by Mary Griggs
I’m not a supporter of marriage. Whether it be opposite sex or same sex, I’ve never been a fan.
Historically, marriage has been a hetero-patriarchal institution oppressive to women. Despite the many legal and social changes that have taken place in the last century, marriage has been shown to offer men a better, longer, healthier life with greater freedom and more power, while it has the opposite effect on women, limiting them and, in many cases, providing a context that leaves them vulnerable to spousal abuse.
I am also wary of marriage equality being the LGBT community’s primary issue when so many of us lack basic laws to protect us from employment, housing, and accommodations discrimination.
My stance on marriage isn’t a new thing. My family laughs about the six year old me who declared to her grandmother’s intrusive questions that she was NEVER getting married or about my coming home from vacation bible school incensed about the 10th commandment putting wives among possessions one is not supposed to covet. Both the list and the order (house, wife, slave, ox, donkey) infuriated my nascent feminist consciousness.
When I heard the Mae West quote (“marriage is a fine institution but I’m not ready for an institution”), it became my mantra for a number of years. However, my personal views kept colliding with the issue advocacy I was doing for the LGBT community.
From Prop 8 rallies to DOMA repeals and adjudication, I’ve been put in the position of campaigning for the right to enter a social structure of which I am highly critical. However, I don’t have to believe marriage is, in itself, a social good because equality is the social good towards which I am working.
Feminist Hulk captures my dilemma perfectly:
So I join my brothers and sisters in the fight for marriage equality because restricting marriage only to same-sex couples is discriminatory, segregationist and is clear evidence of homophobia in legislation.
Remember Homer Plessy? He was a “colored” man who was kicked out of the white car and made to sit in the “colored” car. He sued, seeking to have the state law on separate railroad cars struck down under the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In a 7-1 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the Louisiana law under the argument that it treated whites and blacks equally, even if it required that they be separated. After all, whites had no more right to sit in the “coloreds-only” car than “coloreds” had to sit in the whites-only car.
For 60 years that decision stood until the Supreme Court, in Brown vs. the Board of Education, held that separate was inherently unequal.
Let’s hope this Supreme Court still believes.