Friday, May 20, 2011

Three rings (stop me if you've heard this one)

I've been thinking about marriage a lot lately - not for myself, but as a concept, an institution. For the purposes of this post, I'm not talking about two people (or more!) deciding to spend their lives together, I'm talking about two people (or more? usually just two at a time, though) deciding to spend their lives together and telling the government about it. For the purposes of this post, we're talking about a union of which some government, somewhere, has a record.

Since I'm not a romantic, or at least I'm not unspoiled idealist - the first bitch who comes along and reminds me that I'm a cynic I'mma cut - I have trouble as it is understanding a long-term commitment. The faith, the optimism, the promise - it's all a bit intense for me. I like the idea, don't get me wrong. If you are in a long-term relationship of the romantic kind that you intend to be in till death do you 'part, then yay for you. (I suppose.) I can say, well, I hope this works out.

I understand the above as a universal process - anyone who is capable of forming deep emotional bonds is hypothetically capable of finding someone or some people s/he wants and decides to bring into their circle of "me".

I get confused at the point where the commitment gets formalised in some way. (For the purposes of this, and every post, I am a Stupid Hermit Who Does Not Get People. Don't ask me why I'm asking the dumb questions. I'm dumb.) When two people who want to spend their lives together go to a priest, arranger, ordainer of some sort in order to make vows/promises/be wedded together - with witnesses, sometimes many, many, many witnesses, I am bewildered by the necessary, inevitable spectacle. The process is simultaneous show, celebration, and validation-from-spiritual/other authority; there's a part of me that says, your lives together don't in and of themselves need that.

Yes yes, it's a social institution, and traditionally, alliance-wise or romance-wise, there're social pressures, and sometimes pleasures, to the pubic spectacle. The ceremonies act as a public, communal, community milestone. I don't get it, emotionally, but I can talk my way through it.

I'm not confused by this social ritual because it's not necessarily open to all people capable of informed consent - even if it's often open to people who do not give consent at all. I'm not wandering around going, why do heterosexuals do this when so many places have LGBTIQ people who can't? I'm a little bewildered why anyone would do it, period. This is because I lack empathy and religion, and decidedly do not want to go the horrors of a Hindu Brahmin wedding for myself.

For the people who want to live together forever and not have a social, religious, wedding but still want to live together forever as a unit, there's "marriage" as defined, allowed and rewarded by the state they live in. In India, while most states did not until recently require that marriages be registered, the various marriage laws did. [In case you didn't know, we have the Hindu Marriage Act (under which the Sikh, Buddhist and Jain marriages have been categorised, for reasons of bureaucratic laziness), Indian Christian Marriage Act, Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, the Special Marriages Act (for inter-religious/caste unions), Muslim Personal Law. The Hindu Marriage Act does not require that the wedding be registered. Hooray for democracy.]

I am not going to argue that LGBTIQ people should be allowed to marry and have that marriage recognised by their governments. Okay? I do not need to, it is perfectly obvious and right. If anyone is allowed to marry - and make no mistake, government recognition is permission, validation and reward, just as societal celebration is - then anyone should be allowed to marry.

Nepal is currently redrafting their constitution - actually, it's nearly done by now, and by July, if the people vote in the majority for it, all people of adult age regardless of sex, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, what have you, will be able to marry. Brazil passed its same-sex law just a few weeks ago. Various American states are arguing yay and nay, and I link you to this lovely moment from the Minnesotan debates on the subject - just that moment, since the final results were not happy.

So. In our perfect world where anyone capable of informed consent is allowed to marry - and I mean, specifically, in the sense where said union is registered with the government, is probably licensed, recorded somewhere, is legal... why do we want to marry?

  1. It would be nice if everyone who is in a committed relationship is allowed to bloody visit their loved ones in the hospital. Or in prison. Or when they move to family-specific zones, which does happen in some nations still, I think.
  2. Tax breaks! Insurance breaks! Inheritance breaks!
  3. Regulated break-up! Division of your stuff by someone else so all you need to do is fight about it!
  4. Nationalities and visas!
  5. Specifically for those of us who have to fight for it - respect, recognition. (Which is why we're only sullenly accepting "civil unions" as a sort of "marriage" for the purposes of this post.) This means the government doesn't say, Ew, icky, and put us in jail, or separate us against our will.
  6. Comment at will, I am out of ideas.
I am going to beat the dead donkey now: 2, 3 and indirectly, 4, are about property. 1 and 4 are about acceptance, and permission, and mobility. 5 is acceptance, recognition, permission. As a practical woman, I get that these are very good reasons to have your government accept that you are married, and recognise, permit you that right, with the obligations involved.

I just... really do not see how it is the government's business. I find it incredibly creepy that people submit something so important to a only hopefully benevolent, definitely, actually impersonal authority. This is not a "someone" who loves you. Or has a plan for you and humanity as a whole. This is... THE MAN. Shouldn't this be private - or at lest just between you and your god/s?

We grant our governments too much responsibility.

Gurl in the World has already blogged this, but this is a reminder: sign here, if you're from the States. Help a family get back together.


  1. 1. Marriage is an insurance against boredom. The cost of breaking up a marriage(children, legal, social etc) makes people stay together, and so one is assured of company on a trip to the cinema
    2. Everybody is doing it. So. Instead of trying to explain to infinite people what one is doing living with a person of another gender, it is much better to use a single word : "married"

  2. Rakesh, Rakesh, that sounds so sad, you break my heart.