Thursday, October 15, 2009

#53: Equal Marital Rights, aka, The Sanctity of Marriage Myth (with a Lady Gaga cameo)

It went down Sunday. The National Equality March hit Washington D.C., and both my Hitch List and personal belief that equal marriage rights are in line with, and mandated by, the foundation this country was built upon meant I had front row seats. I try to avoid cloying sweetness and melodramatic sappiness on this blog, so I need to be careful with this one--because it was the type of day that made even my cold, cynical heart race with hope. And pride. Marching was cathartic. But a picture is worth a hundred words. So here are a few highlights:

After a 5 hour bus trip, D.C. was so beautiful that everything looked like a Hollywood backdrop.

We were at the front of the march. Just before the crowd began moving, a rainbow appeared in the sky overhead. There was no rain, and no clouds.

People filled the streets--literally. City blocks spilled and overflowed with bodies, people, signs, chants. The air buzzed with energy, both spoken and silent.

On the way to the Capital, we passed this. It was a good motivator.

This is the front. It took over two hours for the back of the march to join us at the Capitol.

Pundits had declared no one cared. They said no one would show up for the rally...

...they were wrong. This picture was taken a 2pm, when thousands of activists hadn't even made it to the west lawn yet.

Matthew Shepard's mother, Judy, was one of many speakers. My voice caught in my throat when she was done.

Lt. Daniel Choi, a war hero dishonorably discharged after years risking his life for his country, entered silenced by black tape. Tape pulled, he started a chant: "Love is worth it."

Lady Gaga. Lady FREAKIN' Gaga, who gave a poignant and effective speech, sans pokerface. Plus. Cynthia Nixon. Hugging it out. Amazeballs.

After 18 hours on our feet in the sun, everything post-rally was a blur. I'd do it again tomorrow if I could.

Opponents of the march called it a waste of time, saying that the only thing the event "put pressure on was the grass." And, logistically, they were right. Marches rarely (if ever) scare government into action. If 100,000 (as some sources are reporting--an official number has yet to be released) protestors had spent the day at home lobbying their government by phone and written word to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell and legalize gay marriage, maybe something tangible would have been accomplished sooner. 

But the naysayers overlook something more valuable. Nearly every protester I met was young. They weren't all old hippies looking for a return to radicalism. It was twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, artists, businessmen, students, doctors, all young...and committed. 

If a single event can galvanize thousands of members of Generation Apathy into action, then it's worth it. A successful march is the sort of tangible kick in the ass the next generation of activists needs in order to take the passed torch firmly between their palms. We're an immediate gratification nation full of easily distracted minds, and the experience of standing shoulder to shoulder with 70-year-old lovers still unable to marry on one side and 17-year-old-heteros fighting for strangers on the other is something we need. Because without that experience, its too easy to get distracted and get back to beer pong. 

And let me clear up some myths.

I have had it with the "Defense of Marriage Act," and the arcane argument that the very "sanctity of marriage" is at stake in this gays vs. government fight. Let me break something down for you: marriage, as "marriage preservers" know it, is a fallacy. I'm not talking about that Disney ideal---I'm talking about a cult of ignorance that believes, in the history of the world, marriage is, has, and always will be a profound union between man and woman.

It's time to get real about so-called "the sanctity of marriage" which some people feel the need to "preserve." Here's some fun facts: Around the time of the New Testament, marriage was an almost informal agreement. No ceremony. No flowers. No TV specials. No vows before god. A pair of mates decided to cohabitate, and that was pretty much it. They were married. Live long and prosper.

Flash forward to the last 200 years. In Eskimo cultures, married couples frequently participate in co-spousal arrangements, where two sets of married couples share resources, friendship and sexual contact. Their children are raised as spirit siblings, and share a special bond. The community accepts all as members of the same family.

Across the globe, non-Mormon polygamy exists with such regularity that it's no wonder people don't give a shit about HBO's "Big Love." The Cheyenne Indians of the 1940s took many wives, who worked in tandem to preserve their family unit. In Botswana, polygamous wives invented the saying "Without cowives a woman's work is never done," railing against the supermom standard and working as a team. 

In China, a good wife treats her husband like "an honored guest," never showing outward signs of affection, and vice versa. For hundreds of years, wives used a secret language only other women knew so they could bitch about their marriage or swoon over their husbands without getting caught.

The Ancient Romans had absolutely no taboos placed on homosexuality whatsoever, and did not believe heterosexual marriages were sacred. In sections of Tibet, India and Nepal, women may marry two or more of their husband's brothers, having sex with all of them and serving as their wife--and sexual jealousy is seen as gauche. 

In West Africa, there are societies in which a woman can choose and marry a female, while certain Native American cultures allow male-male unions.

The point is--WHO exactly has the audacity to think they can protect "the sanctity of marriage," when the union, by nature, is as malleable and specific as the regions and people who practice it? Here' another one: WHO exactly gets to define what a MARRIAGE is? 

The Defense of Marriage Act serves one purpose: Proving how ignorant the author and his supporters are about what marriage is. The law protects what is, at best, an isolated social norm specific to the US, Canada and parts of which, given the divorce rate, doesn't work so well. 

The DMA is an act of allegorical abomination--it's like penning legislature to prevent the evolution of a biological organism. I'm just suuuuure the organism will listen too. 

Crap. I think I put a dent in my soap box. I gotta lay off the gelato.

Look, I don't mean to alienate those who believe in traditional marriage. Wed, make babies, buy dogs, join the PTA. Live, love and live some more. I pray for it all one day. But for those people arguing that marriage must be protected like a frail virgin from the godless unions of heathens? Try doing some research. Then put down the porno mag, head into the kitchen, and tell your spouse you love them. And do it quick, before the gays beat you too it and love has to be rescued from the fires of hell as well.


Ash said...

I have to agree with you fully. While I'm a heterosexual man married to my heterosexual wife who dreams of kids, the white picket fence, and all that crap, I would be honored if my next-door neighbors were a gay couple with a white picket fence of their own, waving hello to the lesbian couple across the street with their two kids and golden retriever.

I live in an uber-conservative, fundamentalist (i.e., hypocritical) Christian country where homosexuality is seen as the be all and end all of sin. We have a spiraling crime rate, a plummeting economy, but they'll be damned if they let those evil homosexuals love freely and openly.

Imagine a small Arkansas city. That's the mindset of my entire country. Statistically there are some gay people. And, of course, there are some gay-rights supporters (myself included). But our small voices are drowned out by the bellowing ignorance coming from the general populace.

It makes it all the harder when people like my parents - highly educated, highly intelligent people - still believe that homosexuality is a sin, and that gay people should learn to control their urges, like pedophiles.

You're right. Maybe more tangible results would have come from an afternoon on the phone, lobbying your local representatives. But the spectacle of thousands upon thousands of gay, straight, intelligent, educated and motivated young people of all colors and creeds marching on the capital to visually show their support for love - man, that's something that a legion of phone calls can never replicate.

It's inspiring.

Paul DeBenedetto said...

This may sound trite but it doesn't make it any less true: the people who are complaining about the sanctity of marriage are the same people who have contributed to an increase of about forty percent in divorce rate since 1970. It's also funny that the arguments for "protecting" marriage come from the more capital-c Conservative states and counties around the country, who have a divorce rate over twenty percent higher than their more progressive counterparts. This isn't to say the "right" is to blame (lest we forget California's boneheaded move) but there's certainly an ideology here that makes one scratch their head.

I think it might have been Dan Savage, when talking about Proposition 8, who basically said we just have to wait until they all die. All of these old bigots will eventually just die and then their bigoted opinions will die with them. It's really the only way change has come in this country; young people with new ideas got older and became teachers and politicians, while the outdated models were replaced. It's why each generation tends to be less racist, it's why the majority of this country supports a public option for healthcare, and it's why I legitimately believe that we are becoming a better country. I mean, yeah, change, hope, black guy president, blah blah-- but there's a reason why Fox News is generally looked on as a bunch of maniacs. There's a reason their "tea party" movement was an embarrassing failure to everyone but them, and there's a reason they didn't cover the equality march: they're losing. The close-minded part of America, that contingent that wishes it was like "the good old days"-- well fuck the good old days, you know? Fuck America in the fifties, and fuck America in the Reagan eighties. The only worthwhile thing going on in the fifties and the eighties was youth counterculture. You know what else there was? Rampant misogyny, homophobia, and racism. If that's your dream of America, if that's what these people are trying to protect... well then fuck, man, have a nice life, and good riddance when you go.

Hipstercrite said...

i was going to post an answer to your message board question on 20sb, but i just kept bringing it back to me by saying that i am a child of divorce so marriage means squat to me but i can't understand why the hell gay marriage is even an issue. let people love whomever they'd like! is it whomever or whoever? that's all i'm saying cause if i get going on the right-wing fundamentalists in our country i'll get myself in trouble.
great post!

Blaez said...

Yay to you! Marriage is what we make it! Whether you are Male/Male, Female/Female, Male/Female/Male, Male/Female, etc you get my point...

If a couple (plus 1 or 2?) love each other and commit to each other, so be it!

inflammatory writ said...

This post was so fabulous, we need a new word for fabulous.

wadethetides said...

"Wed, make babies, buy dogs, join the PTA." Hahaha brilliant.

Logan Knox said...

As a fellow gay and equality activist I say to you "Go girl!" Siting specific weaknesses of arguments against equal rights (however asinine they may be) is our strongest strategy. Well, that and blinding anti-gay politicians with our sequins. You also have beautifully articulate followers and friends.
Keep on asking and telling lady!

The Peach Tart said...

So glad to hear a post about the event. So glad there was so much support there.

Chef Green said...

Wow...this is wonderful! I can't wait until all of our dreams come true. I'm so thankful to know amazing people like yourself that speak up for the rights of my tribe: for we are all one tribe.

Best and Blessings!

ash.lin. said...

call me a nerd if you must, but the 'thing' you passed that was inspirational was the NEWSEUM! one of my FAVORITES in dc. aside from the fact that admission is upwards of 30$ its an incredible place!!