Friday, August 28, 2015

The journey to marriage equality

Earlier this week was the 95th anniversary of the day women gained the right to vote in this country. I saw many people sharing links about the date, the significance of it all, and I couldn't help but laugh at the tagline Facebook attached to the story. "Happy Women's Equality Day!"

I wouldn't go that far.

It's not as though finally being given the right to vote automatically conferred equality then - after all we had to be "given" that right by men and women of color were in many places stopped from exercising their rights fully for several decades to follow. Things weren't magically equal between the sexes then and they still aren't today, though we've come a long way.

The fight for marriage equality is happening today, in real time, in living rooms and church pews and statehouses and bakeries and hospitals. The fight for true equality doesn't begin and end with the recognition and inclusion of the marriage contract alone, just as the quest for equality among the genders didn't begin and end with the right of suffrage.

There are so many obstacles standing in the way of full marriage equality still, not the least of which are the comprehensive laws on the books across the nation permitting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This map provides a pretty eye opening display of which states permit which types of discrimination.

Ultimately, though, this post is about more than all that. It is about the idea of marriage equality as a construct, one that, even if extended without reservation to the lgbt community still isn't fully inclusive.

Marriage, at its simplest, is an agreement between consenting adults. Attempts to narrow that definition in any way will inevitably fail a thorough challenge.

For example, marriage does not exist simply for the creation of children. Babies are conceived and born out of wedlock as easily and often as they are within the boundaries of marriage. Not all married people want or can have children. Some marriages take place later in life, past the point where fertility has diminished. None of those people are "less" married in the eyes of the law.

Marriage, real marriage, is something beyond all that. It doesn't fit into tiny boxes, it can't be easily categorized. There is no normal, even if we've been raised to believe that the nuclear family version is the only acceptable one.

Marriage takes as many different forms as there are married people in this world.

I know plenty of traditional couples. Him. Her. Kids.

Some of them fit the mold just like we're told they're supposed to.

Some of them hardly see each other at all, living almost entirely separate lives. On purpose.

Some of them routinely vacation alone or with friends instead of one another.

Some of them have worked through marital trauma.

Some of them are staying married just until the kids are out of high school.

Some of them stay married for other reasons.

Some of them married out of convenience and expectation, because it was what they were supposed to do.

Some of them have left first or second or third marriages, some have remarried, some have pledged never to marry again.

Some of them have open marriages where they are free to explore relationships outside the marriage. Some of those are expressly sexual in nature, others are more focused on the emotional components of the relationship being fulfilled outside. Those in open marriages don't hide anything from one another and it is all done with express consent, approval and permission.

Some of them are closeted bisexuals, refusing to tell even their spouses that they are attracted to both men and women, but remain faithful to the marriage because there is a difference between sexual orientation and fidelity. I'm going to repeat this one. There is a difference between sexual orientation and fidelity. 

Some of them are openly bisexual.

What works for one marriage is none of my business, not any of my concern. It works for those individuals and as long as they are in agreement, that's all that matters.

For that matter, there's a compelling argument, one which I wholly support, in favor of polyamorous marriage. Polyamory exists in forms other than the highly religious polygamy we've been spoonfed on reality television. I know several polyamorous families forbidden from legalizing their bonds to one another for the simple fact that there are more than two of them. They live together, raise their children as one cohesive unit. In many ways, poly marriages would actually be more functional than two person marriages, particularly in the area of parenting, because of economies of scale. More adults in a home setting means that more of them are able to pursue full time careers, fewer need to be present for the raising of children. It's amazing to see in action, though that requires you get over whatever your preconceived ideas of marriage are supposed to look like.

I'm not sure at what point people in this country became so hyperfocused on how other people live their lives, while at the same time defending their absolute right to do as they pleased in their own lives.

I wouldn't want someone examining my marriage from the outside, condemning or condoning the choices I've made. I doubt anyone out there reading this would either. Just because I might not choose something for myself doesn't make it wrong for someone else.

Why then does it matter how other people's marriages work? Why does it matter what they look like or who they include?

Short answer.

It shouldn't.

I'll do me.

You do you.

Let's talk about the journey to equality, not claim we're already there.

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