Friday, February 13, 2015

Sweet Home Alabama: What is Marriage?

The Voice of God etched in Stone 

Judge Roy hears the Voice of God

This morning, on CNN, they interviewed an Alabama state legislator about the ruling by Judge Roy Moore, nullifying the Supreme Court ruling which would require Alabama to issue marriage licenses to gay couples who wish to marry in that state.

The state representative, a Mr. Barry Moore (no relation to the judge) said a number of incomprehensible things, at first saying that the government, both legislature and judiciary should represent the will of "the people" but then it was not clear whether he thought the judge or the Supreme Court represented the will of the people. He was so incoherent Mad Dog found himself thinking of the remark Maud once made about a New Hampshire state representative: "The man needs a translator."

But Mr. Barry Moore did say something which caught Mad Dog's attention: "We ought to get the state out of the marriage business."

Now this is a sentiment Mad Dog has long endorsed. It has always rankled to hear the priest say, at the wedding, "And now, by the powers invested in me by the state of..."
This strikes Mad Dog as a violation of the church/state divide. Here you are in the middle of a wedding mass and priest is now an official of the state. Whew. 

Calling it a "marriage license" has always been a dodge. You are actually signing a marriage contract when you sign on to get married, and you are legally responsible for a whole volume of responsibilities when you do sign that document, but most people are not aware of this. When you go do your will with your spouse, now that is a sobering experience, and couples should likely go through something similar when they go sign their marriage contract, but that would, you know, sort of ruin the moment. Everyone, really, should realize they are signing a pre nuptial agreement.

But, it should be said, Mad Dog has changed his mind, or as George Carlin would say, "I was Irish Catholic once. Now, I'm an American. You know, you grow."

Part of what has changed his mind is experience and part is the realization that marriage is a very different thing among different couples, but also for the same couple, over time. 

When you first get married, and you have no kids, no real estate, maybe all you have is two separate jobs or careers. Then you have kids, and that changes your relationship; you become partners in their care. Then you buy real estate and the marriage changes again. Then the kids move out and the marriage changes. Then you get older, 50 something and you buy a summer home and the kids come visit and things change again. Then one or both of you retire and you buy a winter home and things change again.

And all of these metamorphoses occur under and are governed by this thing called "marriage." The laws which allow you to claim half of the property, half of the pensions, half of the wealth of this relationship apply whether or not you are married--just ask Lee Marvin. Those laws are all governed by that marriage contract, or by "common law" marriage laws. And it is entirely just for a woman who has had to set aside her career to claim half of everything, because she raised the kids, made adjustments to her career, took the hit on her own upward mobility in career.

So Mad Dog is down with all those privileges--you should be able to visit the sick spouse in the hospital, make the decision to pull the plug (unless power of attorney has been assigned to someone else) and the fact you are the legal spouse means, by default, you get the power assigned to you and you get the money assigned to you and the property, in the absence of other declarations. 

The law gets complicated and marriage status simplifies things. If we didn't have marriage as we currently have it, we could certainly fashion a package of laws assigning all the rights of marriage to a couple who signed a marriage contract at city hall. This is what they have in some parts of Europe. In fact, in some parts of Europe, the license is more like a progressive driver's license--as you progress from one stage to the next, you sign a new document, like "renewing your vows."  (Whoever came up with that? Renewing your vows. What a Hallmark notion. And tomorrow is St. Valentine's day. How appropriate: Let's make love a profit center.)

And, it is likely true, many couples stay together, physically at least, because it is just, financially, too complicated to split. And that may not be a bad thing, in their fifth decade with kids out of the house. Nobody has to suffer from a modestly incompatible couple at war. They can live their cold war state without making kids miserable and without destroying each other. They can stick together in some ways and part ways  in other ways. Of course, many couples become even more compatible, as their finances smooth out and the strains of being young with children to support ebb away.

And then there is the recognition of what it means to be "married" to some people. It's like Catholicism:  It may seem like a burden to some, but it is a source of enrichment to others. Every February Mad Dog and his wife go off on a ski vacation with good friends who are  a married gay couple.  They  are very happy to be married because it means they will not face embarrassing events at the Vermont Inn and they can put their kids through college and visit as parents on parents' weekend and life is generally less of a hassle to have that status assigned by the state. 

Some gay couples believe having the state office sign on is a formal acceptance of them as being as worthy of respect and privilege as anyone--it is a long sought delivery of social acceptance to people who were once so scorned they had to hide their feelings. Mad Dog is not so sure it really is all that. There is still a part of American society who will never accept them. But then again, there is a part of American society who burn with racial hatred--said to be about 20%. Some people you just can write off.

And what is the judge in Alabama really saying? He's saying he hears God's voice saying homosexuality is BAD. Homosexual love is an affront to GOD. He hears that voice saying that. That voice may be emanating from  the monument to the 10 commandments he has right outside his door. Of course, he denies he is saying God tells him homosexuality is a personal sin and societal ill. He knows better than to actually say that. He says he simply does not want the definition of a word changed by federal decree, but he lies, plain and simple. He hates homosexuals.

What he is really hearing is his own reaction that homosexual love is repellent, but who am I to say that voice is not God? (Thank you, Pope Francis for that lovely phrase: "Who am I to say?")

And, for now at least, the government is saying to him: You can hear voices, but you cannot force others to hear that voice. 

For others, if not for you, all love is equal.

No comments:

Post a Comment