Jonathan Soroff explains why some gays, including him, are against same-sex marriage.
It seems like every time I see certain family members—my niece and father, for instance— they ask me when I’m going to marry Sam, the man I’ve been with for five and a half years. Sam’s father is one of the worst offenders. He and I are literally never together alone without him saying (as if there were a direct correlation between the two), “Jonathan, when are you and Sam going to get married? I think you two should have children.” I put a temporary kibosh on this one day at lunch, when I answered, “Paul, I’ve been trying to impregnate your son on a regular basis for a couple of years now, and you know what? So far, nothing!” This silenced him for about six months.
Living in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, this is one of the hazards of being gay. Everyone expects you to be pro-gay marriage, and I can’t say that I am.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Sam should have inheritance/pension/social security rights, be my healthcare proxy, get the tax breaks, be eligible for citizenship, etc., etc., exactly like heterosexual married couples. What I’m against is the use of the word “marriage,” and I think we would have achieved equal rights by now, on a national level, if so much breath hadn’t been wasted and the right-wing gotten its knickers in a twist over the nomenclature.
I’d go so far as to say that “gay marriage” (not even as an issue but as a matter of semantics) helped cost John Kerry the presidential election that brought us for more years of squandered opportunity and global goodwill, along with gross mismanagement, that characterized the Bush administration. So why do they insist on calling it marriage?
It’s demonstrably not the same thing as a marriage between a man and a woman. It’s two guys or two girls, and no matter how much Mendelssohn and matching white outfits you dress it up in, the religious and social significance of a gay wedding ceremony simply isn’t the same. We’re not going to procreate as a couple (until science catches up), and while the desire to demonstrate commitment might be laudable, the religious traditions that have accommodated same-sex couples have had to do some fairly major contortions to do so (which is probably healthy for them but neither here nor there). So the promise part is nice. Otherwise, “gay marriage” is beside the point. And for precisely that reason, I find it cringe-worthy to watch gay couples aping the rituals of a heterosexual wedding ceremony.
Which brings me to the saddest story I know about the legalization of gay marriage. A prominent gay couple who had been together for many years and were raising two sons were expected to be among the first to throw a lavish wedding when marriage became legal in Massachusetts. When the invitations weren’t forthcoming, I asked one of them why, and he said, “Fuck that. We’ve already spent a fortune on lawyer’s fees to be able to have the same thing.”
That’s where the true injustice lies. Gay people (even in states with gay marriage, if they’re dealing with a federal matter) have to shell out big bucks for something a drunk straight couple can pay an Elvis impersonator fifty bucks to do in Vegas. Wouldn’t it make more sense to concentrate on that, instead of what to call it?
We could call it a “floogle,” or any other word you’d care to make up. The argument that this would create a ”separate but equal” scenario is specious; simply make the legal wording exactly the same as civil marriage, and who really cares?
In short, I understand the sentiment, and I appreciate the desire for an acknowledgement that my relationship is the equal of any other. But Sam and I don’t even know what to call each other. “Boyfriend” sounds trite. “Partner” sounds like a business arrangement. Significant other, better half, lover, all unwieldy or awkward. Out of frustration and facetiousness, I usually refer to him as “my de facto husband-type-person.”
So if we don’t know what to call each other, why harp on what to call the relationship? We know what we mean to each other. We both want what the world grants straight couples after they exchange vows. And someday we’ll commemorate our commitment somehow, which will probably involve a fairly major party. But if it wasn’t called “marriage,” neither of us would care, and for the gay people who do, you’d probably get what you want sooner if you weren’t so hung up on that one word.
—Photo Katie Tegtmeyer/Flickr