I’d like to share with you the following quote that came up in my online writing group during a discussion of gay marriage and the importance of voting down Proposition 8 in California -- a proposition that would repeal the court ruling allowing gays and lesbians to marry:
“I've always wondered why a couple should care about whether they're considered "married" by the state or not. What's the problem with just living together?”
As a recently married man in California, let me take a stab at answering that question. Beyond the obvious financial aspects of being able to file jointly for taxes, being able to put your partner on your company insurance plan, and social security and survivor benefits, there are some social aspects of being married that go beyond these financial motivations.
Granted, the glue that holds a relationship together is not the marriage license, nor the state’s approval, but in the strength of the relationship it codifies. But there are times in every relationship when things get strained, those times when the grass looks greener on the far hill, but being legally, financially, and socially bound to a partner helps give people the strength, or will, to put more effort into making their relationship work. Marriage provides an explicit structure, a legally formalized relationship that is highly valued by society. It is a form of legitimacy that supports the efforts necessary to make relationships work and prosper.
On another tack, being able to marry symbolizes full equality and social acceptance in our country. It is the last hurdle. Giving heterosexual couples the right to marry while giving gay couples civil unions, even when they offer essentially the same rights, is still a form of discrimination. It would be similar to the Southern Sates in the Forties saying that separate drinking fountains for whites and coloreds was not discrimination because is was the same water from the same source. Separate is discrimination. It allows heterosexuals to pretend that they are somehow inherently superior, and separate rights will validate that claim.
Lastly, I believe it is of the utmost importance for society at large to formally honor the love-bond between couples, be they gay, lesbian or straight. Social legitimacy in our society should not be ignored. As an example, I had lived with my husband for over fifteen years before he and I were married, and I had attended all of his family’s get-togethers over the years: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, Chinese New Year’s celebrations. During that time all my in-laws were always friendly, but they never really warmed to me, and consequently me to them. But at the first family gathering after our marriage, Herman’s sister rushed up to me, gave me a warm hug, and said: “Welcome to the family!” I wanted to ask her what she thought the last fifteen years had been, but she was so sincere that I couldn’t say anything. In her mind, until Herman and I were actually married, we were not a legitimate couple and I was not really part of the family.
My point is: marriage not only allows us to see ourselves as a socially acceptable couple, but it allows the rest of society to see us as that, too. And that, in my opinion, is priceless.
Dear Friends, marriage equality in California is now losing by 5 points, according to the latest poll numbers. Please help us combat the lies that anti-LGBT groups have been spreading everywhere. Join me in the fight by donating today to the Human Rights Campaign California Marriage PAC - and your gift will be DOUBLED. Just click below:https://secure.ga3.org/03/caequalpac_match
Thank you for your help.