“No celebration for this lesbian”, Lauren Taylor tells us in yesterday’s Washington Post. She makes some good points in her response to President Obama’s jump off the fence earlier this week – but she still misses the truth at the heart of this debate. Like her we all “love the idea of commitment, of getting community and family support for a relationship, and of the accountability to that community and family.” The institution of marriage as we have known it for millennia is about far more than that. Essentially the things it is about have to do with the very special relationship which a man and a woman can share, a relationship which can never be equated with that between two men or two women. In other words, conjugality.
We will all agree with her that “anyone who wants to should have a ceremony and make a commitment and throw a big party. But that shouldn’t affect whether they then get health insurance, or get to take time off to take a sick person to the doctor, or are able to sign a permission form for a field trip.”
She tells us that she is “not fighting for access to marriage, and I wish that wasn’t where the gay rights movement was putting most of its effort and resources. (Violence, housing, employment, education, anyone?) But (with apologies to Groucho Marx), if someone is trying to keep me out of this club, I want in. How dare anyone say that I don’t deserve access to marriage and all it brings? How dare they say I, and my relationships, aren’t good enough?”
Those fighting for the very existence of the institution of marriage are not telling her that her relationships are not good enough. They are just telling her that they are not the kind of relationships which fit the definition of marriage. Try this analogy: If you want to swim you need water to swim in. Mountain air is very refreshing and beautiful but it won’t support you swimming. Pretend you are swimming in it and you will just look silly. If you are a man and want to marry you need a woman to marry, and vice versa. Or as Julie sings in Jerome Kern’s Showboat, “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, I gotta love one man till I die, Can’t help loin’ dat man of mine.” The sea is for fish, the air is for birds and marriage is for men and women – sorry, that’s Mother Nature’s way.