This morning the Supreme Court issued two rulings that made gay marriage a whole lot better in this country. My friends have been texting me since the news broke, wanting to meet up tonight at the Stonewall Inn (where the gay civil rights movement started in earnest back in 1969) to celebrate the end of the Defense of Marriage Act and the law prohibiting gay couples from marrying in California. Unrestrained joy and celebrating with the community are, of course, the natural and appropriate reactions to this news.
Even Edith Windsor, the New York lesbian who took the DOMA challenge all the way to the highest court in the land, said, "I wanna go to Stonewall right now!" when she heard about the historic decision. But it's the next thing she said that troubles me. She then called a friend and said, "Please get married right away!" Edith, thanks so much for fighting the good fight, but no.
Joyous though this occasion may be, it has led to countless gay couples dropping to their knees and popping the question as if the only way to celebrate our rights is by exercising them, and the only way we are validated is when all the straight people out there (or at least five of them wearing long black robes) tell us it's OK. Marriage fever is even infecting straights like Kristen Bell, who re-proposed to her fiance, Dax Shepard, after the rulings came down in some sort of well-meaning but bizarre show of solidarity.
To all my homosexual brothers and sisters: I am cheering with you today, but it should be said that just because we can get married, doesn't mean that we should. Just look at Dese'Rae Stage and Katie Marks, one of the first gay couples married in New York. “It was kind of one of those things, to be a part of history,” Stage told The Atlantic Wire about their engagement on the eve of gay marriage legalization in the Empire State. Now they are one of the first gay couples getting divorced. Julie and Hillary Goodridge, the lesbians who led the charge for marriage equality in Massachusetts, are also among the first trying to figure out how to untie that knot. Like Stage said, this is a highly emotional time, but the decisions that are made after a few too many vodka sodas at Stonewall are going to have lasting implications.
But it's not just that looming specter of gay divorce (after all, that’s just the dark side of equality), but questioning whether or not we should get married at all. Maybe it's the hard and fast strictures of marriage that made those relationships crumble. After all, gay culture is new to legal recognition, so, like our first time getting drunk at a high school party, maybe we should all take it slow so we don't end up passed out in our own vomit, this time with a new dependent to claim on our taxes.
John Waters, during his one-man stage shows, used to quip that two of the greatest things about being gay were not having to get married and not having to join the military. Well, after a lot of fighting, we’ve finally achieved both (in 13 states, with California next in line). But now that we can walk down that aisle, do the queers out there really need to start doing it en mass? One of the great things about being gay was that we didn't need society to tell us our relationships were valid. Each gay couple was unique and governed not by centuries of political and religious tradition, but the love and—let's be honest—sexual desires of two people.
It should also be remembered that this began as a legal battle not about whether or not two women have the right to love each other. It was a case about money and taxes. Edith Windsor sued the government because she had to pay $300,000 on the $3.5 million inheritance her wife left her when she died. Under DOMA she had to pay; now she does not. This is what we need marriage for: the rules. Gays need marriage to save money and keep tax returns easy. We need marriage so the law will recognize the properties we buy together, and allow a partner who lives outside the country access to naturalization. We don't need the courts to tell us where we put our naughty bits at night or who we put them into/slap with them. We have been doing that without the law for, well, as long as marriage has existed.
So before you go off half-cocked with your shotgun wedding, just remember that a piece of paper with a state seal on it isn't going to change the way you feel about your partner or how your family and friends recognize your union. When you need the law to reconsider the way it feels about you two crazy kids go ahead and rush down to city hall for the tax benefits, but until then, marriage is pretty darn useless.
There are a million ways to love and each of those ways is just as valid and wonderful and beautiful and hopefully full of orgasms as the next. Marriage, however, is the worst way of all.