Speaking Out

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Fri Oct 23, 2009

Gay Marriage in Maine, Putting Marriage Exceptionalism on the Ballot Again

By Sohaila Abdulali

Six months ago, Maine passed a law allowing gay people to marry. Eleven days from now, voters will go to the polls to vote on Question 1, which asks them whether they want to reject this law. The anti-gay-marriage people hope for a repeat of the shocking overturn of California’s gay marriage law, and religious leaders are pouring money into the campaign to keep marriage straight.

When Massachusetts became the first American state to legalize gay marriage, The New Yorker carried a cartoon. A despondent-looking husband and wife are watching the news, and the man says, "Gays and lesbians getting married — haven't they suffered enough?"

You’d think homosexuals were a different species altogether from Homo sapiens.

The truth is that for the most part couples simply live their ordinary or extraordinary lives, regardless of their sexuality. Gay or straight, we all: sit in front of the TV, whine about our lives, worry about college tuition for the children, terrorism, in-laws and interest rates. We have our silly vices, complain about the weather, cheat on our lovers, take our lovers out to dinner, jump our lovers’ bones, bore our lovers, leave our lovers, hold our lovers close, annoy our lovers by buying the wrong toothpaste again.

I think marriage is a stupid, patriarchal, hopelessly flawed institution. Yet I am married. Life would be much more difficult if I weren’t, in terms of taxes, immigration, children, housing, banking, schooling, judgmental relatives, getting sick, dying…It’s very convenient, we had a great party, and I’m utterly besotted with my spouse, despite my slight embarrassment at doing such a conventional thing. Why shouldn’t everyone else have the chance to buy into the complex package of rights, expectations and obligations that is modern marriage?

Gay couples, men or women, might have all the same rhapsodies and peeves as straight ones, but until they too can have a piece of paper that gives them status, they are in jeopardy. Right now in the United States, you can be monogamously devoted for decades, and still have to call your partner a “roommate.” And if he is dying and his parents wish to close ranks, you might still have to weep alone outside the Intensive Care Unit because you have no right to go in and hold his hand.

A gay friend who got married on the first day marriage was legal in Massachusetts just got divorced. Now she can be like half the heterosexual married people in this country – left with abiding sorrow and futility, fighting over property and visitation, but able to count on the support of friends who have something tangible to mourn with her.

God, apparently, doesn’t believe in gay marriage. Or, depending on whom you ask, He does. Whatever, as my 8-year-old would say. More important than the divine viewpoint, it’s simply un-American not to let gay men and lesbians get on the same ridiculous bandwagon as heterosexuals. In fact, they’re on the bandwagon already. Let’s just make it all legit and get on with more important things.