4/25/08

Lesbian Bride Chronicles: Are Same-Sex Weddings "Real"?

Despite many years of scorning my straight friends, I, too, have now become a Bridezilla—at least one in training. I spend hours browsing wedding websites and buying bridal magazines, comparing different veil lengths and debating the merits of one friend over the other for maid of honor. Because now I, the eschewer of weddings, am now planning my own. I have met my soul-mate and am happier than I ever imagined I could be. I feel like writing a formal apology—on vellum embossed paper, no less—apologizing to all my friends at whom I scoffed during their nuptials. I get it now, how easily it is to be sucked into the Wedding Machine, how fierce is the desire to succumb to the industry’s insistence that this day be The Most Perfect Day of Your Life in order to accurately celebrate and display your Real True Love to the world.

So when I told my mother that my girlfriend and I were planning to get married, I was upset that she didn’t congratulate me. The first thing she said was, “Your brother has to get married first!”



The difference in the way my family treats and talks about my brother and me has never appeared so clearly as it does when it comes to the issue of marriage. Though I, too, met my beloved and knew right away we were meant to be—just like my brother and FSIL, just like my parents, even my grandparents—it is my brother and FSIL who are the Couple of the year. Though both my brother and I will wed in the next year (brother this July, me next June), it is his wedding everyone talks about. When a high school friend of mine saw my mom in the grocery store, she said, “Hey, I hear that Loaf is engaged!” “Yes. Well. Her brother is getting married first, and that’s all I can deal with right now.”

We say that because the wedding is two years away, we are taking our time planning. It’s true that we aren’t calling caterers and booking venues, but we set a tentative date, and we talk about it every now and then. Okay. We talk about our wedding all the time. It’s better than talking about how much we hate living fifteen hours away from each other or how crazy our families are or how shitty it is that we have to go to a foreign country to wed. Destination weddings are growing in popularity, but it still feels odd to determine our guest list based on who has a passport or not. Sure, we’re just crossing the bridge from Detroit to Winsdor, Ontario, but by 2008, you’ll need a passport to reenter the U.S. It’s hard enough getting our extended families to accept that we’re not marrying men, but to ask Grams to get a passport? My mother insists it’s too much. Because our union isn’t legal, Mom focuses on the “real” wedding my brother will have. I worry that my parents won’t acknowledge my ceremony the way they celebrate my brother’s. After all, they’re right. Even though I’m marrying in Canada where equal marriage is a reality, that marriage license won’t be worth shit once I cross the border. In some sense, the wedding won’t be real.

Recently a friend of mine overheard me talking on the phone to Luckdragon about our wedding plans. When I got off the phone, she asked for details. I mentioned our plans to wed in Canada, since equal marriage rights aren’t available in the States. “Who cares if it’s legal or not?” she shrugged. “What does that really matter?”

Only a straight person could say such a thing, someone who has never had to question the rights they feel entitled to, the benefits of heterosexuality they take for granted. The truth is there are 1,138 federal benefits for which heterosexual married couples are eligible, from hospital visitation rights and the right to make medical decisions for your partner to inheritance benefits and the right to family leave. Many of these privileges cannot simply be secured by having a lawyer draw up some paperwork; there is no legal document that would allow me to take a leave from work to provide care for Luckdragon if she became seriously ill, and that’s just one of the many things from which we are excluded.

A legal ceremony is not just a formality. There are very real consequences of a marriage that is not recognized. This is why I hate the term “commitment ceremony,” even though that’s exactly what a “real” wedding is. It’s two people making a commitment to one another. But the connotations of a “commitment ceremony” are that it is “not a marriage.” In other words, something less than a real wedding.

Marriage became a sacrament in the Catholic church in 1215 and all that made a marriage a valid marriage—according to official decree—was a couple’s private vows, even if those vows were said in absolute secrecy, with no witnesses. I love this. Because isn’t that what a wedding really should be? A promise you make to your partner that depends not on floral arrangements or a string quartet, but the commitment you’re vowing? So why do I need my wedding to be a public affair? Especially since it’s not legal, couldn’t Luckdragon and I exchange vows one night in bed and tell the world we’re married from that day forth? It will be just as non-legal as that Canadian marriage license.

True, some couples—straight and gay alike—eschew marriage and all of its connotations for something of their own design. We will make our wedding our own, but I want to say to my family, to the world, to each other, that I love my wife just as much, in no way is it different from what they understand as "real" and "valid." Those opponents of marriage say they don’t want to “act like straight people” and “pretend they’re just the same.” Gay relationships, critics insist, are fundamentally different from straight relationships, and, therefore, the idea of marriage is not applicable. Conservative opponents of equal marriage say that if gays are allowed to marry, it will fundamentally alter—even destroy—the institution as a whole.

But it is not just gay people who have queered marriage and coupling. Plenty of straight people live in kinky, polyamorous situations, raise children out of wedlock and live together before they’re married. As famed sex advice columnist Dan Savage, author of the weekly “Savage Love,” which appears in independent papers throughout the country, has said, “The problem for opponents of gay marriage isn’t that gay people are trying to redefine marriage in some new, scary way, but that straight people have redefined marriage to a point that it no longer makes any logical sense to exclude same-sex couples.”

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

No.

Paula the Surf Mom said...

and just why do you think that?

Anonymous said...

It's not that "I think that". It's that it is that.

Marriage is the joining of one man and one woman. I'm sorry, but that's what "marriage" means. Gay people can enter any living arrangement they want - and I wish them well - but that ain't marriage. And it never will be.

Paula the Surf Mom said...

I think the author of this article explained her position on gay marriage well... all you gave me here was dogmatic absolutism. I like to to explain your position.

Anonymous said...

My position is that words have meaning. Red doesn't mean blue. Up doesn't mean down. I'm sorry if that feels like "dogmatic absolutism" to you, but reality can be that way.

"Gay marriage" is an oxymoron. It is a contradiction in terms. It does not - and cannot - exist.

Anonymous said...

i agree. They should be able to join in civil unions that have the exact same benefits and rights as married couples, but we would just call it a different thing (not sarcasm, i think it would be that easy). The biggest gripe i hear against gay marriage is that it would destroy the sanctity of marriage. To be honest, i don't know what exactly that means, but i think that the issue would fade away the second we stopped calling it marriage. but then again, i strongly believe in the saying, "whatever floats your boat and doesn't sink mine." then again, the highly religious do as i say right wing christians probably don't share that mindset.

Anonymous said...

The biggest gripe i hear against gay marriage is that it would destroy the sanctity of marriage. To be honest, i don't know what exactly that means

It means that when a man proposes marriage to a woman it is a very special thing. It is a lifelong commitment for him to take care of her and bring children into the world together. It is ordained by God Himself. Marriage is sacred. Marriage is the most fundamental societal construct we have and should be handled with respect. It is the very foundation of our society.

To casually redefine marriage to say that it now also means two gay guys named Willard living together in a cottage in San Fransisco lessens marriage. That absolutely "destroys the sanctity of marriage".

Anonymous said...

Through most of human history (with special emphasis on societies derived from Western European society), marriage was a financial and legal contract with little input from the couple to be married. It wasn't even until 1563 that the Council of Trent decided that it was important to have priests officiating.

Different cultures have had different marriage customs throughout recorded history, so it's a bit historically naive to say that marriage is "ordained by God himself".

Anonymous said...

t is a lifelong commitment for him to take care of her and bring children into the world together

but i know a few married couples that decided never to have children. that is basically the only thing a man and a woman can do that two men or two women can't (without the help of science or adoption), and it really doesn't sound like it is destroying anything.

i know personally many couples who ended up cheating on their spouses countless times, thus breaking that lifelong commitment and threatening the sanctity of marriage.

I know of Pastors who could not keep their commitments to their wives. Doesn't that also destroy the sanctity of marriage? Aren't many of the same people who legislate the laws forbidding gays to marry while using that excuse also committing debauchery on some level or failing to fulfill their lifelong commitments?

i think it is fair to say that whatever holy aspect of the whole dealie-o in this day and age is obsolete. We live in a world of hypocrites. i don't see any harm in allowing gays to marry except that it may piss off some christians/catholics who can't see their own failures because they are focusing so much on what other people do. There should be two separate forms: one that everyone (gay or straight) who wants to be married under the law to fill out (which will use the words civil union), and one that is strictly recognized only by churches and has nothing to do with rights or the governments as it would be a contract under god himself.

Anonymous said...

i know personally many couples who ended up cheating on their spouses countless times, thus breaking that lifelong commitment and threatening the sanctity of marriage.

That is not good. Agreed. But is the solution to make it even worse? Since some people threaten the sanctity of marriage, should we as a society endeavor to totally destroy it? Should we institutionalize the destruction of marriage?

Wouldn't it be better for society if we stopped destroying marriage instead?

Paula the Surf Mom said...

That still sounds to me like "what YOU think" it is... why is your view the way the "IT IS"?

enlighten me please

Anonymous said...

In the history of this country, marriage has meant one man and one woman joining in holy matrimony. It has never meant two women, two men, two women and three men, a man and his orangutan, or seven men and a phone pole. No, "marriage" means one man and one woman.

So now some people want to "redefine" it. Why? It already has a definition. If you want to go sleep with a canary named Phillis, go ahead. But don't call it marriage. Marriage means something else. Do what ever floats your boat, but don't call it something that it is not.

Paula the Surf Mom said...

It seem s the key phrase here in you argument is "holy matrimony"... so I take it you base this view on your religious beliefs....

Ever heard of the separation of church and state? I think it got mentioned in the Constitution... but maybe you missed that.

So that why should your religious belief be given the force of law? Isn't that the same thing the mullahs in Iran would have?

Anonymous said...

Marriage originates from religion and the word as such has its roots in the concept that a man and woman can only have sexual intimacy and the right to start a family if they partake in a holy union.

It's not LouF's personal belief, it's just the way the actual meaning of the word. So two men or two women getting "married" makes as much sense as me calling a woman a man

Paula the Surf Mom said...

So if we call gay marriage something else out of respect to religion then you would support my rights as a gay person to have the same rights you, a straight person?

Anonymous said...

You already have them. You can enter into any kind of contractual agreement you want.

Want survivor benefits? Write a will. Want hospital visitation rights? Have a party!

It's not right to bring an innocent child into this arrangement, but outside of that have at it.

Anonymous said...

You already have them.

they also want the tax deductions, automatic power of attorney (that comes from common law marriages), and painless adoption processes where they won't be discriminated against (because obviously same sex couples can't offer the loving family relationships that straight people always give their kids).

It's not right to bring an innocent child into this arrangement, but outside of that have at it

WUT? ok. so it is more right for a straight couple to have kids on a whim than a couple of people who want to a kid and go through years of adoption paperwork, background checks, and waiting? i'm pretty sure hetero couples may even have kids by accident! but no matter, they will always be better parents than homo couples, eh? you touched a nerve there, boy. the reason i find this topic so interesting is because my sister is going through this at the moment (she married out of state, but still is having a lot of trouble adopting with her wife).

just a question here: what is your opinion on same sex relationships?

Paula the Surf Mom said...

good question

Loaf said...

Interesting that all these comments (except those by Paula) are anonymous. I don't engage in baiting wars with anonymous commenters, especially when it's so clear we fundamentally disagree.

I'll just say this. In the history of our country, the tradition was slavery. Yes, obviously slavery is much worse than denying equal marriage rights, however both are a denial of a common humanity. Saying that we could have a civil union is no good. Separate but equal hasn't worked so well in the past.

It used to be illegal for a couple of different races to marry and folks used the EXACT SAME arguments against interracial marriage as they do against extending marriage to included gay couples. Now if you suggest to most people (except the worst bigots) that interracial marriage is wrong, they would get upset and look at you in disbelief. Someday that's the way it will be when we have equal marriage. And people who are now against it will be ashamed of themselves for their ignorance.

Frogette said...

" It is a lifelong commitment for him to take care of her and bring children into the world together".

So, you believe infertile people should not be allowed to get married? You're a scary inhumane person. Plus, in many cases you can't know that you're infertile before you've actually tried conceiving. Your extreme position seems to pose a few technical problems.

triskaid said...

Are weddings,"real"? Here in the U.s., we conflate a religious ceremony with a legal status, and that is hypocritical bullshit until we remove the separation of church and state from our founding documents. No "marriage" should be honored by U.S. law; only civil unions should be honored. If people can form corporations to use the system to their advantage, who cares who can get married? Churches, being non-profits, don't pay taxes. That's like one big marriage (civil union) of all the people who benefit from it.

gananand said...

There are TONS of words that change meaning over time. There was a time when Black people were not considered human beings. In the 60s, interracial marriages were not legal in many states. Part of the reason that slavery was allowed to continue to exist was that slaves were not considered to be human beings. If you are gay, you still should have a right to have a recognized, lifelong loving commitment and be able to raise a family with all the rights that a heterosexual couple has. Why? Because gay people cannot have that kind of relationship with members of the opposite sex. Why? Because they are gay. What's the big deal. My gay friends are great. They are more open minded, loving, and helpful than most hetero people I know. Is it so mind-boggling to alter the definition of the word "marriage" a bit. Merriam Webster managed to do it, why can't you?

Jessica Sideways said...

You know, over the past two centuries, marriage has evolved in this country. Initially, the wife was considered "chattel" of the husband and only white people could marry.

Now, wives are not considered "chattel", divorce is not illegal and interracial marriage is permitted, as well as equal marriage rights for people who are not white.

Gay marriage does not threaten straight marriage. Let's not confuse people by using two different terms for the same thing. We need to share the same word, so let's all play nice, eh?

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