This was originally performed at an actual wedding, but I just want to clarify that I was asked to do so. Karina and Taylor are wonderful and brave and I am honored to have been given this opportunity, and I promise not to do this at your wedding unless you also ask me to.
I posit the following: declaring your undying love for another person by offering to take part in a Bronze Age economic exchange is pretty weird. Right? I mean, that’s cool. Weird is good.
Of course, marriage is no longer explicitly a financial arrangement. Nor is it a business agreement intended to solidify family alliances or obtain lands. It is not a sworn contract meant to assure paternity. It is now, ideally, an act between two people who share romantic love. And in a vacuum, that’d be totally fine.
But despite how much the real world sucks, we do not live in a vacuum. Context, in a grand irony, always matters. It is impossible to separate this marriage we are here to celebrate today from the institution. They are, unfortunately, lawfully wedded.
I celebrate Taylor. I celebrate Karina. I celebrate [Taylor&Karina]. But this wedding also has a third party involved, and it ain’t the Holy Spirit. It is the State. After today, Karina and Taylor will be a legally recognized union, and with that recognition the State will provide a package of benefits and rights which should be inalienable, and offered to all people regardless of relationship status. These rights include but are not limited to joint holding of property as tenants, lower tax rates, access to joint healthcare, and, according to the Government Accountability Office, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of federal benefits, rights, and privileges. You may think it’s a big deal to update your relationship status on Facebook. When you update it with the State, you suddenly have more rights. You are more of a person now.
This should not be.
Applying to the State to endorse a relationship is ceding to the State the power to define, condone, and judge the validity of relationships. This is a power they do not have, and it is one I am distinctly unwilling to allow them.
I have many friends who were kind of with me. Who said they would never get married in a state that didn’t allow it for all couples. Now in 43 out of 50 states, as we know, these are rights provided only to pairs of people claiming to be on opposite sides of a gender binary. In 7 of the 50, including ours, they are accorded more broadly: now it’s pairs of people of any (well, they would say “either”) gender. Oh, not the federal benefits of course. Those are only available to normal — sorry “heterosexual” — pairs. Gay marriage does not fix this.
In fact as Michael Warner writes, “the unmodulated demand for same sex marriage fails to challenge the bundling of privileges that have no necessary connection to one another or to marriage. Indeed, if successful, the demand for same sex marriage would leave that bundling further entrenched in law. Squeezing gay couples into the legal sorting machine would only confirm the relevance of spousal status and would leave unmarried queers [which here can be taken to mean “everyone else”] looking more deviant before a legal system that could claim broader legitimacy.”
And it’s not just the law. Marriage should not be a goal; it should be a choice. One choice available out of many recognized as valid by society. But it isn’t. Not yet. Right now, as far as society is concerned, you are married or you are not yet married. And as that notion becomes further codified our freedom to make other choices steadily erodes.
Of course there is no problem with this particular marriage we are here tonight to celebrate. In isolation, it’s not even an issue. But, as David Mitchell asks, “what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?” I believe that this is not a neutral event; that it is a small notch backward from a just society available and open to everyone.
And if we here in this room condone and celebrate this, what hope is there for a society open, with full rights and full social recognition, to single people, unmarried couples, or trios, or groups, or communes, or any other choice that we should in a free society have available to us? We gay, straight, bi- pan- and omni-sexual; monogamous and polyamorous and asexual; we Maddow watchers, Nader voters, and Warren supporters; we wacky East Coast artistic liberal elite so hell-bent on waging a culture war to destroy traditional values: if we gather together to celebrate the power of the State and of society to dictate and regulate acceptable personal relationships, what hope do we have?
I am so, so happy, Karina and Taylor, that you have found love with each other.
I hope that your love is true, strong, and abiding. That you build together the sort of intimacy that is only cultivated with care over long years. That you improve each other’s lives every single day.
Karina and Taylor, I hope will all of my heart that you are together forever.
And I hope with all of my heart that you get divorced tomorrow.