definitions that some would place upon it.

Through it all, the only constant... is CHANGE. Change is something we humans have to get accustomed to, because it is always swirling around us, from generation to generation, parent to offspring, no matter the social or ethnic or sexual orientation or classification. Change is HARD, no matter how hard we want it not to be... it is hovering around the peripheries of our lives, nipping away at our foundational beliefs, challenging us to keep up or get flattened like a wolverine on a hot Michigan highway.

Contrary to what the opposite-sex-only folks might think, there have been gay people amongst us as long as there have been people, and that has never changed. No matter what the religious tomes might direct and their adherents try to impose, gay people will continue to be a natural and integral part of our human civilization. It is simply wrong-headed and regressive to think they are somehow a lesser form of human, to be subjected to a different standard of respect and freedom than their non-gay brothers and sisters. For however long we had tolerated discrimination against 'the others', time and change and education and acceptance and understanding will always and eventually remove the unwarranted stigma from those who seek the same rights as the rest of us. That includes the right for all Americans to be legally married to whomever they choose, to love and honor and cherish them like we all hope someone will do to each of us.

About that love/honor/cherish thingie. The Artist and I will soon celebrate our 26th Anniversary, and all indications are that she likes having me around. Our emotional connection isn't subject to any sexuality qualifier... she either loves me or she doesn't, and so far it seems that she does, in fact, still love me. I fail to see how that feeling could be any different for a married gay couple. That alone is enough rationale for me to call on all humanoids to stand up and be counted as supporting every person's right to love and marry the one that lifts them, that gives them inspiration, that completes their emotional circle. What could be better?

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” ~ John F. Kennedy

Lead image, muchismas gracias de; Bob Marley 'Is This Love?' and The Dixie Cups 'Going To The Chapel' videos, muchismas gracias de