Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Marriage, Anniversaries, and the Striking Down of DOMA

Today is a very special day. Today I celebrate my third anniversary of marriage. Today is also the day that the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. I feel very privileged to share my anniversary with a day that I hope signals massive change in how we view the construct of marriage.

In the distant past, a wedding was a luxury generally afforded to the wealthy. Common law marriages were established so that the poor could still be considered married, even if they could not afford to go through the ritual of marriage. Even in more recent centuries, when the United States was expanding Westward, many towns did not have a church, and so couples would move in together and start their families, and have the wedding when a circuit rider (a pastor, usually of a Protestant denomination, who rode around preaching to the settlements) came around and could perform the ceremony - sometimes months or years later.

Today, weddings are still an expensive undertaking, but there are many options for people. Small wedding chapels, justice of the peace ceremonies - hell, you can even have Elvis marry you in Vegas, something I half-jokingly referenced multiple times while my fiance and I complained about wedding planning and its costs. A wedding, and marriage, is no longer a luxury of the very wealthy.

Instead, it is the luxury of the straight. It has been used as a new form of division,  this time not between the wealthy and the poor, but between the heterosexual and the homosexual. Say what you will about the religious underpinnings of the concept of marriage - the way we think of marriage today is as a contract between two willing parties. Two people who wish to be bound together in some way, whether that be under God, under the State, or all of the above. Even among people who generally think of marriage in the same way (say, as a contract under God), the definition of marriage will still vary widely. I'm sure my idea of marriage differs very much from others who share my faith and religious practice. It's a very personal concept and decision.

So even in the face of all that variability - as well as all the variability in opinions on gender roles (don't even get me started on that one - this blog post would be way too long) - why do so many people still insist that marriage is only to occur between a man and a woman? And further, why is there this belief that allowing a man to marry another man, or a woman to marry another woman, will somehow change the definition and meaning of a given couple's marriage? Like I said, the definition and meaning is a very personal thing. And nothing anyone else does can alter it.

I'm happy that I was able to marry my husband. And I'm happy that others, who have been denied this privilege in the past, will hopefully soon be able to share this institution.

Thoughtfully yours,

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