What started out as a lovely little thread in which Roxanne asked people to help Lauren out with ideas for her wedding reception turned into a debate about whether progressive straight people ought to get married so long as gay people cannot.
A commenter named Tara said:
Ugh. You know, I might be making a mistake and assuming the poster (Roxanne) and the people she’s writing about are in opposite-sex relationships (and, by marriage, that they’re referring to legally-recognized unions) and that this might not be the case. (I couldn’t tell, at a quick glance, but I think that’s the case.) If so, it’s just so hard for me to have warm and fuzzies (and also not be offended) when you’re taking this action (getting ‘married’), and also asking others to be excited for you, when other people, including some in your audience, can’t have their relationships validated in this same way. ‘Getting married’ is a political act. The institution, and its use to discriminate against sexual others (and, more broadly, subject everyone to its coerciveness — but, that’s a different post), only exists because people — many of whom consider themselves tolerant, even ‘allies’ — still decide to get married and/or perpetuate their being accorded privileges (some physical, some symbolic), even when they know others aren’t being allowed this right. I hope I’m not seen as someone who’s raining on someone else’s parade, but it just seems presumptuous to parade around hetero-privilege. I get offended.
Tara was pretty much alone in taking this stance. Can’t say I haven’t seen it before, in other contexts: for example, when I first started filing paperwork to emigrate (and, indeed, when a lot of disheartened people were talking about voting with their feet after the 2004 election), there were a lot of people who got very, very angry about it. Some of it was a form of American exceptionalism (i.e., people who didn’t think twice about immigrants moving here got very upset about the idea that Americans would want to leave), but there were others who made the argument that because there were people in the US who didn’t have the choice to emigrate, that I should forgo the opportunity.
Well, I’m not buying that.
Even if I forgo the opportunity, I still have it. Even if I choose not to marry, I still have the choice.* What good does it do to people who don’t have the choice or the opportunity to decline the choice or the opportunity? Wouldn’t it make more sense to fight like hell to expand the privilege?
Indeed, with marriage rights, maybe we should be thinking about challenging some underlying assumptions we have in this country; namely, that marriage should be the source of so many rights and privileges. The main reason that marriage equality is such a hot-button issue is that there are so many rights and privileges and protections that can only be had when one is married. But why should so many of them depend on marital status? Why, for instance, should people feel they have to marry so they can have health insurance?
It’s worth noting that Tara’s argument is rarely applied across the board. For example, perhaps she should abstain from voting until the franchise is extended to all women across the world. Or she should forgo internet access until everyone has it. Or decline to get an education because so many people don’t have the ability to go to school.
But I doubt she does any of that.
* Provided, of course, I find someone I want to marry who is willing to marry me as well. Which is not looking good.