28 June 2015

Regarding the Supreme Court's Ruling on Marriage

I should admit up front that I've been a bit of a flip-flopper on the topic of same-sex marriage. For most of my life, I was unthinkingly opposed to it because, as a straight man, it's hard for me to understand same-sex attraction. But then I got married, and I got to enjoy marital bliss, and I began to consider what a miserable place the world would be if the laws of my country had barred me from that bliss. But my internal pendulum has been swinging back the other way, and now, as my fellow Americans rejoice over a hard-won victory, I realize I have no idea what they were fighting for.

Anyone want to enlighten me?

Here's where I have trouble:

1) I got married for religious reasons in a religious building by a religious leader. The only reason I bothered with a state marriage license was because... well, actually I don't know why. I got married the way I did because I wanted God to recognize my marriage; I really didn't care about the government. Honestly, I doubt I would've bothered getting married if I hadn't had religious reasons for doing so. I can't wrap my head around the interest people have in getting the government to recognize their marriages. "Love has won" is the thing everyone keeps saying, but as far as I know there was never a law against loving somebody. Being in love with somebody--that's something I understand. And committing to spend your whole life with them--that's something I'm happy every day that I've done. But if you love somebody, and you swear lifelong devotion to them and they to you--what's it matter if the government recognizes it or not?

2) In answer to #1, I imagine a lot of people will point to all the reasons I should be happy the government recognizes my marriage. I've heard some of these, but I'm not persuaded by them. When I was first married and my ponderings on the greatness of marriage made me think that maybe I should be in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, I was laboring under the misconception that marriage was a Big Important Thing in the eyes of the law. Turns out it isn't, really. Several months back, my wife and I went to a community-sponsored informational event about the legal aspects of marriage, and we came away feeling pretty somber. I don't know how state laws vary, but here in Massachusetts, if I get hit by a bus today and wind up in the hospital, my wife will have no legal right to make medical decisions on my behalf. Sure, she's my wife, but I haven't gotten around to officially designating her as my medical proxy, so she has no legal basis for advising my doctors. Similarly, if the bus hits both of us and we die, our son doesn't automatically inherit our stuff because we haven't gotten around to writing a will. (He will inherit my student loans, though, per their terms and conditions.) Basically what we learned that night was this: outside of tax laws, marriage doesn't have a lot of legal oomph. I did see a headline recently stating that same-sex couples can expect to collect a lot more social security benefits now, but I just assume everyone in my generation will get the same amount of social security when it comes time for us to retire: $0.00. As for the benefits I receive through my work, it isn't really much harder to get coverage for a domestic partner than a spouse (I actually accidentally signed my wife up as a domestic partner rather than a spouse, and I corrected it, even though I don't think there was a difference in coverage)--but that's a matter of company policy and not a legal matter, I think, though I'm sure the two interplay. I'm not saying marriage is legally worthless; I'm just saying I'm not sure it's worth all the fighting that we've seen.

Well, I've got places I need to be going to, so I'll leave it here. But if anyone can show me something worth celebrating, I do enjoy rejoicing.