or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, August 06, 2007

Joined For Life

So. What did you do this holiday weekend¹? Me, I did the usual: rented a car on Friday, drove to Halifax on Saturday for the day, kind of hung out in the unexpectedly lovely warm-but-not-hot summer weather, got married.


Little gay boys of my generation, as soon as they realized they were little gay boys, understood that marriage² was not for them, if they even could have conceived of getting married to another boy. Marriage was what girls fantasized about; it was for them, really. If any little gay boys harboured gauzy daydreams of wedded bliss, they kept it to themselves. I didn't have such fantasies; I never even really gave the issue any thought through the years, not even after I met Jim, except to worry every now and then about what might happen if he became incapacitated (would his family bar me from the hospital room?) or I were hit by a bus (would my father sweep in and take everything?). We were living in Nova Scotia in June of 2001, when the province made domestic partnerships available to everyone; it wasn't marriage, but it was the next best thing. We got ourselves one, with the understanding that it provided all the rights and obligations of marriage without actually being called such, and that, we figured, was that.


I suppose it's a matter of opinion, but I'm going to state it as fact, because, as far as I'm concerned, it is a fact: there isn't a single rational argument against same-sex marriage⁴. (There are plenty of arguments against it, of course, but I did specify "rational".) Rather than try to enumerate them, I urge you to read these two Slate.com articles by Dahlia Lithwick, who is smart, Canadian, and a lawyer: Slippery Slop: The maddening "slippery slope" argument against gay marriage and especially Holy Matrimony: What's really undermining the sanctity of marriage?.


Twenty years ago, when Jim and I met, I couldn't have imagined this: though same-sex marriage was being discussed, and eventually litigated, I don't think many people thought it ever had a chance of success. Even two years ago, when Canada became the fourth country to legalize marriage, we discussed getting married and decided against it: it wouldn't change anything, we thought, so why go through the trouble?⁵ And yet here I am, a married person. Barring some revocation of the right to marry--which I honestly cannot see happening, given the practical, live-and-let-live nature of Canadians in general--I'll be a married person, and married to the same person, until death do us part. Although I mostly think that marriage oughtn't to be anybody's business but the two people in question and that public, civil marriage is the best card out of a bad hand, that makes me very happy. There are some people who shouldn't ever get married, but there are also some people for whom marriage might have been tailor-made, and I'm one of them. We've always considered ourselves married, and now we are!

¹ In most, perhaps all, provinces in Canada, the first Monday of August is a provincial holiday. Here, it's called New Brunswick Day; in Nova Scotia, I think it's called Natal Day. In Newfoundland, where I grew up and where everything has to be done differently, it was the first Wednesday of August; it was called Regatta Day, with boat races and a carnival atmosphere, and so the tradition of the oldest annual sporting event in North America was continued.

² ObEtymology³: "marriage", as is the case with virtually all English words ending in "-age", is of French descent, in this case the verb "marier", "to marry", which led to "mariage", which has the same meaning as, and is the source of, English "marriage". The French word is direct from Latin "maritare", "to marry", which appears to descend from Indo-European "meri-", "young woman, wife" and "meryo-", "young man". "Wed", since you were probably also wondering, stems from the Norse word "vethja", meaning "to pledge".

³ Back in the old days of Usenet--they may still do this--it was customary, if you intended to write something in a newsgroup which was not strictly relevant to the topic at hand, to insert a little parenthetical at the bottom which was meant to allay complaints that you were off-topic. These were flagged with Ob- plus the subject name, the "ob-" standing for "obligatory".

Particularly if you discount religious arguments. I had someone, not in a hostile way but as a Christian, tell me that same-sex marriage was wrong because it said so in the Bible. I'm not an expert, but whatever the Bible says about other things I'm fairly sure it doesn't ever mention same-sex marriage, mostly because such a thing could scarcely have been imagined back in the Bronze Age when the book was being written. Besides, apologetics for Christianity hold no power over me, because I'm not a Christian. Once we dispose of religious arguments, we aren't left with much besides social arguments that generally boil down to "What about the children?!" and "If we let them marry, we'll have to let anyone marry anything", and Lithwick gets rid of those handily as well. As I said: no rational arguments.

What changed our minds? In a nutshell: a form I had to sign required my marital status, and nothing really applied to me, but since I felt as married as I figured I ever was going to, that's the box I checked. The official in charge, after asking me a couple of questions, crossed out "Married" and wrote in "Common law", which pissed me off, though he was polite and only, I think, trying to be thorough and correct. What gives him the right to define my relationship? I went home and explained all this to Jim, and after we discussed it for a while, I said, "So. You want to get married?", to which he replied, "Yeah, sure, I guess." Not the most romantic proposal of marriage ever, but after twenty years, practicality trumps a romantic proposal. I hope.


Blogger Frank said...

Mazel tov! I love how non-romantic your proposal was, but you seriously still need to get some diamonds out of this. Black diamonds are popular nowadays: they're butch, in diamond terms inexpensive, and look cool.

Monday, August 06, 2007 9:38:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Congratulations! May you have many legal years together! My marriage proposal was on the order of, "So...when are you going to ASK ME?!", and capped off a conversation that started with, "Did you ever wonder how potato chips are made?"

Tuesday, August 07, 2007 12:58:00 AM  
Blogger pyramus said...

Frank: Neither of us is a jewellery-wearer, so we can't work up any desire for, or impetus to buy, diamonds, black or otherwise (though you do make them sound nice). We do, however, have silver wedding rings, which I made with my very own hands. (I took a jewellery-making course once.) That pretty much trumps any gemstone I can think of.

Kate--I love your proposal! There's a place for the down-on-one-knee-with-a-ring proposal (I love the romantic, old-fashioned idea of it, to be honest), but yours makes a better story, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007 2:09:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Congratulations! Getting married was the best thing that's ever happened to me -- and it sounds the same on your end, even if you did just legally reify a bond that had existed for decades.

(BTW: That comment from "D.J." a while back was me. I wasn't keeping careful enough track, and evidently overlooked Google's vacuuming up of Blogger. Sorry for the confusion.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007 8:18:00 PM  

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