Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I see your FB comments, even when you are not my friend

Is that title too creepy? Probably. Oh, well. The sooner the newcomers learn that I'm creepy, the better prepared we'll all be, right?

Someone somewhere asked what I meant by "if we live in a culture that privileges certain relationships (and we do), people need equal access to those privileges."

I think that's a fair question, so I'm going to answer it right up here, in public, and hope that the person (who is a stranger to me) sees it.

I do not mean this as anti-marriage. I for sure do not mean it as anti-marriage-equality. I hope it reads that way; if it does not, I hope people will feel comfortable expressing their concerns.

People who fight for marriage equality talk a lot about the hundreds (1,100 is the number I see a lot) of protections and benefits marriage affords couples under the law. Couples of all orientations deserve to share in those benefits and protections. I agree that if anyone gets those benefits and protections, everyone should have them.

People who are opposed to marriage equality occasionally talk about whether this means we're going to suddenly let people marry two, or four, or 100 people. Even people who have no problem with people sharing that much love in theory will often agree that it gets complicated in the legal execution. If Alice is married to Brian and Callie, and Callie is married to Alice and Dennis, what is the legal relationship between Brian and Callie? Brian and Dennis? What if there are kids involved? Do we need to determine parentage, and if so, is it limited to two people? What if the kid has always grown up with three parents who are in an equal and loving relationship? What if a bunch of kids have been raised in some kind of commune-type situation where specific parentage is not acknowledged; all the kids belong to all the grownups? How relevant is who's sleeping with whom, or who's in love with whom? Legally, the taxes and permission slips and stuff are just way too hard to figure out, so many (including, once, me) will say, quickly, that of course marriage equality for same-sex couples does not and should not open doors to polygamy.*

So, as an intellectual exercise, what if we take away those 1,100 protections completely? What if we stop privileging marriage? What if couples (or triads, or bigger) have to negotiate their relationships (and their finances, and their children) without benefit (?) of a bunch of built-in contracts? What if all the assumptions that we have about what marriage "must be" or what marriage is "for" evaporate?

I do not know if a marriage-type relationship is or ever will be for me, though I am open to it as a possibility. I'm 41 and never been in one, though I have certainly loved very deeply, in a few different forms of relationship. I know people of many ages and orientations and arrangements in many seemingly happy seemingly lifelong partnerships, some of which come with a bunch of protections and some of which do not.

And I get that exploring this stuff intellectually is easier for me than for people actually in marriages who, as the world currently works, need those benefits in order to make ends meet, or to gain recognition for the equivalence of their relationships, or for access to their loved ones in the hospital, or for access to shared property...

But what if they didn't? Need those benefits for those reasons, I mean?

To sum up: All I meant back there was that giving everyone some more people access to the advantages that come with federally-recognized marriage is not the only path to equality.

*Plus, many of us think of systemic polygyny — one man, many wives — as icky and sexist and creating abusive situations for women and children**. This may be true, but then, shouldn't we be dealing with the sexism and abuse?

**Plus, some people would suggest two-person heterosexual marriage does the same thing.

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