Ok, social conservatives. I get it.
Really, I do.
You feel an incredible sense of propriety around the word “marriage.” To some of you, it even represents a religious sacrament. It’s deeply meaningful to you, on several levels.
But here’s the thing: you don’t get to claim exclusive ownership of “deeply meaningful on several levels.” I have a stake in that, too. Just as you have the deeply intuited sense that marriage means “one man and one woman, joined together in a social, legal and cultural framework, (and, for at least some of you) blessed or ordained by God” the sticking point is that you don’t get to make an absolute demand that every other legal marriage has to conform to each and every aspect of that proposed framework.
Are you folks saying that heterosexual civil (but non-religious) marriage isn’t marriage?
Are you saying that non-Christians who get married aren’t entitled to consider themselves married?
Are you saying that – given that procreation is inevitably used, over and over again to justify heterosexual privilege, here – that infertile-but-straight couples have no right to claim the term “marriage” for their relationships?
Of course you aren’t.
If you can make room for civil marriage – not domestic partnership, not “civil unions,” not semi, sort-of, watered-down versions of “marriage lite” for other folks – for atheists and agnostics, for folks who have no intention of ever having children, biologically or otherwise, for folks who don’t solemnize their relationships in anything even remotely close to your personal religious traditions – if you can make room for THOSE folks, is it really so beyond the pale to consider that a gay couple is owed a place at the table, too?
I get that many of you feel provincial about marriage.
I get that you’d rather we just settled for domestic partnership, in all its lack and imperfection, but here’s the thing:
Separate-but-equal is unconstitutional. It doesn’t matter how many “defense of marriage” laws you may manage to pass. Once upon a time, the written letter of the law in this country defined black people as 2/3 human. The law was wrong. It changed.
The laws around marriage, as presently written, in much of the country are wrong. They’re simply, flat-out wrong. They need to change. I understand that you don’t want them to change, but that doesn’t alter the fact that a fundamental moral wrong is still being done, here.
Even if our domestic partnership/civil marriage arrangements really were separate-but-equal, they’d still be wrong, and the “marriage-lite” arrangements we have aren’t even within shouting distance of the appearance of equality.
Full civil marriage for all consenting adults, or none at all. Anything else is simply wrong – not just as a matter of principle, but as a matter of settled law.