We Already Have Same-Sex Marriage in All Fifty States

Same-sex “marriage.”

Grrr.  Anti-gays do love their scare quotes, as in:

Them:  There’s no such thing as same-sex “marriage.”

Us:  Hello? Same-sex marriage is legal in 6 states!

Them is wrong, but the response from Us doesn’t get at what they really mean. And when you look at what they really mean, a surprising conclusion leaps out:

We have same-sex marriage in all fifty states.

This occurred to me as Will and I watched The Eagle. You might think Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell as a Roman Legionnaire and his extremely fit slave would hold my attention, but the picture’s moody and slow. On the up side, it allowed plenty of time for a wandering mind.

At one point, our boys are traveling in the far north of Britain, past the borders of Roman rule. Channing shouts at Jamie, “You’re still my slave!” And I wondered, Is he? Why?

Why should Bell go on as Channing’s slave without the Empire there to enforce it? Slavery is not a morally valid concept. It exists, to be sure, but our moral code (well, mine at least, and I hope yours) never justifies saying, “This person should be a slave.”  Slavery is morally illegitimate, and exists only because a government (or a culture, or a person of low humanity and sufficient power) decrees it to be so.

That’s one way slavery differs from, say, honor. The US government awards the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry, but it doesn’t bring honor and gallantry into being. It merely recognizes the fact, which exists with or without government.

Our opponents view marriage through this lens. Marriage is a real thing. It predates government, and marital law should reflect its real nature. Same-sex “marriage” is a morally invalid concept, one that exists only when the government forces it on people.

Now you might not agree that marriage is something more than marriage law, but it’s our opponents’ view, so consider it for a moment.

First, it means that marriage is different from our understanding of marriage.  If marriage is “real,” and not just whatever we say it is, then we have to struggle with our imperfect human brains to understand it.

And this means marriage law has to evolve.

It’s happened before.  People realized women aren’t mentally and emotionally weaker than men, and the result?  The end of coverture:

As it has been pithily expressed, husband and wife were one person as far as the law was concerned, and that person was the husband. A married woman could not own property, sign legal documents or enter into a contract, obtain an education against her husband’s wishes, or keep a salary for herself. If a wife was permitted to work, under the laws of coverture she was required to relinquish her wages to her husband.

This used to be the legal essence of marriage.  But people began to see that nothing justified such an automatic subjugation, so marriage law had to evolve.

In other words, we didn’t change the definition of marriage. No, we changed marriage law to reflect our better understanding of what marriage is (and our better understanding of human beings in general).

The same thing’s happening for gay people.  I was a 70s teenager, and in the back of B. Dalton Bookseller, I furtively looked up homosexuality in the most popular sex book of the day, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).  You know what the author told this teen?

He told me that homosexuals enjoy anonymous restroom sex, but most homosexual relations are more impersonal than that.

That homosexual encounters are always about the penis, never the person.

That public sex is the core of homosexuality. He asked, But all homosexuals aren’t like that, are they? and answered, Unfortunately, they are just like that. 

And when it comes to “homosexuals who live together happily for years”?

They are mighty rare birds among the homosexual flock. Moreover, the “happy” part remains to be seen. The bitterest argument between husband and wife is a passionate love sonnet by comparison with a dialogue between a butch and his queen. Live together? Yes. Happily? Hardly.

The original version of this #1 bestseller reached over 100 million readers — no wonder it’s taken people so long to accept same-sex marriage! And this might explain a quirky contradiction of my adolescent mind.  I had no guilt or denial over my attraction to men, but as far as being a homosexual, I certainly wasn’t one of them.

Lord. Who knows how many other people had their view of us warped by this vile piece of work?

Today, though, more than half the Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits, and less than half the country opposes same-sex marriage.  That’s not a blip or a fad or a fashion. That’s 40 years of extraordinary progress. Anti-gays chalk it up to political pressure and liberal misinformation, but if that were true? Then people who know gays would be less likely to support our rights. And that just ain’t so.

Back, then, to this notion that marriage is a real thing, which predates government, and that marital law should reflect its real nature. Marry that with our better understanding of gay men and women.  What do you get?

You get that marriage law must change if it’s to represent our best understanding of what it means to be human and married, our best understanding of marriage is.

So when somebody tosses those scare quotes at me and declares, There’s no such thing as same sex “marriage,” I’m going to reply:

We already have same-sex marriage in all fifty states. We’re just waiting for the government to see it.

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31 comments to We Already Have Same-Sex Marriage in All Fifty States

  • 1
    John Kusters says:

    Who knows how many other people had their view of us warped by this vile piece of work?

    Me. My parents had that book in their library, and I’m guessing that they placed it just where adolescent eyes would find it. I think it was their way of providing my brothers and i sex education without actually having to talk about sex. That vile book did more to drive me into depression than anything else. I knew that my choices were to either fall into the sad and lonely lifestyle depicted in that book, or find some young woman, fake love for her, and raise a sham of a family. I read that book in my early teens, and it took me nearly a decade to shake it off.

    Thanks for this perspective, Rob. You’re right about having marriage already. Quite a number of our religious and social institutions already celebrate this fact. As you say, we’re just wiating for the laws to catch up with us. 

  • 2
    Scot Colford says:

    Nice. The state in which my husband and I live recognizes our marriage, but years ago, when we would travel, Michael had been known to say “Oh, well we’re not married in XPLACE.” I would say, “Nonsense. We’re still married in XPLACE. They just don’t recognize it yet.” I’ve been bracing for the argument to come one day where someone tries to tell us we’re not married when standing on unfamilar soil, but it hasn’t come yet. I like to think that it’s a hard argument to hold when we’re standing there in front of them, obviously married.

  • 3
    KentonF says:

    Exactly, I’ve said the same thing for years now.   I’ve had people tell me there’s no such thing as gay “marriage” and act all derisive and contemptuous about it.  Obviously they’re just blind and in denial.  Gay marriage has been around for ages.  It’s not my fault they want to live in the dark ages.  Their opinion on the matter is neither desired nor required.

  • 4
    Scott L. says:

    I read the book “The Eagle of the Ninth” by Rosemary Sutcliffe when I was in junior high. I found it very erotic, and just to make a clarification, Marcus freed Esca before they traveled north. Esca didn’t follow Marcus because he was Marcus’ slave, but because Marcus saved his life when Esca was forced to be a gladiator. It was loyalty and affection that bound them together. 

    [Hey Scott. The book and the movie diverge on that point, then. — Rob]

  • 5
    Michael White says:

    I also read the book, I was a teen in the 60’s.  I also remember an article in Post or Life.  The title was “The sad gay life of the american homosexual.”  I knew I was gay and this article affected me because I was struggling with who I was and did not want to be miserable. The movie Boys in the Band was another influence in my early life.  I hated the movie and the miserable men in it.  I was beginning to come out and meet other gay men at this time.  We were not like that, but the image remained for years. I now understand why my parents were so concerned that I would have a “happy” life.  I am amazed that six states recognize our marriages and the debate continues.  We live in Indiana and are starting to talk about going to Iowa and get married. Who knows maybe we can be a case to fight the interstate recognition laws. I have always been up for a demonstration and a fight against the status quo

  • 6
    clayton says:

    Since Michael @5 mentioned “The Boys in the Band,” I’ll throw in my two cents.  I, too, have always hated that play and movie.  I’ve never been able to figure out why people didn’t just leave that nasty, unpleasant party.  It’s funny, though, how it was (and by some, still is) said to be an “accurate” portrayal of homosexual life–as though those nine men stood for all homosexuals. Yes, I’ve known gay people like that.  I do my best to avoid  socializing with them.
    I think the play and movie are best seen as part of a genre of unpleasant drawing room–well, comedy is not quite the right word.  It’s very much like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in its plot and premise (let’s put some viciously unhappy people in a room together and see what happens), but nobody ever claims that Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is an accurate portrayal of all heterosexual married life.  Yes, I have known couples like George and Martha.  I do my best to avoid socializing with them.
    As for “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex,” I, too, read it in my early teens.  Although I was just beginning to realize I might be gay, and although I then had absolutely no exposure to gay life–or even other gay people–something in my mind was able to recognize that Dr. David Rubin was (to put it bluntly) full of shit.  I think it was the chapter on fetishists, in which he claimed that shoe salesmen, as a class, were foot fetishists who masturbated in the stockroom while waiting on customers (that’s why it takes so long for them to come out with the shoes).  The claim was too ridiculous to be true, and I was able to recognize that, by extension, an awful lot of what Rubin said about gays also had to be too ridiculous to be true.  

  • 7
    Lymis says:

    There’s another, similar but different reason why there are same-sex marriages in all fifty states – some of us do have formal religious and/or legal marriage and live in a place where it is not recognized, and that’s at least as important a point to put forward.

    It’s one thing – a wrong thing – to refuse to recognize as marriage the relationship of two people who “consider themselves” to be “just” as married as anyone else. There’s a sense in which two straight people who have combined their lives “without the piece of paper” are married. And that definitely applies to gay couples as well.

    But there are a lot of us who really, truly are married, by the same standards we apply to straight couples. We lived or traveled to some place that issued us a lisence and performed a ceremony and put us in the civil records – and we have paperwork to prove it. And there are couples who are members of religious traditions that do honor and recognize their relationship, and performed public, religiously valid ceremonies and consider them married in the eyes of their church.

    We are couples whose valid, legal or religious, formal, undeniable marriages are just not not recognized and given the legal benefits that exactly the same marriage of an opposite sex couple would be.
    To Michael White – I encourage you to travel to get married, if that’s what you have to do. My husband and I did that -we’re among the people who married in California during the pre-Prop 8 window – and it’s amazing how much difference it makes, to us, to our families, and to the people around us. Illinios is now counting us as a Civil Union, so that’s a bit better, but even before that, it really made a difference, one that surprised us in many ways. People understand what “married” means, and they treat us differently as a married couple, even if they can’t quite wrap their heads entirely around it.

  • 8
    Riverman says:

    You state, “Slavery is morally illegitimate, and exists only because a government (or a culture, or a person of low humanity and sufficient power) decrees it to be so.”
    Not only government but religion does also. Leviticus 25:44-46 states:
    However, you may purchase male and female slaves from among the nations around you.  You may also purchase the children of temporary residents who live among you, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property,  passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat them as slaves, but you must never treat your fellow Israelites this way
    And in the new testament Ephesians 6:5 states:
    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.
    The religious right denies me my human rights based on their “Holy Book”, having read this book, I can find nothing “Holy” in it.

  • 9
    Regan DuCasse says:

    The arguments of the anti gay against same sex marriage, pretty much define men and women so narrowly, that gender doesn’t matter in the entire scheme. They are moving the goal posts against gay couples, and revising or forgetting altogether that the man/woman model was only important when the woman WAS subjugated and not a person. As long as there is no LEGAL term that defines a man or woman, then there is no reason for same gender or sexual orientation discrimination.
    Legally the persons in the marriage ARE equals. How their body parts or personal characteristics fit into their personal lives, the government can’t define (or enforce) anyway.
    So essentially, there IS no definition of man and woman, but PERSONS, on paper. Marriage isn’t defined by PARENTHOOD either. Non parent and parent couples COEXIST in legal marriages and both are equally considered in the law’s support.
    One can easily deconstruct each and EVERY argument that the opposition raises, and NONE of them are legal now, nor CAN be unless there is to be equal discrimination against the men and women of op sex couples who ALSO meet the same definitions set for gay couples.
    The whole issue and how they argue it, is circular and inevitably exhausting. I want SCOTUS to be honest in picking apart their arguments. Which couldn’t possible hold up to such scrutiny.

  • 10
    Christopher Mongeau says:

    Same sex marriages exist in all 50 states, but marriage equality does not. There are many states where people can choose to not give my marriage the same respect (legal) that they give to a heterosexual marriage. The scare quotes always seem to me a way of “christians” rubbing that in my face. I am happy to live in a state where my marriage is respected (NewYork).

  • 11
    broken angel says:

    @ Lymis – When a straight man and woman live together for 7 years or more, but begining at 7 years, the government calls it a Common Law Marriage, which basically menas they recognise that these 2 people have choosen to live together like they were married but haven’t bothered with the actual expense of a marriage ceremony.
    @ Christopher Mongeau – I am Christian and my daughter is married to a lovely young lady both of whom live with us in Arkansas. In all the time they were dating no one ever made a problem for them, however if anyone did I would have made them cry for their mommies because you don’t hurt those I care about and I know plenty of people here who feel the same way. We are just waiting for the law to catch up to the reality of life.

  • 12
    Jeff says:

    wow, I read the chapter you posted.  that’s astounding that anyone could be that naiive.
    it just goes to show ANYONE can write a book!  you don’t actually have to be an expert in anything to call yourself one.
    thank you for posting that horrible chapter.  and that wonderful picture of Jamie Bell!  ;)

  • 13
    clayton says:

    BTW–my husband and I were married in Canada, but live in Louisiana.  Whether the state recognized it or not, gay marriage exists in Louisiana.

  • 14

    I, too, am a child of the ’70s. Thankfully, however, despite being aware of the book (and Woody Allen‘s cinematic vision of it), I never actually looked at a copy ’til I was in my mid-40s. I was stunned at the horrific nonsense in that chapter! Luckily, the year I turned 14, the first edition of The Joy of Gay Sex was published. Even though I “knew” I was straight, I loved looking at the pictures (primarily pencil sketches of men having sex) and fantasizing. I was terrified to ever do anything depicted within, though, and I rarely had time in the bookstore to read any of the text. I was quite surprised, when I found and bought a first edition off eBay a few years ago, that the authors wrote about things like the fight for marriage equality. They wrote as though it would likely be a reality in the not too distant future, but here we are thirty-four years later and it’s still not allowed in the vast majority of the United States.

  • 15
    The_L says:

    I prefer this response to “There’s no such thing as gay ‘marriage'”:
    You’re right.  There isn’t.  When two men marry each other, it’s not “gay-marriage,” it’s just marriage.  Just like we don’t call it “gay-driving” or “gay-working” or “gay-eating” when gay people are driving, eating, or working.  It’s just plain old marriage, whether the people involved are a man and a woman, two men, two women, one binary-gendered and one intersex, one cis and one trans, both trans, whatever: It’s the same relationship, no matter what gender combinations are involved, so it deserves the same name and the same legal recognition.

  • 16
    The_L says:

    @Riverman: The parts in red are OK, for the most part, but I honestly think Christians could do away with a lot of the black text and be better for it.

  • 17
    Miriam says:

    Yeah, that book sucked for me as well. I think it was some “new and revised” edition, but when I looked up “bisexuality” in it in early 90’s (when I was a young teen) it was listed under “problems”. Great.

  • 18
    clayton says:

    In the seventies, when I was a teen and went to the librasry to look up homosexuality in the card catalog (gosh–how antique that sounds!), it was categorized as a mental disorder.  Seeing it listed as a “problem” would have been much better!

  • 19
    Miriam says:

    @18- yeah, thanks, that makes me feel so much better. 

  • 20
    Lymis says:

    @11 Broken Angel
    The recognition of common law marriages isn’t nationwide. Only a small portion of the states recognize them (and some of them even outlawed them as part of explicitly banning same sex marriage under the “or any similar relationship” clauses that they added to ban civil unions.
    But your point is taken. There are places where straight people can be married without even having to have a license and ceremony, where nothing gay people can do will grant the same status.

  • 21
    Lee Wind says:

    I hadn’t read “Everything you always wanted to know about sex* but were afraid to ask” book, but I remember it being wildly popular.  How horrible that it defined homosexuality that way.  
    I also like your argument that we already have same-sex marriage in all fifty states, and we’re just waiting for the government to recognize it.   

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  • 25
    Will Welch says:

    This is cute, but I’d still have to say that marriage=marriage law.  Certainly there are gay people who actually have legal marriage contracts living in all 50 states and there are people who do not have them who live as if they were married, but rights to not exist outside the context of a society.  Members of different societies have differnt “rights” and a hypothetical person born far outside of a social structure, in the wild so to speak, does not have “rights”.  He/she may do what he/she pleases with no consequence, may have abilities, but not “rights”.   In the U.S. marriage is right that some couples have depending on their circumstance.  Not all couples have those rights.  It’s not fair, but same-sex couples do not have those rights in many places, nor do many of them have the right to have legal unions drawn up elsewhere recognized where they happen to live.  I see that the author says “this is the opposition’s point of view, so consider it.”  I don’t believe it when they say it either.

  • 26
    Jayr says:

     “Gay marriage is legal now, so let’s socialize with ‘em, and get to know ‘em better. Are you ready? Letz go!
    So letz see if we got this right. When you boyz decide to “get-down”, do you flip a coin? Or  draw straws? And what do you do when you get to that  “peanut-butter-stuff”? Do you stop and wash it off,  keep on goin-at-it, or VERY SLOWLY CRAWL ALL STUCK TOGETHER SO “NOTHING “ FALLS OUT over to the kitchen for the grape jelly, sandwich bread, and a butter knife? Is this legal now in New York too? What about the aromas? You know, the smells? Does this distract you, or enhance it all? And now that this marriage-stuff is legal, you gonna adopt children? Boyz or girlz? Are you gonna procreate too? If so, how? If not, why not? Who’s the mommy, and whose the daddy? Are you both? And concerning your pets. Male or female? Or two boy dogz?  Now, tell us,  what would be an appropriate gift when special times arrive? And colors? What’s the best colors? Blue or pink? How can we tell which one wants which color if we don’t ask? Now, I did some medical research on the Internet and they mention this “sphincter” thing. What’s that? Don’t tell me it’s that  big animal sculpture next to the pyramids in Egypt. I’m not stupid, you know. And what about “passing gas” during one of your “get-down-sessions”? Do you get distracted? Do you laugh? Soundz funny to me… I always thought that part of the human anatomy was for eliminating digested food. Silly me! And with new laws for gay marriage, are we gonna see gay cartoons for children’s T.V., or gay bedtime stories, gay comic books, special gay candy and lolly-pops? Gee, we have so much to learn now in our new-fangled society and all. You know? Now what if we start socializing? Is it proper to discuss things like the things mentioned above? Of course, before dinner starts, that is. What about during cocktail before dinner time? Oh well. Anyway, congratulations and all. Just want you to know there’s no hard feelings and all. You know…”

  • 27
    robtish says:

    Jayr seems to be boiling over with frantic curiosity about gay sex, so here’s my advice:  Just relax and accept yourself.  And as for your questions, I’m an instructional designer and I can tell you that one of the most effective strategies is learning by doing.  It’s the most fun, too!

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