Having reached the midway-point of this June journey of wedding-prep, I will take a break to reflect on why I’m even doing this—having a wedding—in the first place. And to address the question of why we are having a wedding, I really need to address the question of why we are getting married.
Deciding to get married: Over two years ago, my partner and I expressed our mutual desire to embark upon a lifelong partnership together. A lot of our decision to get married came from our desire to demonstrate our investment in this partnership and celebrate our joy with friends and family. That said, why the marriage license?
In college, I became ardently against the institution of marriage as it now functions in the United States. See http://beyondmarriage.org/ for some activism that has informed my beilefs. The basis of this stance is that the benefits and protections afforded to married couples should be restructured so that all people can access them. This position grew out of a radical response to the same-sex marriage movement.
I believe that the same-sex marriage movement and the beyond-marriage movement are both extremely important. I believe we must restructure the legal institution of marriage to incorporate same-sex couples, as well as couples in which one person is genderqueer or intersex. In addition, I believe that our country must engage in the long-term work of restructuring our many systems of social and economic privilege so that all people can access these cares and protections.
Legal protection: Beginning to intertwine my life with someone else’s is really exciting, and it is also really risky. Both in Jewish and American law, getting married means taking on certain responsibilities and gaining a degree of legal protection. As we share living quarters, a bank account, and possibly offspring, our marriage license gives us access to a plethora of legal back-up options should something happen to one of us individually or to our relationship.
Tax breaks: Married couples get tax breaks. As a Massachusetts resident at least I know that my married same-sex partners do have access to at least some of the privileges of legal marriage. However, since the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages, legally married Massachusetts residents do not receive the federal tax break if they are in a same-sex marriage.
Health care: While on a personal level I am excited and relieved by the prospect of being able to put my partner on my health care plan or vice-versa, I also think that health care should be available to everyone. Married, single, healthy, unhealthy, employed, unemployed, old, young, everything. Everyone should get health care. Health care is a right, not a privilege.
On the one hand, I have listed and explained some of my reasons for getting married. On the other hand, many of these same reasons inform my belief that the legal institution of marriage should be eliminated.
I look at it this way: I recognize that for myself and my partner, access to health care, tax breaks, and legal protection will improve our lives. We have the privilege of signing a marriage license and thus enjoying these benefits. However, it also seems obvious to me that if everyone’s lives would be improved by such access, and making a lifelong commitment to someone of the opposite sex does not make me better or more deserving than other people, I should not have access to these resources while others do not. The institution of marriage in our country needs some radical restructuring.