Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Re-Defining Marriage, or Love for The Daily Show

I realize that I'm a couple days late by blogging standards, but I still want to join Anita Wagner, Alan, and Loving More in cheering for the polyamorous threesome on The Daily Show last Monday:

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The poly folks come in at 3:10, but the whole clip is a good analysis of the marriage debates.

As the comments on Poly in the News agree (including one from George and Joy Reagan, the couple featured), The Daily Show did an impressive job of showing the poly interviewees as articulate, well-adjusted, sexy people, and getting its laughs at the expense of professional-comedian Jason Jones and his mock-sensationalism instead.

The segment also speaks well to trying to define my own heterosexual, polyamorous marriage, especially in its context of a fight for gay equality.  The double standard is obvious and absurd: Heterosexuals already enjoy all kinds of "non-traditional" marriages, and yet the "traditional-marriage" lobby hasn't mounted any serious political campaigns against us.

In order to get my husband's and my marriage recognized by our families and by religious institutions, we did swallow a certain amount of pretense of "traditional" monogamy.  Our vows promised, "I will be honest to you and trusting of you," and not fidelity; but we still smiled politely and silently when our parents' friends commented about us being "off the market."  I stifled my laugh when our Catholic officiant asked me, "Do you believe that he will be as faithful to you as you are to him?" and simply answered, "Yes!"

But for all our half-lies to family and clergy, the U.S. government does not care.  The county clerk who wrote our marriage license asked for our birthdays, our social security numbers, our birthplaces, and our professions.  They did not ask our stance on adultery.

For that matter, we weren't legally required to hide the truth from our families or religious institutions either.  We made the decision to avoid unnecessary drama, and we believe that full honesty with our lovers and closer friends is sufficient for our own consciences.  But if we wanted to live more openly, we certainly could have told everyone we know, uninvited any disapprovers, gotten a civil judge or a Unitarian or a temporarily-ordained friend to officiate, and still had our legal wedding.  The county clerks processing our name/address/social-security-number records still would never have known. 

People may judge the Reagans for having a threesome on cable TV, but no one will "un-marry" them.  And while non-monogamy is one of my especially personal issues, it is only one of the almost infinite ways to expose the myth of "traditional marriage" in the status quo.

Some anti-gay activists call gay marriage the "slippery slope" that will also legalize polygamy.  And yes, re-defining marriage may convince some people that it's possible to re-define marriage.  But pragmatically, legal recognition of gay marriage doesn't change the laws much.  The parts of marriage that the American government regulates now - i.e. inheritance, taxes, child custody - have already evolved through feminism to look past which spouse has a pee-pee and which spouse has a vajayjay.

Pragmatically, being legally married to more than one person at a time would create a lot more unprecedented legal situations.  If one person divorces out of a triad, is the remaining couple entitled to twice as much property because there are two of them?  If someone with two spouses dies, which spouse inherits what?  If someone with two spouses and no living will is in a vegetative state, and the spouses disagree on whether to keep them artificially alive, what then?

Also pragmatically, I'm okay with having only one of my relationships on government records, because my boyfriend and I don't have joint property or a joint residence.  Part of the beauty of polyamory is that not all romantic relationships have to lead to marriage anyway.

So it makes perfect sense that America is opening up to legally recognizing gay marriage before it opens up to legally recognizing polygamy and polyandry.  But from the perspective of my straight but "non-traditional" marriage, I too am watching the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case on pins and needles, praying for Judge Walker and the Supreme Court to show as much sense and humanity as The Daily Show writers.

1 comment:

  1. Most excellent analysis of the issues around legal marriage for poly people and same-sex couples, kudos!