The Marriage of True Minds
October 25, 2000
-- My whole program is what the poet said: "Let us not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment." The old model of marriage is over. It's time for the state to recognize love and love alone as the basis of marriage under the law.
-- So you've finally come around to my view, that gay marriage is as deserving of legal standing as traditional marriage?
-- Oh, you're way too conservative. I believe that any intense love should constitute the basis for marriage. If you love each other enough, the state should be willing to sanctify it.
-- Welcome to the world of fairness and equality!
-- That's why my best friend and I want to be married.
-- But the two of you aren't gay.
-- Definitely heterosexual.
-- And you don't live together.
-- But we do everything together. We think of ourselves as "us," not "him and me." We're best friends.
-- Well, sure, fine, but ... you don't need marriage to be best friends.
-- But if I got sick, I'd want him to be able to visit me in the hospital.
-- Sure, but those old family-only rules are pretty much gone. You can designate anybody to be on your list of approved visitors in most hospitals.
-- But I want to be able to put him on my health insurance.
-- He has a job, for heaven's sake. You're not supporting him.
-- So what? My company has better health insurance than his. I want him on it, and he's the person I love most in all the world. Why shouldn't I be able to designate him as part of my family?
-- Oh, I see. You're just mocking gay marriage.
-- Now you're sounding like those heterosexual-marriage chauvinists. I want to change the rules to fit my situation, and that "makes a mockery of marriage." Boy, isn't that the way it always goes. You get your kind of love approved by the state, and suddenly it's a "mockery" if somebody else wants it, too.
-- Look, you guys don't even live together.
-- There are plenty of married people who don't live together, and yet the state considers them married.
-- But if somebody stays away long enough, the other partner can charge them with abandonment.
-- My friend and I really love each other. We don't need those old-fashioned laws based on the idea that one partner has an obligation to financially support the other. Those laws were begun to protect women in the days when they couldn't make a decent living. In your gay marriage, surely one spouse doesn't expect the other to quit his job and stay home and keep house?
-- But if one of us got really sick, the other would support him. That's what marriage is all about, for better or worse, in sickness and in health ...
-- And I'd support my best friend, too, if he got sick.
-- But marriage isn't just about emergencies. There are community-property states, for instance.
-- What, best friends can't have all things in common, like the early Christians? We already share -- whoever has the money, pays for dinner.
-- Right, so you don't need marriage because you can already do everything that matters.
-- Oh, I definitely need marriage. For instance, if I died without a will, my best friend wouldn't get anything at all, unless we were married.
-- So write a will!
-- Why should I have to, when married people like you don't have to? And there's the matter of social recognition. All those invitations that say "you and your spouse" -- I want to be able to bring my best friend along.
-- So call the host and ask if you can bring your friend instead of a spouse.
-- That's discriminatory and oppressive, that I should have to ask. It should be my right. I shouldn't need anyone's permission.
-- So if you're invited to a party and your best friend isn't, you're going to sue? I don't think you'll be getting many invitations. Litigation over parties, you can't be serious.
-- Ah, but most parties aren't really social anymore, are they? Business is done there. In fact, it's usually your office that's throwing the party. So if I can't invite the person I love best to stand beside me in those tense situations, I'm at a real disadvantage. I'm discriminated against in many subtle ways, because I can't have the partner of my choice as my recognized spouse.
-- This is absurd. How can it be a marriage if you don't sleep together?
-- I knew it would come down to sex. There are plenty of heterosexual marriages where they don't sleep together, literally or figuratively. Besides, sex is private. Why should the government give you and your spouse all the clout that comes with marriage, just because you guys insert Tab A into Slot B or C or whatever, and my best friend and I can't be married because we don't exploit each other to get our rocks off. Whose love is more pure, anyway? We don't use each other the way all you humping bunnies do, and we're the second-class citizens?
-- OK, OK, so marriage isn't always about sex. But I still don't get why you even want marriage. As friends, you can stay together as long as you want. But if you're married, and one of you finds a new best friend, then you have all the trouble of divorce.
-- Divorce isn't all that much trouble nowadays. And that's another thing that we're deprived of. You can call a former lover your "ex-spouse" or even just your "ex," but without marriage, I have no formally recognized term for a former best friend after we've broken up. You have no idea how lonely that is, to be hurt and grieving and not even have a term for the person who has damaged me. It leaves people like me without any support system.
-- If you're determined to expand marriage to the point of absurdity, why limit it to cases where both people love each other? If you love somebody, you should be able to marry him whether he agrees to it or not. You're married to him, but he's not married to you.
-- You're saying this in order to make fun of me, but in fact I've given that some thought.
-- Oh, come on. Forcing yourself on somebody who doesn't want to be married?
-- But I'm not forcing him to do anything. I'm married to him, but I recognize that he's not married to me. See? I love him intensely, and even if he hates me, I should be able to get public recognition for my love, because it's beautiful to me even if it's not beautiful to him.
-- Marriage has to be entered into freely by both people.
-- You only say that because that's the way marriage has always been. Besides, there are plenty of historical examples of women and men forced into marriage by their families. And wouldn't it solve the whole problem of stalkers, if these people could go to the courthouse, get a simple ceremony, and presto, they are married to Barbra Streisand or Mel Gibson? It doesn't hurt Babs or Mel, and it gives the stalker the comfort of being able to speak of "my husband" or "my wife." Their love is recognized, so they don't have to keep pestering their unwilling beloved.
-- That's not marriage.
-- Since when do you get to decide how other people should express their love? These artificial barriers to love are oppressive remnants of the old patriarchy. For instance, as a poet myself, I feel a great affinity with John Donne. In fact, I feel such an intense closeness that he is part of my life. Why shouldn't I be able to marry myself to him so that other people would have to recognize the depth of my love for that great poet?
-- Because he's dead!
-- So what? Mormons perform marriages for dead people already, so it's not like there are no precedents. Marriage is all about getting official, legal, public recognition for your love. Well, I love John Donne, and under our present laws I have no way to get other people to celebrate that love.
-- If you marry John Donne, what happens to your marriage to your best friend?
-- There are plenty of countries that recognize polygamy. And since one of my spouses is dead, it's not as though there's going to be any rivalry between them.
-- But if you can be married to somebody you're not living with or sleeping with or who doesn't want to be married to you or who isn't even alive, what does marriage mean at all? Just declare that you love the person and tell your friends that you don't accept invitations that don't include your friend. Why get the government involved at all?
-- Because you and the heterosexuals get to, that's why, and as long as you deny me the same rights, you're being discriminatory and oppressive.
-- But it's your own choice to love a dead poet or a best friend. If you don't want to do the thing that has always been called "marriage," then why does it matter so much to you to apply the word "marriage" to the thing you do want to do? It doesn't permit you to do anything you aren't already doing. The people who think your so-called marriage is absurd won't "celebrate your love" just because you make it law -- they'll just resent you for taking away the meaning from real marriage.
-- Well, now I see that for all your much-vaunted liberalism, you really are oppressive, patriarchal, heterophobic, and closed-minded. All I ask for is tolerance and acceptance, and you end up with name-calling and borderline hate speech.
-- Hate speech! I didn't use any hate speech, I just disagreed with you.
-- You said my marriage wasn't a real marriage. You called it absurd. You said it was my own choice, when I can't help who I fall in love with or what form my love takes, any more than you can. That's all heterophobia, and it creates a hostile environment in which people are free to ridicule and reject me solely on the basis of whom I happen to love. You're a bigot. You got your marriage, and now nobody else can get on the boat.
-- This is so unfair. You're the one doing the name-calling, you're the one who's doing the hating. I'm just trying to preserve the meaning of marriage instead of letting you use the law to redefine it until it has no meaning at all.
-- Put on the jackboots and start goose-stepping. What's next? The gas chamber? I don't know what your pathology is, but you ought to be given a serious psychiatric evaluation to see why you feel so threatened by other people's way of loving. At the very least, you should lose your job if you don't agree to counseling to help you overcome these blind hatreds that keep you from being accepting of other people's gentle, harmless lifestyles. It's people like you who make the world a dangerous place. But there are plenty of open-minded people like me -- we'll find a way to stop you from spreading your hate. So enjoy your supremacy now. Your day is coming.
-- What did I do to deserve an attack like that!
-- An attack! I'm defending myself from your attack. Typical of your kind, to try to confuse people about who the victim is. I'm the victim. And I refuse to be a victim any longer.
-- All I want is for you to leave me alone.
-- Then stop discriminating against my kind of love.
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