So media outlets are all abuzz with the Obama administration’s statements today about the Defense of Marriage Act. I first learned about it when the American Educational Research Association (AERA) queer sig list-serv exploded in a flurry of emails this afternoon, and since then I’ve had a chance to read CNN.com and the New York Times coverage.
While the Obama administration’s statements are encouraging and could very well represent a major wind change in the US government’s position on what constitutes a marriage, I am left feeling a bit sad about it all. To me, the LGBT community’s fixation on the word “marriage” has been nothing short of frustrating, and I had hoped that maybe people would eventually come around to the idea that “marriage” is not necessarily the word that same-sex committed couples should be adopting to define their long-term relationships.
For me, “marriage” does imply a long-term, committed relationship between a man and a woman; it does not describe the long-term relationship that I have with a man. The term “gay marriage” is at best anachronistic, and at worst, an example of a heteronormative institution that gays and lesbians desperately want to access. Which quite honestly confuses me given the historical origins of marriage as a transaction involving property: “wife” is given to “husband” and husband’s family receives her dowry. Antiquated, offensive, and backward by today’s supposedly “liberated” standards. Yet the LGBT community, fighting for the rights of all its people, is in a rush to the “gay marriage altar.” It is a befuddling contradiction that essentially says to me, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
Don’t get me wrong. I ABSOLUTELY want the rights and privileges afforded to my heterosexual counterparts in their long-term relationships, and I get that side of the argument for “gay marriage.” I want those rights and privileges for all people. I just don’t want the history that comes along with the word “marriage.”