Love Will Out

41 Comments »

DOMA should never have been passed. Proposition 8 is a hateful law. I am for neither of these. Love will out and both of these try to place strictures upon love. On the other hand, for me, the fight is simultaneously much larger and more subtle. Striking down DOMA and Prop 8 is not nearly enough. Allowing the US or state governments to decree what sorts of rights we have in our personal relationships doesn’t sit right with me, not just for personal reasons, but for political ones, too.

Here’s where I come out: I have two partners and have for 9 years. We live in community with a housemate who is a friend. There is also a woman who is beloved to me, though we don’t live in partnership. My partners and I talk sometimes about what sorts of legal documents we might need if one of us ended up seriously injured. What would be legally binding enough to allow us all visitation rights in a hospital, for example? We’ve heard the horror stories like the man locked out of the hospital room by the homophobic family of his beloved. He sat in the parking lot as his partner died.

Friends of mine are raising one another’s children as their own, yet have no automatic legal rights around their care in case of emergencies.

I personally know someone who cared for his partner for years as she struggled with ever more debilitating diseases. They thought they had done everything correctly. They had all the legal paperwork, including power of attorney. He was with her up until she died. The nursing facility would not release her body to him because they had never married. He loved, cherished, and cared for her for years, but it wasn’t enough. He had to fight for the right to bury her.

I stand for love, yet haven’t joined in very active support of what some people call “gay marriage” or others call equal rights because the struggle feels much, much larger. Fighting for the rights of my gay and lesbian friends to marry is on one hand a wonderful thing. I am for people making commitments and sacred bonds to one another. I am for all citizens of a country actually having equal rights under the law. To give one set of citizens rights denied to another set is illegal and unjust. However, for me, allowing two men or two women to marry one another just isn’t enough. It isn’t the sort of equality I really want. I’m more queer than that, and more of an anarchist, of course.  I desire equity far more pluralistic than the simple replication of a state sanctioned nuclear family.

What right does government have to tell us what sorts of relationships are important to us, or what sorts of families we can build and grow together? We cannot build the society I want for us all – a society of comrades and friends, who care for one another’s children, who wipe away the tears of a friend we’ve had for 30 years, who share food and housing when times are tough or when times are very good – we cannot build this when we are intent upon saying that love is only important, and only has rights, when shared between two people.

Love is greater than that. We are greater than that. I firmly trust that we can work out how to love and whom to commit to on our own. If we want to write up contracts saying that the children of our best friend of 40 years can inherit our home when we die, we should have the right to do so. If we want our girlfriend at our bedside in ICU, that should also be allowed.

I recognize that I am talking about a restructuring of society. What else is new? It wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel, however. The nuclear family is a fairly contemporary arrangement. Extended families were the norm for centuries. People want to care for one another. We should be allowed to do so, as we see fit.

We can’t let hatred and fear win the day. Some of my friends want a state sanctioned marriage and I can support them in that. I just want to live my life as I choose, and not be penalized for the ways I happen to love. As usual, I’m playing a long game, and one that may not be realized within my lifetime.

Here’s the thing: what I really want is to build a new society with you. I have a vision of all the permutations of love expressed as a beautiful garden that can nourish heart and soul.

Striking down DOMA is one step toward my vision. It also isn’t nearly enough. What I already build with my friends, and with many of you, is what I want: families filled with friends of every sort, living in mutual support, building relationships based on respect and overflowing with love.

As I wrote two years ago, when the State of California was voting on Proposition 8: Desire knows no boundaries of gender, sexual expression, or love. God Herself is boundless, and potentially, so are we.

I will always support the striking down of fear and hatred. But I would rather build something with love, from the ground on up.

What is your vision?

41 Responses to “Love Will Out”

  1. Lynx Adamah

    Thanks for sharing those beautiful and powerful words, Thorn. I’ve been struggling a bit too with finding my right relationship to the marriage equality struggle, as it’s important, but to me, as a queer/genderqueer person, not where the revolution will be fought/won. I also hold out so much more as possible for all relationships, not just the monogamous nuclear model. I stand for rights for all people regardless of relationship status, and access to beloveds based on connection rather than a legal document.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Yes!

      I love this statement: ” I stand for rights for all people regardless of relationship status, and access to beloveds based on connection rather than a legal document.”

      Reply
  2. Rory

    I am no particular fan of marriage but have been a strong ally in the fight for gay marriage because people I love and value, many of them gay or lesbian, said that it was important to them. The closer we are to victory, though, the more I see the bourgeois assimilationists preparing to pull away from broader issues of social justice: affluent white male couples, especially. I am old enough to remember the reputation that such men had before HIV, and how clearly the HIV crisis made that group more than what it was. I am fearful that victory for “gay marriage” and the associated economic and property-succession rights that it brings will help return them to their lesser, pre-HIV-crisis position.

    I have not been a strong ally for nearly thirty years because I wanted more comfort for assimilationist yuppies, and I will be bitter if those whom I fought for turn their back on the many still-dispossessed and unmarried sisters and brothers when marriage equality is won.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Rory,

      You bring up some important points here, about power and privilege. What are some ways we can keep holding people we’ve been allies with accountable?

      I feel firmly committed to continued work on justice for all, which requires rethinking how society can even look. I really feel it is important for us to share and build those visions wherever and however we can.

      thanks for contributing to the conversation.

      Reply
  3. Chelidon

    Thank you, well said, and for many and good reasons, I fully agree. We’re making good and important steps, real progress, but there are so many steps left to take. I want to be able to celebrate the victories, mourn (and learn from) the setbacks, and all the time, keep my eyes on the prize. Love is the Law, love is what it’s all about, love is a many-splendored thing, and anything that puts artificial barriers in the way of love, True Love, in whatever glorious and diverse forms it takes, simply cannot stand. And we cannot let it.

    Reply
  4. Tony

    I have been ambivalent about marriage equality for a long time. I have really wished that we as a society could have joined around the model that marriage truly is a religious institution and that civil marriage is simply a government-recognized contract between adults to arrange our finances and systems of caring, love, support, what have you. My partner and I had a commitment ceremony with my family and I considered that more important at the time than state recognition. We don’t have additional partners but it’s not wholly out of the question. As I get older, I find I am more aware of the issues of estate taxes and such and a part of me contracts with fear, wanting access to those rights that other couples are allowed. I also am shocked by feelings and thoughts that arise when I read these critiques, the kind of privileged us/them thinking that I’ve always abhorred, of “let us get ours then you can get yours,” which tells me that I am in danger of constricting around a narrow, bouregois view of progress rather than the inclusive social justice my heart desires.

    I honestly think this is a time when some of the “slippery slope” can be justified. As we continue to separate legal marriage from the cultural/religious sacrament, more possibilities may emerge.

    I also want to honor that this is not only about gay and lesbian marriage. When I was phone banking in Washington for our marriage equality laws, one of the most strident and inspiring participants was a heterosexual man who wanted to be able to marry his transgendered girlfriend.

    I am thankful to you and others who continue to question and critique and open up possibilities, even when parts of me resist it.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      “As we continue to separate legal marriage from the cultural/religious sacrament, more possibilities may emerge.”

      This is why I am supporting the repeal of these hateful laws. One step at a time feels like better than nothing as we work toward justice for all. It is the same reason why, though I am more of an anarchist than anything, I still vote. This is the system I’m in, so I may as well use it while I work for something better.

      As Rory points out, though, we can still be called to hold one another accountable in the longer term so we don’t just fall back into the perils of “I’ve got mine.”

      and I’ll add: I don’t have the answers to the legal sticky wicket. All I know is I want us to keep visioning something more truly equitable, even as we take whatever steps we can toward greater love and justice.

      Reply
  5. Sandy English

    What speaks to me in this is the need to shift from “you have the right to be just like me” to “we each have the right to live our live in the way that suits us.” There is so much fear that society needs to move through to get there though… I wonder sometimes if this is an issue of knowing where to find our center and how to set our boundaries. If I cannot find these within myself, then I seek inflexibility in society so that I know where I am…

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Sandy, yes. Your mentioning of boundaries makes sense. So often, too, if we lack our own boundaries we become fearful and then try to set boundaries based around fear. This is not very helpful in the long run.

      Reply
  6. Tzaddi

    I think that any government or societal structure should trust us to create the family structures that work for us and then support us in making them legally functional. If it doesn’t do that, it falls short in what government’s purpose here in the US should be which is “by the people, for the people”. In your situation and in mine and in millions of others, it has fallen woefully short.

    “One step at a time feels like better than nothing as we work toward justice for all. It is the same reason why, though I am more of an anarchist than anything, I still vote.”

    Yes. This. Exactly this.

    I wish that this week’s cases didn’t even have to happen because I wish that nothing as gnarly as Prop 8 and DOMA had ever happened. But they did. For far more dysfunctional reasons than “the system didn’t stop them”. I feel small and ineffectual sometimes. But every tiny bit counts. So I keep doing what I do daily… living in line with my Work. I think if we do that, we’ll thrive in spite of the systems that restrict us.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      US government feels pretty broken – particularly Congress, which I think should be scrapped at this point.

      Living in line with your Work is a powerful thing. It changes everything around you. Thanks for that.

      Reply
  7. Jeyn Jaffe

    Eeeep! I wanted to say more..(the joy of typing with a 7 year old in your lap, lol!) I wanted to say that I love this vision, I have this vision, this resonates so strongly with me that I want to reach through the internet and grasp your hand and say “Yes!! This!! This is what makes sense to me too!!” As someone who also lives an “alternative lifestyle” I support the rights of human beings everywhere to love and create families, communities, and connection as our hearts dictate, not how the government tries to legislate.

    Blessings to you, your partners, your family, your friends, your community. Let it begin now.

    Reply
  8. Kim McDonald

    A few years ago we had a young girl who lived with her mother and her mother’s partner. Her biological father was not in het life, by his choice. Her mother died of cancer, leaving custody to her partner in her,will.
    The father contested and made abuse accusations. The accusations were unfoundee, but the girl had to spend a few months in my shelter until custody was granted back to the partner. In this girl’s,eyes, her mothers partner was more of a parent than her father had been.

    Reply
  9. Shannon Moore

    PAsted from Facebook;
    Shannon Moore I like it. The problem I haven’t resolved with myself is the one that comes from the “multiple people” situation.

    Because it seems to me that you’re advocating civil unions for multiple people. It sounds like a good, and fair thing for you and your two partners….
    But, to use a bit of an overstated example… If you and two people can be afforded the same opportunities as a couple, whats to stop, say, the Entire NRA from declaring their love for each other, and entering a domestic partnership?

    Now you know I’m poly, but clearly there has to be Some sort of limit to the parameters of who can receive these benefits, or really, theres no point in having them at all.

    And of course… Who gets to decide, and why?

    T.Thorn Coyle;
    I don’t know that I want legal domestic partnerships. I’m not so sure that the government giving extra rights to anyone is correct. I need to think more on this, of course, because it is complex.

    Why, for example, can’t friends just visit someone in ICU (I know sometimes this is possible, but sometimes it is not)? Why can’t I decide that I want to sign a legal document giving inheritance rights to a best friend’s children? Why not just give everyone access to healthcare? Why can’t my friend have a binding power of attorney so my birth family doesn’t have a say in whether or not I stay on life support if I don’t want them to? There has to be a better way to give legal rights to people than making them contingent upon marriage. Marriage, in my opinion, should be a separate issue, between whomever wants it. Government need not intervene at all. As I said, I’m playing a long game that will also be a slow game, and may never happen.

    Overall, we are in a big legal tangle and I’d like people smarter than I to show us some options out.

    Shannon Moore
    Well Thorn, I agree. I’m a utopian anarchist too. OF course I’m for free association, the nullification of all taxation, and generally for people to do whatever they want with and to each other that is consensual.

    But We’re so farrrrrr from there. “multiple partner marriages” are The “Shock and horror” specter of the “slippery slope”. People use the idea because its “unthinkable”. Oddly.

    I just don’t want to move to a situation where, as I said, the board of Monsanto Marries each other and gets marital benefits on top of corporate benefits. And you know that is where that would lead to.
    Retained lawyers FTW.

    Reply
  10. Sarah

    I’m rather of the opinion that the nuclear family construct destroys true community. And that we need to foster a willingness and desire to nurture community rather than get caught up in the legal structure of the single family unit.

    Change must come from within or be revolutionized from without. I’m not so sure that our society would be benefitted by an external revolution.. I’m far more in favor of gnawing away at the base of the mountains of bureaucracy that have built up in the last couple hundred years.

    Reply
  11. Samara

    I think you’re right that “marriage equality” isn’t enough. I wish the pace of change would accelerate. But like you say, one step is better than none! Let’s keep moving toward embracing all expressions of love.

    What interests me most about this decision is its potential to influence culture. Laws shape culture, and I think groups use laws to impact public opinion and impose a particular morality. For example, there are some policies currently under consideration that criminalize homelessness. And what, besides legality, can explain the stigmatization of drug use when alcohol use is looked upon almost favorably? I know I am oversimplifying, but the point is that our government’s laws reflect–and also define–our society’s values.

    So if same-sex marriage becomes legal, I think fewer and fewer people will say it’s wrong, and babies born today will eventually just think it’s normal. Then, as that becomes normal, people may become ready to accept the next level of queerness. Maybe that is transgender rights. Maybe it’s multi-partner families. I don’t know.

    It may be slow, but change is happening. It was only a few decades ago that people were using the word miscegenation like it was dirty.

    The prospect of cultural change unfolding in the wake of the overturn of these hateful laws is what really gives me hope. And with everything else that’s going on, I can use all the hope I can get.

    Reply
  12. Scrytech

    And here I thought I was alone. Thank you for sharing your point of view, Thorn.
    If we are to be a nation, everyone should be equal under the law. The thought of petitioning the government to sanction my relationships is absolutely abhorrent, especially one which is a quasi-religious extension of property rights. Let’s be honest, once you commit to follow your heart there’s no turning back, and those who can’t don’t seem to like that! Thanks to all those whose comments furthered this discussion.

    Reply
  13. Hecate Demeter

    Thorn, I’m not giving legal advice and this topic is way out of my area of expertise, but if you haven’t already done so, you might want to talk to a California lawyer. You ask, “Why, for example, can’t friends just visit someone in ICU (I know sometimes this is possible, but sometimes it is not)? Why can’t I decide that I want to sign a legal document giving inheritance rights to a best friend’s children? Why not just give everyone access to healthcare? Why can’t my friend have a binding power of attorney so my birth family doesn’t have a say in whether or not I stay on life support if I don’t want them to? There has to be a better way to give legal rights to people than making them contingent upon marriage.” I believe that you can write directives and wills that do many of the things you propose. You can, for example, leave your property to your friend’s children and a trusts and estates lawyer can draw that agreement up for you. I don’t know about California, but in many states you can draw up and sign a document that says who gets to make medical decisions for you and whether, for example, you want heroic life saving measures or simply palliative care. I realize that this doesn’t address your overall point, but until society evolves to the point you’d like, there are ways to, as you note, do more than just “talk sometimes about what sorts of legal documents we might need if one of us ended up seriously injured.” Writing wills and medical directives is, in my experience, a good exercise, if for no other reason that it makes people actually think these issues through. California has legal aid lawyers and students at its many v good law schools that can help people in non-traditional relationships draw up these documents.

    Hec

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Thanks for these thoughts, Hecate. I do need to do some research on this – particularly hospital visitation rights.

      Mostly, however, what I wonder is why the government is in the marriage business in the first place.

      Reply
      • Erica

        Yeah, I wonder if the move toward more common living wills, including the designation of health care proxies which aren’t necessarily legally family members, actually gets us closer to the future you envision than the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. (I say as someone who is actively engaged in the marriage equality movement.) When I worked in an ICU, for example, I had a patient who had made a close friend his healthcare proxy because he didn’t think his children were in a place where they could decide it was time to end care. There are all these ways now (varied by state, of course) to take pieces of what has often been reserved for marriage law and replicate it in other contexts. So, where I live in Vermont, you could designate your two partners as healthcare proxies, and specify that healthcare decisions should be made by both of them. I don’t think the form even asks what your relationship to your proxy(s) is.

        Reply
  14. Links and Stuff (and Cats!)

    [...] an Evangelical blog here at Patheos). Keeping with the relationship theme, T. Thorn Coyle’s Love Will Out is a plea for a new society open to legal rights for committed individuals who exist outside of the [...]

    Reply
  15. Lewis Wilkerson

    It may sound religiously trite, but AMEN! I grew up in the structured “life” but as I grew older I discovered what I had held true for so long was in reality a “man-made” was of placing everyone into nice cute little boxes. We are more than the box, more than a the small ideas of another person. The Universe never intended us to be that way at all.

    I live in Texas, one of the most Homophobic places on earth. I am not gay but have many gay / lesbian friends whom I love and trust dearly. I have a life partner and we use the terms “husband and wife” even though we have never been before clergy or judge. We will do this more for our children from other relationships, but our love is not made complete by saying “I do” in some ritual formula.

    Thorn, keep on fighting the good fight. There are those of us outside California watching and cheering.

    Lew

    Reply
  16. Kim

    I completely concur. I think the government should get out of marriage altogether. If religions wish to have their own definition and ritual for marriage, fine. Religious ritual is up to every individual and their spiritual community. But in terms of civil law, I just don’t see the point of dictating serial monogamy as the ideal standard. We are a culturally diverse nation, and marriage has been an incredibly variable relationship cross-culturally. So let’s just get rid of the whole concept and let people designate whomever they wish as their partner(s) and family. If we think it is important, for legal reasons, to have one point of contact for a variety of benefits (tax write-offs, inheritance, etc.) then fine, why can’t every person designate ANY person to receive those benefits. Why should single people not be able to give them to a friend, a sister, a grandfather? Why should single and asexual people receive fewer benefits than coupled people? None of this makes sense to me in the slightest, and never has. In the short run, yes, I hope that DOMA and Prop 8 are shot down. It’s one step closer, and of course it would be nice if I didn’t lose $6K more per year to taxes because right now, I love a woman. But the deeper issue is why anyone should be rewarded with better immigration laws, better tax benefits, and easier inheritance rules because they have a sexual relationship that is registered with the State.

    Reply
  17. Crystal Blanton

    Thank you for allowing us to see more into your soul. You are my friend and yet I learn more and more every time I read your blog. I think mostly because I don’t measure people by who they love so in turn I don’t always pay attention. And I wish we lived in a society that did the same, trust each other in our personal decisions around love and just embrace without question.
    I agree with what you have said. I have little family and my friends are my loved ones. If I were to die tonight, and my husband were unable, my children would go to my family… several friends I have. No one should question my decisions about my children. My family of origin have not been an active part of our lives and my family of choice were chosen, by me.
    Thank you for reminding us that love is not measurable by laws and when we do that, we miss a chance to open ourselves to the various different types of love in the world.

    Reply
  18. Friday

    I think it’s a mistake to be overly concerned about marriage equality having some kind of negative effect on LGBT culture or prospects for poly people: first and foremost, if we’re to have societal discourse on what marriage and family are to be in the modern world, then without equality in the marriage laws we *have,* we can’t even really be in the conversation about other forms of family.

    Civil marriage equality really isn’t the slippery slope toward poly that anti-LGBT people ‘fear’ (In the case of poly groups and structures, existing marriage laws can’t be extended by simply ceasing to discriminate: what’s needed are some new ones that account for the realities of such relationships, …most or many of which actually may require something more like a ‘family corporation’ to deal with various nuts and bolts and practicalities.

    Having some experience of poly (And little tribes that might be served by similar kinds of legal status, even if they aren’t about poly,) I think that any way we slice it, it’s simply *necessary* that there is equality for all in the marriage laws we *have* before we can really expect to see progress on other modes of living. There are important ways in which we *can’t* expect poly recognition if we effectively don’t have a seat at the table.

    Reply
  19. Soli

    I agree with you so much on all these points. Part of it is because of my own queerness and preference for non-monogamous relationships. But you also bring up another side close to my heart. I do not have any siblings by biology but my best friend is also my blood-oath sister. Her three daughters have known me as aunt since before they could talk. I visit at least once a year. She and her husband also have custody of his nephew. I say without hubris that I treat those kids better than some of their biological relatives and am as generous as if we had that genetic tie. Whenever I get the end of life documents drawn up, I will find a way for some of them to receive some of my belongings and perhaps money if I am able to provide that.
    In our culture, that kind of relationship is also invisible. It is seen as “just friendship.” Wouldn’t it be nice if even “just friends” or “just neighbors” were given more weight in the eyes of society?

    Reply
    • Friday

      I’ll definitely agree there: in many ways, the privilege of presently-heterosexist monogamy/nuclear family privilege is primarily something which serves to protect *against* the way society and the economy try to keep us all isolated, thus paying more of our resources to things like individual rent and bills and taxes and even redundant material goods that people would do better to share instead of trying to accumulate individually.

      It’s one reason I dream of Pagan villages and neighborhoods and enclaves. We don’t have to live in all-out communes or strict co-ops to gain a lot of the benefits of cooperation simply by physically being present with each other.

      Reply
  20. Lanette Miller

    I know this isnt the correct place to post this but I could not find a general contact form on your website. Podcast 60 is not working. It shows up in rss and Itunes feed but can not download a file. And it is not listed at all on the podcast page- 59 is the last.
    Again I apologize for doing this is comments

    thanks
    Lanette

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Hi Lanette – these should be fixed now! Sorry about the confusion. We changed servers recently and the whole system got off kilter.

      Reply
  21. Moira

    Thanks for this inspiring discussion!

    As we are all connected through our souls I feel that nobody can be deeply happy on the long run – as long as this (capitalist, global, destructive) love-hating system – that roots in greed and egoism – exists.

    If we follow the way of our heart and soul we are polyamorous: We try to find a way to make space in our life for what we love – no matter how hard it might be – and fight for it with passion. It is not important if it is our love for a special man of woman, lover or friend, spiritual sister or client, our true work, animals, plants a landscape or any other big or small thing on this beautiful planet. Through love ‘we are the rising of the moon, we are the shifting of the ground, we are the seed that takes root, when we bring the fortress down.’ Blessed be!

    With much love from Crete and Germany, * Moira

    Reply
  22. Elf

    I think about this rather a lot. I have seen friends in long-term stable three-way relationships torn apart by death or other trauma because there is no legal acknowledgement of their family. All the powers-of-attorney in the world don’t do a damned thing to get around a recalcitrant nurse in an emergency room. Sure, with the right paperwork, there’s grounds to sue the hospital later–but that doesn’t get people to their beloved’s bedside when they’re sick or dying.

    The good news: in our local area, hospitals tend to err on the side of inclusion. They know that a patient’s support group may not be the bio-family and that happy patients heal faster. (I haven’t tested how well they allow not-technically-related people outside of standard visiting hours.)

    I suspect there’s a very long way to go before the government will formally acknowledge larger-than-dyad relationships. It gets tangled with legalities and opportunities for abuse very quickly.

    I want my friends to be able to have a legally-recognized relationship. I don’t want crack-house druglords to be able to use that same relationship status to evade prosecution, or to visit their ex-friend now-victims in the hospital.

    Spouses enjoy privileged communication; they can’t be forced to testify against each other. I want that extended to your family. I don’t want it extended to members of a purse-snatching ring who claim to be “sort-of married” to avoid having to testify.

    There’s a *huge* set of legal rights and structures that attach to marriage, that work just fine with any pair of people (once we got rid of the idea that the two involved had specific legal roles to fill), but don’t stretch to three or more. Custody battles and inheritances would be a nightmare.

    Same-sex marriages will help people understand that you cannot tell someone’s relationship status by looking at them. That will go a long way towards public acceptance of other relationships that don’t fit the “nuclear family” mold. I think of the “nuclear family” concept as one of the bits of toxic waste of the 20th century; I’m so glad it’s being challenged in so many ways.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      I agree with so much of what you say here. Really, all of these laws seem archaic to me. That said, I still firmly believe that denying one set of citizens rights you are giving to another set is illegal and unjust. That is why I support the rights to same-sex marriage.

      Yes, the nuclear family and the suburbs have long struck me as strange 20th century aberrations.

      Reply
      • Elf

        There’s a whole lot of opposition to same-sex marriage that’s tied up in assigned gender roles–traditionally, a marriage needs a Master and a Servant, and those were assigned by gender. There was a case in the 1800′s of a self-declared marriage not being accepted because the man and woman refused to define themselves that way–she wouldn’t take his name, agree to sex anytime he liked (he agreed she had the right to refuse him), or allow him to decide the rearing of any children involved. The judge decided they weren’t married because their relationship wasn’t shaped like a marriage had to be.

        We’ve gotten rid of most of those expectations, at least on the legal level. But we haven’t replaced them with new understandings of what a marriage is, what a partnership is, that makes it different from a friendship or a business alliance.

        There have always been, will always be, rights kept away from some people and not others, based on circumstance or history. (Prisoners. Children. People in the army. Elected officials. Lawyers.) Rights of speech and association are curtailed for various reasons. The key point there is “reasons”–the state needs a reason to restrict rights from some people, and that reason is not allowed to be “ugh, what perverts.”

        Since women were granted equal legal rights, I don’t know of any statute or case ruling that *defines marriage*, as opposed to declaring who is or is not allowed to have one. That’s the next step… sorting out what a marriage is, in order to assert “this relationship should have the rights of marriage even though it doesn’t fit the current legal criteria.” The legal criteria don’t touch the actual relationship; that’s a growing problem.

        Reply
        • Friday

          Well, I think what defines a civil marriage is the effective content of civil marriage law codes, I’m unaware of any particularly problematic parts of *that* that may still have anything to do with a ‘master and slave’ relationship, as you put it: I’m pretty sure if there were *legal* issues about that we’d hear more about em from the straight feminist world and such. It’s possible I may be not noticing something there, mind you: when it comes to, say, defining a ‘head of household’ there’s not been a problem with that being my partner, given our own particular division of labor and authority: she’s been the big breadwinner and manager, I’ve been the support staff. So ironically I can’t really think of any archaisms in the law that would actually cause problems that way. (Apart from of course the inequality about *having* one. ) Really, the idea of a civil marriage is recognizing a couple as legal next of kin, and the details are about protecting that couple as a unit from economic and other instabilities, also equity about things like property and the event of dissolving the civil contract, by divorce, death, etc.

          In any event, one of the primary barriers socially about instituting more, similar protections for non-traditional family structures or other sorts of families-of-choice has *always* been the linkage for the dominant religion about ‘There must be at least one possible gay coupling in there.’ Hence the ‘slippery slope’ they fear. It’s not really such a slope, of course, but inequality between the sexual orientations on this *is* a legal and social impediment to doing anything *else* we might like to see recognized civilly.

          There are of course other social biases against poly, many of them seeming to involve some notion that someone’s getting more *sexually* than they ‘should; ‘ etc, …and of course people who think in monogamist ways can only imagine a big font of jealousy and competition or perhaps the Biblical model of one man owning *lots* of women, (Which would be Unconstitutional in the law, because of obvious inequality: in civil law even say Mormon polygamists would have to accept a legal equality between all partners, however they choose to arrange their own lives within that.

          When it comes down to it, there’s a lot of social hangups as well as legality-managing to do there, you can’t just say ‘Civil marriage is for a household of any size,’ since the laws just aren’t structured that way, …I think in general recognizing all the different kinds of families-of -choice of whatever size or nature could be approached on another track: that of encouraging stable groups within our communities, as a counter to the increasing cost of living and all, not to mention all the rootlessness-making problems *of* how modern style employment and business keeps people needing to shuffle around. There really are a lot of social and economic benefits that would be possible: new models could increase home ownership, save energy (and the rent and bills so many struggle to make, which sucks most of the capital right out of a lot of lower-income economies, ..with cooperation there are plenty of people who couldn’t compete in the job market independently but can make very productive parts of a household or coorperative venture, etc… one thing that’s always been painfully apparent to me is that the modes of living that come of pretty much being ‘On your own or living with parents till married’ have simply been heading more and more toward great impracticability given the costs of living and all.

          There’s room, if not pressing need, for more economically and ecologically stable ways of living: as more structures of kinship and cooperation are refined, and hopefully prove to thrive, I think the new civil legal structures will start making a lot of sense.

          Meanwhile, establishing the equality of all the humans *in* them is a necessary and long-awaited step.

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