Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Said It Wrong

I just re-read my last post and found that I used the term 'gay marriage', which I hate. I often catch myself saying it, which means that I say it all the time and don't catch it. The reason I hate it so much, and would very much prefer that all people use the term 'marriage equality' is more than just semantics. You see, the term gay marriage implies, quite directly, that a gay marriage would be different from a straight marriage. That the actual union would be gay, not just the people entered into it. And that's not true. If you actually sit down and consider it, how on Earth could a marriage be any different just because the people in it are?

An open marriage is fundamentally different from the assumed definition of marriage without a qualifier. It is a marriage without the monogamy that, for better or worse, is culturally implicit to marriage in America. The marriage is open, not just the people. A polygamous marriage is a marriage that involves more than two people. The spouses aren't necessarily polygamous -often the women aren't polygamous at all- but the marriage is.

But terms like "interracial marriage" and "gay marriage" are misnomers. The adjectives apply to the people, not the institution. The marriage isn't interracial; the couple is. All aspects of the marriage are, unless otherwise specified by a term other than interracial, the same as any other marriage. Same with "gay marriage". Two people committed to sharing responsibilities and experiences for a lifetime, to raise children should they come into play, to care for and support each other, to argue over finances and household chores, to lovingly tolerate each other's family, and to mourn when the first one dies. The fact that they both have the same naughty bits does not change the definition of the institution of marriage. The adjective fits the people, not the marriage.

But using the term "gay marriage" is an insidious way for the anti-gays to plant the idea that the marriage would be different. That somehow the definition of marriage would be changed by allowing gays to experience it. That theirs is a fight to save traditional marriage, not to deny equal access to it. Gay people don't want to change marriage; they just want to be able to have a traditional marriage. The weddings might be different. The cakes might have 2 grooms or 2 brides, but watch Ace of Cakes just once and see how different wedding cakes get for straight couples these days. And gays aren't fighting for weddings but for marriage. Don't want gay weddings in your church, don't allow them. Marriage equality has nothing to do with churches. Divorced people can marry as it is but Catholic churches all over the land still deny them weddings. I got married by a judge in sweats; that's about as far removed from a religious ceremony as you can get.

I feel bad when I use the term gay marriage. I feel bad that I use the term gay marriage. And I will continue to try not to use it. But I hope that when I do, that people will point it out to me. Maybe then it will at least spark a conversation on why it's an inaccurate phrase. At least then whoever may have overheard me use the original term might hear the argument against it.

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