I met callicrates online in 1992, and in 1998 we got married. We still are, but any couple who says they never have any problems are either lying through their teeth, living apart, or on some interesting drugs which I would love to get a hold of. Of course we've had a ton of support from family and friends, and we've both at different points cried on various shoulders. One person to whom we've repeatedly gone for excellent advice is erish. She is very good at communicating, counseling, and figuring out how to explain very foreign concepts (Andy and I were raised in vastly different environments) for us. So it is with even greater irony that I'll be using her as an example of why "Defense of Marriage" week is so ludicrous, because to hear some people say it, she should actively be trying to break us up.
This weekend we had the happy fortune of attending a wedding. I'll post more on the ceremony itself and the brides themselves in a happier post, but suffice to say that it was breathtakingly gorgeous. They managed to include everyone in as many ways as possible. They've asked me not to use their real names because they belong to a religion which is hostile to gay relationships (And they're much braver than I am in trying to change it from within), and they don't want the clergy-member who blessed the union to get into trouble. A good chunk of their guests were members of the congregation who actively support them.
I have not yet figured out how I feel about the whole marriage vs domestic partnerships vs significant otherhood semantics thing. I suppose if the thing the random politicians and religious leaders is the word "marriage", then I would be quite happy to let them have the word. I bet that people could come up with an equally meaningful term to define the relationships of couples who haven't been recognized by every single religious denomination in the US (For the purpose of this argument, and since the DOMW is a wholly American concept, I'm limiting my post to discussing things in the US). This, though, is where it gets murky, because I happen to believe in this small issue called "The separation of church and state". For the sake of this argument I won't even start on my feelings about how that's being chipped away, except in relation to the issue at hand.
My first thought on the issue is that marriage, like so many other things, is not a single black and white issue. For instance, I know a FOAF who apparently flew back to his native country, picked one of several women presented to him, married her, and they both went back to the country he was living in. In many parts of the world marriage is still a way to end feuds, unite families, or otherwise serve a purpose which has nothing to do with procreation or especially love. Heck, the Bible which so many people are wont to pound promotes polygamy and arranged marriages.
I tend to consider marriage as a multi-faceted thing. First, it's a declaration of love for one another, witnessed by family/friends/community, which in turn promises to help the married couple. Secondly, it is a promise between the couple and their deity/deities, if applicable. Third, it is a legal situation by which they are recognized in the capacity of issues such as hospital visitation, insurance, wills, and so on. There are others, but those are the three which stick out most in my mind.
Now, as for the first aspect: What consenting adults do is not the government's business. If it's non-consensual or if children are involved that's one thing; but if neither of those criteria are met, governor Bush can kindly keep his morals out of others' private lives. If a couple wishes to share with their community their devotion to one another, I'm all for it. As someone mentioned at the wedding yesterday, "Humans have come up with so many reasons to hate each other that it's a miracle when they can actually fall in love". If someone doesn't like the fact that it is a woman with a woman or a man with a man or any other combination, no one is forcing them to attend the wedding.
For the second aspect, some religions accept only man/woman for the purpose of child-bearing. I may disagree with them, but since it's their beliefs, I have no desire to cause them trouble. If they want to say a person can only marry someone with the same eye and hair color, fine. If they refuse to recognize the marriage of a member of their religion to a member of another religion, again, fine. That is something which the couple will have to deal with.
Finally, the legal aspects. In reference to those, see my comments on the first point. Those niceties should be extended to any couple willing to put their intents in words.
When we went to get married in NC, we applied for a marriage license. We were told that for it to be legal it had to be performed by a member of the clergy or a magistrate, with the following note: magistrates on duty are stationed at the jails, so to have a secular marriage we would have had to have the ceremony at a jail. What lovely symbolism, that. At any rate, I consider that to be a church/state problem.
Perhaps what I'm looking for is a way to disentangle each facet of marriage, at least enough so that they can't be confused with one another. I believe that a couple should be able to walk into a county office and be able to sign a document asserting that they wish to live together and care for each other. This should give them the current legal protections which a married heterosexual couple takes for granted. If they adhere to a specific religion, they should be able to have a ceremony as relates to that religion, officiated by a clergy-member of that religion or by the congregation or whatever. Finally, they should be allowed to dress up pretty and parade around and celebrate their love for one another in front of friends and family. If this is covered by the religious ceremony then it makes it easier, but it should be an option for any couple who wants to marry.
I do not believe that marriage needs to be protected; at least in the way certain politicians are implying. I happen to have many bi/gay/les friends, yet I have never gotten any indication that they want to cause trouble in my marriage. I do not believe that the wedding I attended yesterday in any way cheapens or demeans my marriage; if anything it strengthens it by bearing witness to the love of even more people within our ring of friends.
The divorce rate is, last I checked 50% or greater of all marriages. In some cases, the people were deluded by the notion of "Happily ever after" and did not realize how much work marriage entails. Perhaps those looking to "defend" marriage would be wise to address that notion. Some divorces should happen, as when a spouse abuses his/her spouse and/or the children. Anyone who believes that a person whose life is in danger should stay in the situation to preserve some "family" should consider long-term effects on children in violent households -- especially children who watch one parent murder the other.
I know a lot of divorced people, and I can safely say that not a single divorce has been caused by the existence of a same-sex couple living together. The things which really destroy marriages: lack of communication, unrealistic expectations, infidelity (By this I mean deceiving the spouse, be it sexual or not), violence... I wouldn't have a problem if Defense of Marriage Week addressed any of those. Instead, the threat has been framed as the love between people which is disapproved by certain religions. As mentioned before, if those religions wish not to recognize those relationships, that is their choice. I have no more right to sue them to recognize a same-sex marriage than they do to try to legislate their version of morality.
Two people devoting their lives to one another should be different from two people declaring their intentions in front of their deity/deities should be different from having the power of attorney and other strictly secular advantages. DOMW does not recognize this, but actively seeks to muddy the issue further. While I'm all for marriage, I cannot reconcile the defense this week stands for with regards to the actual strengthening of relationships, marital or otherwise.