I am a man who's been married to a man for three years, who I've loved for over a decade. We were allowed to get married in a brief moment in 2008 when California allowed same-sex marriage. About 18,000 of us got married in that moment, and I believe with the eventual fall of DOMA, same-sex marriage will be legal in the all of the United States of America.
As a society, I want us to move beyond the concept of same-sex marriage vs. heterosexual marriage and actually remove sex from marriage all together. (I'm told it happens eventually, anyway.) If we completely remove the check box of gender from a marriage license, what would happen? Why is it important for our government to know if Jill is a man or a woman, or if Jack was born a woman or a man? What if Jack or Jill don't identify as either/or?
It's time to remove gender labels from marriage. I can only see where gender labeling in marriage cannot aide in, but may harm the love that two people feel for each other. Assigning gender to a definition of marriage tells people at an early age that it is wrong to love a particular person. Defining marriage in terms of gender tells us that our neighbors' love for their spouse is a different kind of love than our own love for our spouse.
For most of our society in the United States, marriage stopped being about commerce and wealth-building in the 20th Century and now it is about uniting with a person you love.
Love isn't dependent upon gender, love doesn't need to procreate, love is independent of institutions. Marriage, though, is an institution, and it has a special place in our society and, as such, it is more than sharing health benefits or a checking account. Marriage is not just about what legal benefits and responsibilities one receives from the state upon getting married. The daily impact of being married is as ubiquitous and subtle as gravity. It gives one the ability to say a lot by only saying, "This is my husband."
Marriage is how the nurses know that it's OK if you hang out in your husband's room past visiting hours. It's what tells your co-workers you are not interested in finding a date, or 'a new boyfriend.'
In California, we've been offered the separate-but-equal status of "domestic partner," which gives us all of the Californian rights and responsibilities of marriage but gives us none of the social benefits of being married. Our society doesn't know what to do with the word "partner" to describe people in a committed and loving relationship. Is this other person a business partner, a domestic partner or a tennis partner? It requires explaining to the nurse that you have the legal right to make health decisions, "just like married people." It "feels" like a weaker bond to your co-workers who are "really married."
There is a lot of value placed in the institution of marriage and none of it is dependent on gender. As we see more and more of world-wide society understanding that marriage should not be defined as an institution between a man and a woman, we in the United States should strive to take a step further and eliminate the need to define the gender of two people in love at all.
Love will exist without marriage, but as a society let's embrace, encourage and sanction love between two people, without forcing them to fit into a check box on a form.
Photo by Dave Tada, www.davetada.com