Last week was a milestone (or not) in the issue. For the umpty-gajillionth time, a judge–or in this case, a panel of three judges of the 9th District Court of Appeals–has said that banning gay marriage is discriminatory, at least in California, thus killing the passage of Proposition 8. Prop 8, aka the “Protection of Marriage Act” defines marriage as existing only between a man and a woman. And that always works out so well.
Prop 8 passed by 52% to 48%, which is in itself confusing. It’s like a double negative. In other words, 52% of voters were for the ban.
But what was interesting to me was that I saw a story about it on CBS News this week. They interviewed one of the supporters of the ban (See? There we go again.) He said, “We aren’t trying to deny gay people any rights. We just don’t want them to call it marriage”. Or something to that effect. And I just wanted to scream, like I have for years, What do you care? Do you hear yourself? You are drawing a line in the sand over a WORD. ONE word.
Ah, but hold on there for a minute. Then they interviewed an opponent (you know, someone who was against the For people.) She’s a gay woman who got married during the short window of time when it was legal. She said, in essence, that marriage is important because it has such emotional significance. And I wanted to say, Do you hear yourself? You are…well, never mind. Re-read the end of the previous paragraph.
But that, of course, is the answer: it has emotional significance on both sides.
I don’t know enough about the provisions in states where “civil unions” but not “marriage” is permitted to know whether or not you really do have all the same rights as if you’re married. Somehow I doubt it, but if it’s really true, we are back to that ONE WORD.
In the end, marriage is really a legal contract, which if you boil it down to its essence is about property and inheritance. It’s also good for (theoretically) determining which offspring are yours, if you’re a man, and for breeding a) farm workers and b) soldiers who have to be on your side. We imbue it with emotional significance, particularly in the West.
Here are two examples: a history of the British monarchy. Osama bin Laden. None of them got married for “love”. That’s a new thing, relatively speaking.
The origins of marriage are a hot topic in anthropology. But humans and societies have changed. I’d say the majority of people today who marry do so for “love”, even if they are driven in some cases by motivations they don’t fully understand, and which may be biological in nature.
Today, the next step in California’s legal battle is an appeal to the Supreme Court. Which both sides were itching for anyway, no matter who won or lost. And it’s about time. It’s time for the Supreme Court to step up to the plate…although they may not. They’ve refused to hear similar cases in the past.
I hope they do, so we can start on the beginning of the end of arguing over one word.