Wednesday, March 14, 2012

No Marriage Allowed

My partner and I will celebrate our 27th anniversary in June. To be perfectly honest, we have little desire to stand up in front of a bunch of people and say, “I do.” We are both rather introverted and this does not appeal to us. As I said, we’ve been together for 27 years. We have the love and commitment part down, and I feel confident that our relationship is witnessed fully by our friends and family every day.

In light of what many of us in Minnesota are calling That Damned Amendment, I’d like to say this: Folks, it ain’t fair.

We cannot receive Social Security, Medicare or disability benefits for spouses. We are taxed twice on domestic partners health insurance. Heterosexual married couples can contribute up to $5,000 annually to a spousal IRA for a nonworking spouse. Gay and lesbian couples? Nope. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

My partner and I would like to share in these benefits that only married people receive. But if that isn’t going to happen, here’s what I think: Let’s get rid of legal marriage altogether and make it a purely religious, sacramental or secular celebratory act. Let the churches, temples, mosques or community of well-wishers deal with the joyful beginnings and some of the not-so-joyful ends. That way, nobody will get the legal benefits that currently come a-flowin’ down the mountain as soon as Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” begins.

The fact that there are so many options in getting out of a marriage — no-fault, at-fault, contested, uncontested, summary, mediated, collaborated, arbitrated — suggests to me that some straight people are not taking matrimony seriously anyway.

Divorce lawyers will need to find something else to do. The government might lose some money initially — no marriage license fees — but in the long run, I think both the lawyers and the government will come out OK.

The industry that has popped-up around weddings will not disappear. We will not encounter wedding planners sitting on the sidewalk with a sign that says, “Will Plan Your Ceremony for Food.” Marriage will still exist. Couples will buy tuxedos and dresses; flowers will be ordered and bands hired.

We might have to figure out some nifty tax-related stuff to make sure women and children do not get royally screwed in this scenario. We might even need to determine — finally — how to achieve pay equity for women in the workplace.

What a world it would be if people were together because they wanted to be together, making a real commitment, free of paperwork and that “So, when are you two gonna tie the knot?” question from relatives.

Seriously? Rather than dismantling an institution already in place, why not just make it more inclusive?

Back to That Damned Amendment for a minute: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?"

Amending a state constitution to exclude an entire group of people?

In the it-would-be-funny-if-it-wasn’t-so-ridiculous category, I have heard that if the United States allows gay people to marry, then what’s next? People will marry their cousins! Their dogs! Their iPads! But we already have laws that say we cannot marry our cousins or animals. (Though it might be legal to marry your iPad.)

Those of us who are gay or lesbian fill out forms — including tax forms — and we are forced to lie by having to check either “single” or “married.” By not checking any box or creating our own box that says “partnered,” we risk further questioning or an audit.

Defeating this amendment does not allow gay people to marry in the state of Minnesota, but passing it marginalizes and trivializes our loving, committed relationships.

Voting yes for this amendment is saying that, in our state, some people are better, more worthy, more deserving than others. It bestows benefits to one group and treats another group of people quite differently, and that makes it discriminatory.

"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?"

The answer is simple: No.