Wednesday, 08 February 2012
Recently there's been a lot of people who oppose gay marriage, who then claim the government shouldn't be involved in regulating or defining marriage. Fine. That's a legitimate point of view, I suppose. But there are problems with using that line of reasoning to prevent gay marriage from becoming legal.
1) the first thing you need to understand is this: you don't have ownership of the word marriage. Whoever you are, whatever your little group of ideologues are, they don't OWN the word marriage. Sorry. Marriage, as a term, can be defined as lots of things. Colloquially, marriage can refer to a mixture of any two or more elements: a marriage of jazz and pop music. It can be a close union of ideas. It can be the king and queen of the same suit in a game of cards. Whatever YOUR idea of marriage is, is not the only definition for it. You don't own the word. You don't get to dictate its sole definition.
2) marriage, in the eyes of the government, is a legal agreement. It's a business contract. All the benefits legally accrued from that state-recognized contract relate to this: tax incentives, next-of-kin benefits, public assistance benefits, insurance benefits, wage benefits, consent benefits, etc. All of these are non-religious and non-specific benefits granted to individuals within the arrangement of marriage. This (and not romance, not true love, not a fairy-tale ending) is what marriage is to the state.
"You don't own the word marriage. I do." - the Mushy Pear
So keeping these two things in mind, I think it becomes obvious that "marriage" as a legal contract between individuals, recognized by the state, should be made available for everybody. Furthermore, there's no reason why the term marriage shouldn't be applied to that contract. In fact, there's a good reason why it SHOULD be: if it's going to be applied to heterosexual unions, it should be applied to all unions; separate but equal doesn't work well. Uniformity benefits everybody here, terminology-wise.
So if you think the state has no business being involved in regulating or defining marriage, that's fine. That's your choice. The solution? Don't let them define or regulate your marriage. If you don't want the state involved, how about you go to your local church/temple/mosque/basement, have your favourite holy person/parental figure pronounce you married, and be done with it. If you don't want the state involved in your relationship, don't invite them in. It's as simple as that.
Now, if you say to me, "yeah, but we want all the legal and tax benefits of marriage! We need that state-recognized contract!" Then bam, right there, you're demonstrating why marriage contracts, as offered by the state, need to be available to everybody. In a democracy, everybody gets the same legal rights under the law. Simple as that. By refusing to allow the state to extend the rights and privileges of the marriage contract to certain individuals, you are denying them the right to equality in society.
And yes, American society has a loooooong history of doing just that, but it sure don't make it just, and it don't make it right.