The Affront of "Traditional Marriage"

By Z. Kermani - May 18 2009

pagan1Opponents of same-sex marriage often argue that allowing same-sex couples to marry in legally binding ceremonies has the effect of weakening the institution of heterosexual marriage. The idea of gay and lesbian couples having the legal right to exchange wedding rings, raise children, share car payments, and do each other's dishes somehow degrades the experience of those same activities for heterosexual couples. If it becomes legal to marry "just anyone," they argue, then marriage itself is stripped of its religious and social significance.

One of the buzzwords in this discussion is "traditional." But is "traditional" marriage really what we're fighting to keep? It may be true that for centuries, marriage has been a legal contract between heterosexual couples. But it was also, for centuries, a legal contract in which a woman was essentially chattel, her possession contracted between her father and husband-to-be, her quality of life subject to the whims of the men in her life. "Traditionally," women and children have been second-class citizens within the institution of marriage. Over the past several centuries, the institution of "traditional" marriage has either overtly sanctioned or implicitly accepted domestic abuse and child abuse, spousal rape, and adultery.

Frankly, traditional marriage is an affront to my values. The existence of patriarchal, heterosexual, conservative couples who choose to maintain strictly defined gender roles and whose "traditional" relationships have a 50% chance of ending in divorce degrades my own marriage. How can my Pagan-friendly, egalitarian, committed, polyamorous marriage mean anything at all if heterosexual domestic-abusers, child-neglecters, and FOX News correspondents are allowed to marry? How can their marriages grant them the same legal and social benefits as mine? My religion teaches me that gender is not binary, that hatred returns to the hater, that "love is the law." Why am I obligated to acknowledge the marriages of those who promote hatred, misunderstanding, and misery? If I opposed the marriages of everyone whose values conflict with mine, I would spend my days lobbying to annul the unions of every Californian who voted for Proposition 8.

Not all Pagans are polyamorous, to be sure. Not all Pagans are queer or queer-friendly or feminist. Not all Pagans strive to raise their sons and daughters to defy potentially damaging gender stereotypes, or to confront and combat racism, bigotry, and hatred. But many of us are, and do, and we support marriages that uphold those values, whether they're between couples of the same or different sexes. Adultery, abuse, and disrespect offend my sense of what marriage fundamentally is, and what it should be. They cheapen the institution of marriage. And they make me enjoy my own marriage just a little bit less.

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