Here is yet another story of bigotry against gay people: a gay woman went to buy a wedding dress. When the shop found out she was marrying a woman, they refused to sell her the dress. So strong was the force of prejudice that the wedding-industrial complex forgot its main motivation of making a profit from a woman perfectly willing to shell out a small fortune on a single-wear garment. Capitalism fail.
Despite this, public opinion in the USA is favourable towards gay marriage, despite a media-based wobble which made the public opinion graph look like the end of a cock. And, of course, you have to be a remarkable bellend to display such naked prejudice as to oppose gay people basic equality.
The thing is, I’m fairly sure I’m not a bellend, and I’m not sure I’m in favour of gay marriage. It is not because I do not think queer people are human beings who deserve equal treatment from society. In fact, I would rather see marriage abolished entirely, for everyone.
As marriage equality advocates have pointed out, it is not very fair that only a certain type of relationship is legally recognised: one man, one woman. However, the marriage equality movement tends to discriminate against other types of relationship. In their rush to point out that same sex marriages would not lead to the world ending, marriage equality advocates often fight against the slippery slope argument and say that all they want is for two people of the same sex to get married, and that anything else is wrong.
I think this is somewhat unfair, and discriminates against people who have loving relationships outside of the traditional monogamous framework. What of poly people? Marriage equality advocates do not care for three or more people in a relationship to put a legal stamp of approval on their relationships, using the same arguments against polyamory as those who seek to deny marriage to gay people. Why only fight for marriage between two people, when consensual, stable, loving relationships can be defined far more creatively?
Here, I suspect the “family” argument abounds: that one of the vital functions of marriage is for building stable families. Yet two parents seems somewhat arbitrary when one looks beyond the basic biological function of reproduction–indeed, even biologically, many children have more than two parents with the advent of IVF and egg and sperm donations. The only function marriage serves is to decrease the ways in which a family can be defined, maintaining the traditional nuclear family as the only way to live.
I have reached the age now where a lot of people I know are getting married, and I have been invited to a lot of weddings. I am not looking forward to this; it will be intensely hard for me to stay quiet when the vicar asks about any objections to the union when my brain is screaming “MARRIAGE IS A TOOL OF SOCIAL CONTROL AND HAS NO PLACE IN A MODERN FREE SOCIETY.” . I am not alone in thinking this: there is a rich tradition in believing in free love without state intervention. My imaginary BFF Mary Wollstonecraft was an advocate. And why should the state have any role in valuing some types of relationship over others? A relationship between two or more people should not be a concern of anyone but the people involved.
Those who advocate marriage while acknowledging the basic tenets of free love tend to defend marriage by saying that it is useful for two reasons: property inheritance and medical decision making–the next of kin status. Both of these problems can be solved without getting married, though. Next of kin status in hospitals is far more fluid than most people think: they tend to recognise “common law” partners, and it is possible to draw up “next of kin cards“, which are like organ donation cards and leave instructions for medical staff in case of unconsciousness. The rationale behind next of kin cards is that families are becoming far more diverse than those which are recognised by the state.
As for the rest, why can people in a relationship which looks to continue for the foreseeable future draw up legal documents together? People in same sex relationships who have been denied the right to legally marry have done so for years. An added bonus of this approach is that the documents drawn up will be unique to every relationship: far from the state-mandated, one-size-fits-all approach, there is an individual legal status for an individual relationship.
Perhaps this sounds somewhat unromantic when compared to a wedding. Here is another problem with marriage: it has been thoroughly co-opted by the wedding industry. Weddings are a capitalist’s wet dream: one day will cost the happy couple on average £18, 605. This cost includes all of the things that marketing has told us we must need or we are Doing Relationships Wrong, such as engagement rings and a big white meringue dress that can only be worn once. Rather than a simple signing of a legal document, which is what marriage essentially is, it becomes a big party where one has to do everything right in a certain order. Weddings reinforce the notion that marriage is the done thing; they make legally linking oneself to another person a rite of passage, rather than something which should be a matter of choice. They reinforce the default optioning of monogamy.
If some people in a relationship fancy throwing a party to show how in love they are, that is fine by me. Why should the party coincide with signing legal documents, though? Why should it also coincide with a pantomime of tradition and ritual, and a vast amount of cash spent which could better be spent on building a life together? You wouldn’t throw a lavish party costing tens of thousands of pounds to celebrate writing a will, or filing a tax return, would you?
Bringing in same sex marriage will not help bring about marriage equality, as marriage itself is so grubbily problematic. In the long run, those who are helped by the recognition of same-sex marriage are those in the wedding industry: suddenly, they have a whole new base of consumers for an army of single-wear suits and flowers that will die and a cake that nobody wants to eat because nobody really likes marzipan.
For real equality, we need to abolish marriage. We cannot have the state and the church dictating how love and families should look. For real equality, we need freedom from marriage.
In a world without marriage, anything is possible.