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Today, Gays & Lesbians Traded in Human Marriage for State Marriage

My never ending theme: Everybody Is Wrong.

I've blogged it before. I have lots of gay friends. I know young promiscuous males (...that never happens, elsewhere); and I know both male-male and female-female couples who've been together for over 25 years. I attended a funeral a couple of years ago for one of those lesbian partners. And one of those gay partners was a 20-something navy officer, like me. Got kicked out because of of the kind of junk he likes best.

I get it. I get the marriage battle completely from that angle. It is to say: we love as much, as deeply, as committedly as you. And they do. I've witnessed it (and actually, it must be said that they often do a better job of it in my observation).

So, in general, I have long been a supporter of their cause, which was mostly expressed morally: you get to love, fondle, and bed down with any kinds of genitals you prefer. The thing is, they could already do that freely, for decades now. They could simulate the automatic, state-adjudicated rights of a marriage contract via means of powers of attorney and a host of other agreements, contracts, trusts and business entities any competent attorney has in boilerplate. So, OK, then; it's the moral recognition they craved: our "marriage" is as good as yours.

Of course, The Stupid Party (Republicans...and I sometimes like them better, generally, than The Evil Party—though I completely loath them both) simply could not sue for peace under the priciple of freedom and self-determination: and thereby have the high road handed to them on a silver platter. Why? Simple. It was never, ever a principle for them because they're not just stupid, but liars. Prima facie. They never, ever meant it. They've been frauds from day one. No elaboration necessary. Fuck Republicans, forever. Liars. Frauds: using the language of freedom and self-determination where all they really ever meant is the freedom to choose a variant of a Christian religion, and the determination to adopt one set of Christian diktats over another.

Anyway, a little bit of me died, today, when I heard that my friends were trading in human marriage for State marriage—a "living" contract that changes by the whim of legislature; such that years later in a dispute, they'll be facing provisions they never bargained for. I had witnessed over some years people behaving as though they knew—without the State—how to love, cherish and be committed to another person for as long as it lasted and splits were pretty easy and uneventful. That always informed me well, I think. Now it's gone. They traded in complete freedom for a bit of legislated bondage and, and...I can't help but note that in all of the cheering I heard on NPR while driving to an appointment today, it wasn't about love, commitment, life choices. Rather, it was about the 1,400 Federal benefits they'll be entitled to as "Official Spouses," now (according to someone interviewed...no idea its accuracy). So, then: Fucking Congratulations...I guess. You've managed to make yourselves dependent sucklings. Just Google around at the general politicized disaster of what is family court, now. Next, try to imagine that none of your lovers will ever find a way to use the ever evolving family law to give you a very less pleasurable...uh, penetration...legally stealing tens, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars from you.

I'm reminded of something I heard way back when, in the steam room of the gym. It was one of those times the gays and lesbians vying for "marriage equality" was in the daily discourse:

"I fully support gay marriage. They have every right to be as miserable as we are."

I'd add that everyone should always get exactly what they deserve. In the coming decades we'll see exactly how that turns, as you traded in complete relationship and human marriage freedom for a State contact.

Comments

  1. Gordon Shannon says:

    Force alters incentives and ruins something genuinely human once again.

  2. Styloo says:

    Well put Richard. We should not only protest gay marriage, but marriage altogether!

    I think Barney Stinson (ironically) from How I Met Your Mother put it nicely (15 sec clip)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KKnjyozguw

  3. I think you are looking at it wrong. No one has to get married, straight or gay, but they wanted to have the right to marriage; the same right straights have. And for some people, those benefits are a big deal later in life, or perhaps if they have kids.

    Overall, I agree with what you wrote, but I think you missed the point that for some it is about not being second class (or maybe you don’t care, which is fine, too) . And quite frankly, while I don’t have a dog in the fight, seeing all those preachy homophobic God loving fucks take it on the chin was acting for me.

  4. Preston says:

    I don’t understand all the hoopla about something that affects such a tiny percentage of the population.

  5. RobertvE says:

    @preston

    Well that is politics, make a big thing out of something small, and a small thing out of something big. And to top it off, never talk about the underlying assumptions.

  6. “They could simulate the automatic, state-adjudicated rights of a marriage contract via means of powers of attorney and a host of other agreements, contracts, trusts and business entities any competent attorney has in boilerplate.”

    What is the cost of this vs. the relatively simple process that hetero couples must execute? If it’s more, how does your argument apply?

    “I don’t understand all the hoopla about something that affects such a tiny percentage of the population.”

    Why bother over only 11.5 million people, right? Holy geez get some perspective.

    On the other hand, fuck the state and fuck marriage. Thank you.

  7. Joshua says:

    The good news is that one of the motivations for the DOMA ruling was states rights which, while not as good as freedom, is sometimes better than more centralized planning. The fact that the dems on the SCOTUS joined in on a generally federalism focused ruling is a little bit delicious.

    @WC “What is the cost of this vs. the relatively simple process that hetero couples must execute?” You seem to be leaving out the cost of the government mediated process over the private process that is the alternative. The question is which cost is higher.

    I join you in fucking the state but I am, as yet, indifferent to marriage.

  8. @JS

    I think your general objections are implicit in my post. I am in fact congratulating them on the victory to be equal under the law. But, what law? My post is a critique of state adjudicated marriage per se. Marriage ought only be a social construct steeped in tradition and various ritual. It is a formalization of a relationship with a certain collection or rights or expectations “taken for granted.” This can be done by people, any kinds of people. It does not require the state and it can be anything a social group wants it to be.

    @wc

    You’re going to pay one way or the other when things blow up. I always prefer custom contracts, not generalized one size fits all contracts where the terms can be changed by third parties after signing (“I do”)

  9. I have a different perspective on this. I’m a libertarian anarchist, but married because it substantially reduced the taxes we pay to the government and eliminates the last kick at the corpse, the death tax, which would otherwise be owed when one of us died and the other inherited. I have gay clients who will now have their income taxes immediately reduced by marrying and who will no longer need to fear the seizure of a major part of their estate when one of them dies, clients who have long been indifferent to the “approval” of the government but who do not see why they should be turning more of their assets over to the government each year. This cannot be duplicated by private contract.

    Marriage licenses, like occupational licenses and drivers licenses, ought not to be required, but it is reasonable to obtain them while ALSO working for a society without any of them.

    There is no question that equal treatment under the government’s laws is inferior to market chosen law and dispute resolution by mutually selected arbiters. But it is a step that I believe, on the whole, moves toward less oppression by government against the individuals who choose to take advantage.

    It is also true that, on a cost-benefit basis, it is far less expensive to marry than to attempt to duplicate it through contracts (even ignoring the immigration rights and tax reductions that cannot be so duplicated). Why pay more to lawyers?

    I may well admire those who drive without demeaning themselves with a drivers license, refuse to pay taxes that the government says they owe, and try to operate businesses that the government can shut down without a license. But taking advantage of opportunities to reduce government oppression through obeying rules that are cheaper to follow than evasion seems defensible to me. I also believe that minimizing the taxes one pays to the government and maximizing the benefits one takes from them is consistent with trying to reduce government power by using their own rules against them. One can use government rules without worshiping them.

    Still, equal treatment under the marriage laws is not THE goal. No argument there.

  10. LoyalFan says:

    Your second sentence, ‘I have lots of gay friends…’ Very subtle but speaks volumes.
    A better way to have begun this article might have been, ‘Even though i’m writing an article on gay issues i just want everybody to know i am not gay.’
    Homosexual caveman or not, i love your work.

  11. Les

    All very good practical points.

    Loyal fan

    Laf. You got me.

  12. @ Less Antman: Really? You’ll be impacted by the inheritance tax? Wow, that puts you in the top one half of one percent of death. Heck with the One Percenters! One of the great successes of the Republican spin machine is to get many average folk’s knickers in knots, getting convinced that the estate tax will impact them.

    As to the cost of getting married, something amusing. I was at the county clerk’s office some months ago and a love struck couple came in the get a marriage license. This is Florida. Wanna guess how much???? Tick, tock, tick, tock. NINETY THREE DOLLLARS! Not long after I stumbled across the receipt for my own license, in the same courthouse, 1967. One dollah and fiddy cents.

    As tax revenues go down, whether due to the economy or tax cuts, “they” make it up where you can’t escape. My new driver’s license cost $62.

    • Less_Antman says:

      First, I was explaining the reasons we got married. We married 30 years ago, when the death tax was more pervasive. Second, many people not subject to the federal death tax owe a state tax with far less wealth. Third, while I have only contempt for those who joined the 1% as a result of corporate welfare or political power, those who have earned their wealth by providing valuable goods and services have my respect. Fourth, the Republican spin machine was certainly not behind the drive to repeal DOMA: it was apparently more important to express disapproval of homosexuality than to cut people’s taxes in this case. Fifth, the death tax was only one issue in my post: my principal reasons for advising clients to marry have been income taxes, protection of survivor benefits for those whose partners have paid social security taxes for a working lifetime, and immense savings in legal costs needed to duplicate the contractual terms codified in the marriage code, all of which are far more important to non-wealthy gays who can less afford these harms.

      BTW, it is interesting that the Libertarian Party first called for equal treatment under the marriage laws in its 1975 platform (and the plank itself was written by an anarchist), while the pro-government Democratic Party platform only added marriage equality TEN MONTHS AGO (in its September 2012 platform). The Republican Party, of course, thinks higher taxes are peachy keen for homosexual couples.

  13. The opponents of same sex marriage (not me) claim that institutionalizing it would lead to multipartner marriages (a male-female couple where each would also marry a same sex partner).

    In your opinion, would this lead to a debacle of civilization and society as we know it?

  14. No. People can already do this by just shacking up and it’s so fringe as to not be worth thinking about.

  15. It always amuses me how many people think that rights are granted by the state, thus they believe that they must petition the state for such rights. Gays already had the right to marry, what they really wanted was state-sanctioning of the rights that they already (and always) held, and in so doing acquiring the unequal benefits granted by the state to those whose marriages it has sanctioned. They are seeking equality by practicing inequality, and they are doing so by way of force and violence (all actions of the state are rooted either in force or violence, its entire existence is dependent upon them).

  16. Douglas Clegg says:

    As a gay guy who has been married since it was made legal to do so in Connecticut some years back and has been with his better half for more than 24 years…I can say that this blog post is written by someone who has never actually noticed the legal protections afforded him as a heterosexual which had previously been unavailable to homosexual people. Nor have you suffered under what probably would seem unnoticeable to you — which is the “people are are slightly less than human because they are not quite like us,” aspect of inequality that is backed by a legal system. If you live in a huge city with a large gay community, you might even be surprised to know this exists elsewhere, unless you listen carefully to the stories of why many of those people in that large gay community migrated to that city at all. Or talked to a gay kid today, who would tell you how he will grow up and raise a family; something that my generation (I’m 55) would have thought was unimaginable to say when we were teenagers or in college or thereafter, depending on what we wanted from life and how we wanted to contribute. In fact, adding to my confusion when I was young, very loving and well-meaning friends said to me — in my teens and early 20s when I’d worked up the courage to tell them I was gay — “Where will it leads? Guys never stay together. What’s going to happen? You’re just going to get hurt again and again.”

    Imagine saying that to a heterosexual friend who wants to marry and raise a family in a someday, theoritcall kind of way that the only option is failure.

    Or perhaps you’re not married? Or are married but wouldn’t care what happens if you got sick and incapacitated and your other relatives decided your wife was not your next of kin so kept her out of the hospital and all decision-making, or if one of you died and the other lost the house and other property because a relative who was considered by law to be legally closer to the deceased spouse could make a claim on at least half of what you and your spouse had built together in your marriage — or at least, keep you in the courts for a good year or more fighting for it, thus spending thousands of dollars on lawyers…

    Would you have said the same regarding the elimination of laws that kept people of two different races from having a legally-recognized marriage? That they traded human marriage in for state marriage? And if so, is this a negative or a positive?

    Implicit in any argument stating that gay people are somehow losing something in this legal recognition of their state marriages (which we already had here in Connecticut and a handful of other states, well-before the DOMA challenge) is the idea that somehow we had so much more without it. Please. A marriage is a marriage, with or without a signed contract. You have more or less depending on what you’ve built together as a couple — love, family, friendship, happiness…or misery, if that’s the way it goes. The state neither confers or takes away the human aspect of marriage.

    Further, when gay people previously did wills and contracts to protect each other legally, all you needed was a greedy relative and a judge with a hidden prejudice to rule in favor of screwing over the surviving spouse — since no law protected you.

    I’ve seen this happen a few times over the past 30 years and know of this happening anecdotally via documentaries, etc. Additionally, in some of the states with bans on gay marriage, the wording of the ban includes language such that any contract made between two people that can be construed as simulating a marriage contract can be declared invalid. (Not good for heterosexual cohabitants, either.)

    These marriages for gay and lesbian people — just like yours or anybody who wishes to marry — create a legal contract that is impossible to pierce except by the agreement of the two spouses within a legal context. Not so with other contracts, which can be broken via various legal processes if someone works the law well-enough — or again, if not broken, can be kept in courthouse limbo for a long time, at great expense, depending on a variety of circumstances.

    Before we had marriage, when we went to get legal documents done, this is what our lawyer told us. We had many legal documents made up, wills, partnerships, etc. Thousands of dollars spent. All of them could — if someone wanted to — be broken using the law, or at least keep someone in court for a long time going after them.

    You, a heterosexual, can get married for less than $100 and you and your spouse magically receive all these protections. What a bargain!

    So, we (who are gay and in these exalted — apparently — human marriages) traded nothing — but we, as gay men and women, now can receive some (not all) equal treatment and recognition under the law of our marriages, for those of us who choose to marry. Just like you, only without the ability to have our marriage recognized in the 35+ states that won’t recognize our marriages. The “miserable” or “happy” part of any marriage is up to the people involved in the marriage.

    Hey, no one needs to marry. In fact, I’d encourage people on the fence about it not to marry. If you feel pressure to marry from friends or family — and it’s not your desire or wish to build a life with that other person and make sure that they are not left unprotected at the crisis moments of life — then by all means, don’t marry. A bad marriage is worse than no marriage. A decision to commit to someone you don’t love with every sense of what love is to you, is a huge mistake. Unwilling to evolve, to put someone else first at times (maybe most times), unable to actually like the person you love, unable to go through the changes of aging, unable admit you’re wrong sometimes, want to fall in love with a variety of people rather than just one? Marriage ain’t for you. And there is nothing wrong with that. Live the life you want.

    I’ve seen a bad marriage destroy people’s sense of trust and security for a long time

    And yes, all marriages — even those that begin with the best intentions but then have some grenade of an issue lobbed right at the center of them later — are risks. Everybody already knows that. But then, so are all relationships.

    And all are human marriages, the flawed ones, the ones with ups and downs, the ones that are different, and even the ones with the state’s legal protections attached to them. In a perfect world, would we need the state to sanction marriage?

    No. But in a perfect world, everyone would respect others’ marriages, families would welcome all couples with open arms, and nobody would want someone’s property that wasn’t theirs. We wouldn’t need laws to protect anybody, actually, in that perfect world.

    Do I think there’s a higher commitment than marriage?

    Of course. The commitment has to be in the heart before it’s in the license or whether there’s a license at all. BUT…there is nothing sadder than seeing a 72 year old man lose his place of residence and have to return to the work force and live in a tiny studio he can barely afford because some greedy relative (and there’s always at least one) figures out how to work the system to get the 30-40 year partner to not be declared “next-of-kin,” by any measure or get a will thrown out simply because it was missing one extra witness signature, etc. Or tie it all up in court for years so that the grieving widower who has little legal standing simply gives up on it

    Heterosexuals who marry don’t ever have to face this. The marriage protects them in these life-changing events.

    Those of us who are gay are still relatively unprotected. My husband and I can only move to certain states — just over a dozen out of 50 — if we’re to be protected by state law as a married couple in these issues. Imagine being a citizen of this country and not being able to move one or two states over without losing your legal marriage?

    Imagine getting a great job in Wisconsin only…you can’t go without, in essence, negating your legal marriage. Of course, you might go anyway. But what if there’s an accident. You die. Your spouse is only recognized by the state as a cohabitant with possibly only a 50% share of everything you both have. In fact, that legal document you drew up to simulate marriage is thrown out in court because there’s currently a ban in Wisconsin on just that kind of document which the court decides was meant to simulate a marriage contract’s rights. Sure, your spouse could go to court. Sure, he or she might win — eventually. If there’s enough money in the bank already and if the spouse is willing to keep appealing to get to higher courts…. Gah, but when someone dies — a life-partner, a best friend, the love of one’s life — how unnecessarily cruel and humiliating is that to put the surviving spouse through it?

    I’m hopeful, of course, that this will change.

    A final bottom line: people who fall in love and feel they’ve fallen deeply and want to build family often want to marry. And legally. Not always. But often.

    Heterosexuals get to do this — if they want.

    Until a certain point in U.S. history, people of two different races could not do this without breaking a law. But then that changed because one of the movements of all democratic societies (and perhaps all societies in which the communities seek a benevolent world) is toward equality.

    If I’m a citizen of this country, and I pay my taxes, if I contribute my work, if I take care of my property…and maybe even if I don’t do those things…aren’t I a citizen, with all the rights and responsibilities of adult citizenship? Do gay and lesbians not risk their lives as police officers, teachers, soldiers, and various other professions? Are we not human enough to have the equal right to the law that heterosexuals have?

    I suspect you’d agree we do. So, nothing was traded in the negative. What we are slowly getting via state marriage is exactly what heterosexual couples have had a choice of getting (not getting) for a very long time. Is there bad with the good? Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends on the couple and the arrows life throws at ‘em. But this is true even without legal marriage.

    I enjoy this blog, so none of this is meant as an attack or a slap, even. I’m hoping it’s a bit enlightening from the other side of the fence.

    With best wishes.

  17. Douglas Clegg says:

    Apologies for the typos, of course.

  18. Douglass:

    Thanks for that. I appreciate your comment a great deal and you know what, part of the impetus to write this post was to hear well from the “other side.”

    I’m on your side, really. It’s just that I hold my _morally_ being on your side far, far more important than legal practicalities, which I fully understand.

    It’s just another day in “The Land of the Free.” By which I mean, fewer people are now truly free. Or, to put it another way, the heterosexual marriage arrangement is a travesty. It’s too bad there wasn’t a solution for all in human freedom rather than having to dance with the state in order not to be violated.

    Thanks again. I don’t want to pic nits at your post. There’s an issue or two we might have a decent argument about but I prefer it stand whole.