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Why Does Marriage Matter?


Thank you to Vienna for supplying this excellent guest post. If you’d like to provide a guest post in the coming days please contact me at andy AT courage campaign DOT org. Thanks. -Andy

By Vienna Hagen (aka AnonyGrl)

Last week I was asked to officiate at a wedding.  Let me start by saying that I am not a legally ordained minister, nor a justice of the peace.  I have no official authority to marry people, but as this wedding was in Second Life (an online world) it was not necessary for me to have any legal standing.

Two friends of mine had decided that they wanted to marry their on line characters.  These two are developing a real life relationship at the same time, and are in the throes of that wonderful passion that occurs at the beginning of relationships.  They talk on the phone for hours, they have plans to meet up in real life, they share secrets and desires and hopes and dreams, one has just come out to her parents and the other has helped her through it…  so real life and Second Life are running somewhat parallel courses.

I mention this because, even though the wedding I performed was not legal, it was still meaningful.  And writing the ceremony for these two friends got me thinking about what marriage means.

I thought about metaphors appropriate to the situation because, in addition to being a friend, I am also a writer, and take some pride in making my words meaningful and moving.  What I realized is that wedding ceremonies are fraught with metaphors, you can barely walk past one and not hear about ships sailing, knots being tied, two hearts becoming one, or shelters from storms.  I chose to use the metaphor of two threads, each strong and beautiful yarn on their own, woven into a stronger, more beautiful tapestry.

I realized, as I was working out that metaphor, as I was , in fact, weaving it through my narrative, that all the various words we use to describe what marriage is only scratch the surface.  I could talk for hours about what marriage means and what it entails and never get to the heart of it.  I could describe perfect marriages and not so perfect ones and never truly explain what marriage means to those who are entering into it.

To use another metaphor, a wedding ceremony is sort of like the bottle of champagne used to christen a ship.  While it makes a big splash and looks impressive, the smashing of a bottle of Moet against the prow of a boat tells almost nothing about the journeys that will ensue.  It is a fun, exciting moment, and everyone who attends enjoys the bubbles, but the reality is that the journey will be so much more than could ever be described in its inception.

What we specifically gloss over when performing a wedding ceremony are the bad times, of course.  At the launch of the Titanic, it is highly unlikely that anyone discussed in detail how icebergs were a danger, but, of course, ice bergs happen.  When writing about tapestry I did not mention scissors, bad dye lots, broken threads, or any of the problems that those occurrences would represent.  We all know that the wedding ceremony includes “for worse”, and “in sickness” or some equivalent, but we don’t dwell on it, because a wedding is a celebration, and not the time to deal with harsh reality.

But in a marriage, those harsh realities exist.  Bad things do happen.  Partners make mistakes, they hurt each other, financial or health worries add stress, all sorts of things can tear a marriage apart.  Why, then, do it?  Why get married?  Why risk all of that?

Why indeed.  I was blessed to have parents who were the most married people I’ve ever known.  They met, and in fairy tale fashion fell in love at first sight.  They married six months later, and were devoted to each other for the next 40 years until my mother passed away.  In all those years I never once heard them even raise their voices to each other.

No, their life together was not perfect.  Without rehashing all their griefs, suffice it to say that there were, as in any marriage, a fair number of them.  But through it all, no matter how hard things got, they were married.  They were part of a team.  They were always, as a team, more than the sum of their parts.

I think that is why people get married, in the end.  Sometimes they do it because there are financial benefits, sometimes it is about insurance, or children, or to have someone to take care of them in their old age.  Sometimes they don’t think about any of that and marry only for love.  Sometimes people marry against the better judgment of friends and family, sometimes with their blessings.  Sometimes marriage is a convenient shelter for its participants, sometimes those participants include children of the couple marrying, either born before or after the wedding.

Whatever the reasons that two people choose to enter into marriage, the results are the same.  The joining of two individuals results in a union that is more than the sum of its parts.  The very concept of marriage itself enhances the pairing.  As they marry, a couple becomes together something more than they were as individuals.

People ask, “Why do gays want to marry?  Why isn’t civil union or domestic partnership good enough?”

Here is my answer.  Civil unions are not bad.  There are certainly benefits to civil unions and domestic partnerships that can be experienced, and that trump not having those options available.  What they don’t really do, sufficiently, to my mind, is that bit that really can’t be adequately described, even in a marriage ceremony, that magic something that makes a couple “more than”.  Civil unions and domestic partnerships are, specifically, legal contracts that grant certain financial and legal rights.  Not a bad thing, but not the same.  Marriage, whether religious or civil, is a state of mind that brings two people together and makes them better as a pair than they were as single people.

And that state of mind is just as important as any Social Security checks, tax rebates, insurance premiums or health proxies.  The idea of marriage has always been more than any of those things; the affirmation of the union is so vital.  It is the most human of institutions, and when we, as same sex couples, are denied access, it says we are somehow less than human.

We are not.  We have been pushed and ignored and beaten and discriminated against, but we can never, ever accept being less than human.  We are people, just like everyone around us, and we are deserving of being treated equally.

So as I performed a marriage ceremony for a pair of animated avatars on line, I was very aware of the people standing behind those avatars.  These are two beautiful women who cannot marry in the states where they live.  Two wonderful human beings who are being told tacitly and implicitly day in and day out that they are not equal; they are not worthy.  They are not human.  And I, for one, won’t stand for it!

We are human, and we will not be less.



  • 1. Lar  |  May 17, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Nice work!!! and subbing

  • 2. Rev. Will Fisher  |  May 17, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Anonygrl, this is great! Same idea that I'll imparting to a young couple this weekend.

  • 3. Ann S.  |  May 17, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Beautifully said, Anonygirl.

  • 4. Archidoodle  |  May 17, 2011 at 10:18 am

    happened to read an article by David Brooks in the NY Times just now about cooperation as an evolutionary advantage.

    Your lovely commentary on marriage made me think of Mr. Brooks' article in a whole new, much less clinical, much more…human…light.

    We are made for each other, literally. To deny one group of humans the connection that makes us fully human is to deny them humanity.

  • 5. JonT  |  May 17, 2011 at 10:41 am


    Nicely said Anonygrl!

  • 6. Sagesse  |  May 17, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    You have the right of it.

    Doesn't stop the desperation from the other side.

    Gay Marriage Is Not Inevitable

  • 7. Mark Mead-Brewer  |  May 17, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I love you madly AnonyGrl!!!

  • 8. Phillip R  |  May 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    What a beautiful article. You have a way with words and expression.

  • 9. elliom  |  May 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Spot on, as always!

  • 10. bjason  |  May 17, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Eloquent and moving as always!

    Congratulations to the happy couple and may their real lives overshadow all fantasy!

  • 11. Sagesse  |  May 17, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Schadenfreude (taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others). Some new details about the costs of DOMA litigation and the House counsel's $1.4 million budget.

    As DOMA lawsuits proliferate, Boehner has a spending problem

  • 12. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  May 17, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    What a lovely piece to wake up to! I have tears streaming down my face representing the love and appreciation I feel for Vienna and for your contribution to my life here @ P8TT and off line as well. I believe you when you say "And I, for one, won’t stand for it!" You change the world for the better with your goodness and activism!

    Bless you AnonyGrl! Love, Gregory

    p.s. my love and blessings to all my P8TT family!

  • 13. Sagesse  |  May 17, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Ted Olsen on Prop 8 and other things.

    Legally Speaking: Theodore Olson

  • 14. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  May 17, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    tx for all the articles you post Sagesse — I read them all! It is one of the reasons I visit P8TT : )

  • 15. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  May 17, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    p.s. I had no idea Theodore Olson's wife was on the hi-jacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon! I understand better now his depth of character I perceive in him..

  • 16. AnonyGrl  |  May 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Thanks everyone! :)

  • 17. Sagesse  |  May 18, 2011 at 12:29 am

    @ Gregory # 13

    You're welcome. It seems to be my contribution.

    This is also a test, as I have a couple of posts in moderation… no particular reason that I can see.

  • 18. lesbians love boies  |  May 18, 2011 at 12:44 am

    I am one of the women AnonyGrl married in SL. Although SL is a fantasy role playing land – it's at least one place where no one cares that two lesbians marry each other.

    Anony did a fantastic and wonderful job officiating. It was beautiful and very inspiring. So much so that our bridesmaid and best boi (whom are getting married next month) requested her to officiate their ceremony – and I think they already had made a commitment with someone else.

    But what Anony wrote and read to us was so true to the core of marriage inside and outside of SL.

    Thanks again Anony!

  • 19. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  May 18, 2011 at 12:52 am

    WOW! thx for revealing its YOU! : D ((HUGS)) LLB!

  • 20. Joseph Palmer  |  May 18, 2011 at 1:03 am

    In Santa Clara county, CA (and many other locals around the nation) you can become a One-Time Deputy Marriage Commissioner.

    You must present yourself to the Clerk-Recorder's Office during Marriage License business hours, show your government issued ID, and pay a fee of $80 (it varies by jurisdiction) so you can for a 6 day period perform one (1) ceremony.


    You could become an online minster, for free, in seconds, and do as many ceremonies as you wish.

    Personally, I see an establishment clause issue with this, but that's just me.

  • 21. AnonyGrl  |  May 18, 2011 at 1:35 am

    @Joseph Palmer

    Thanks for the info! It was not necessary for this situation, but good to know if I ever need to perform a real life wedding.


  • 22. Ann S.  |  May 18, 2011 at 1:58 am

    @Sagesse, I agree with Greg's post — thank you so much for the many informative links you post here.

  • 23. fiona64  |  May 18, 2011 at 2:09 am

    @Sagesse #3: Maggie is just mean-spirited.


    Fiona (who is too lazy to log in right now)

  • 24. Kathleen  |  May 18, 2011 at 2:36 am

    Olson and Boies live at CATO institute. Started at 9am PT

  • 25. Sagesse  |  May 18, 2011 at 2:40 am

    Live online now. Boies and Olsen at the Cato Institute. I can't watch, but some of you may be able to. They will post it in the next few days.

    The Case for Marriage Equality: Perry v. Schwarzenegger

  • 26. Sagesse  |  May 18, 2011 at 2:41 am

    Kathleen beat me to it :).

  • 27. DazedWheels  |  May 18, 2011 at 3:29 am

    I'm watching the Cato Institute event, and Robert A. Levy, Chairman, Cato Institute, just said, if, as the Proponents claim, domestic partnerships in California are just as good as marriage, then Judge Walker gains nothing from his decision. :-)

  • 28. peterplumber  |  May 18, 2011 at 3:52 am

    21. fiona64

    Maggie is mean spirited, and she imparts her spirit on all her followers as well. That is the most stubborn thick headed group I have ever tried to talk to.

    Althought they post nearly everything I write, I am done hanging out on the NOMblog. It gives me a headache.

  • 29. karen in kalifornia  |  May 18, 2011 at 4:09 am

    Obviously the members of the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee did not read AG's post….they think CUs are just fine for teh gays. That's all they will get there. Voting in the House tomorrow, Thursday.

  • 30. Maggie4NoH8  |  May 18, 2011 at 4:49 am

    NOMBlog is posting that marriage equality may not be put to a vote in NY…

    Anyone have thoughts/input/information on the situation in NY?

  • 31. Maggie4NoH8  |  May 18, 2011 at 5:16 am

    This is a very interesting and compelling article – it's too bad more of the religious right don't prescribe to this type of religiousity (there, I made up my own word!)…

    JRM weighs in in the comment section as well…

  • 32. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  May 18, 2011 at 5:19 am

    Cathy Marino Thomas is hopeful:

  • 33. AnonyGrl  |  May 18, 2011 at 5:36 am

    @ Maggie4NoH8

    Politics in NY State suck. We know that we have the votes to get the bill passed in the Assembly, and that is why it has been introduced there already (NOT by the Governor, who knew that an Assembly bill was not the priority, and it has passed there before).

    The issue is nobody knows if there are really going to be enough votes for the bill to pass in the Senate. In New York, if the Senate doesn't KNOW how the vote is going to go, sometimes they simply refuse to even ADDRESS it, so it never makes it to the floor.

    This sucks.

    What it means is that if the vote is too close to call, or if one side or the other is going to lose, or if they don't like the paper it is printed on, or if someone skipped LUNCH that day, sometimes they will just refuse to let it get to the floor at all rather than risk the POSSIBILITY of losing. Or winning.

    What that means to US is that we don't get to SEE a vote. Those senators who have agreed to vote for a bill to satisfy one group can rest easy in that they are not actually called on to do so and piss off another group..

    They do this a lot. If Cuomo lets them do it, I will be quite rather annoyed with him. He has the ability to introduce a bill and bring it to the floor for a vote. Well, Ibelieve so, anyway, he might have to have a Senator do that part, I am not 100% sure. But even if he needs someone else to do so, he can certainly get one of the Democrats to do so. But the problem is, if he is thinking it will NOT pass, he may not do it.

    There is a lot of pressure being put on Cuomo by various equality groups right now to get him to PUT IT ON THE FLOOR! so that we can, at least, get a real count at the time of a vote. With the Senate being so closely balanced (32 Republicans, 30 Democrats), it is too close to call.

    Personally, I am hoping that Cuomo can use his considerable charm, power and influence to get the damn bill PASSED already!

    (Yes, I am frustrated at the stupid games!)

    Of course, NOM WOULD be celebrating the "Don't Let the People's Elected Representatives Vote!", wouldn't they? And they would not even SEE the hypocrisy of that.

  • 34. Straight Ally #3008  |  May 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Well said, as usual, AnonyGirl – and I must say you have a great "real life" name. :)

    Looking at some HuffPo comments on the situation in Rhode Island, I'm taken aback by the position that legislation to approve civil unions is actually a detriment to marriage. Rep. Fox (who happens to be a gay man) RI's speaker of the house, is being called a traitor and worse. I always viewed it as a desirable stepping stone to the final goal. It seems that a lot of people will be denied some rights and privileges until such time as a marriage equality bill could pass, and in the interim it helps people realize that same-sex relationships are legitimate. Am I being naive? Curious to know what folks think – all-or-nothing or in steps?

  • 35. Maggie4NoH8  |  May 18, 2011 at 7:44 am

    @ 33. AnonyGrl

    Thank you very much for the reply – I appreciate the effort you put into it… I'd hate to see it fail, but it would also be interesting to pin a few folks down to what "side" they are on…

    And yes – we'll be hearing for the next year or so how NOM single-handedly "saved" marriage in NY if it doesn't go to a vote…

    AND, how much money it cost, how empty the coffers are and if you could prayerfully consider a gift $5, $10, $50 or even $1,000 to stand up for marriage…

    BTW, isn't the rapture this coming Saturday anyway?

  • 36. Anonygrl  |  May 18, 2011 at 8:31 am

    One can only HOPE that someone takes all of the NOMbies and shoots them off into Heaven.

    Out of a cannon at high velocity if at all possible.

  • 37. Maggie4NoH8  |  May 18, 2011 at 8:35 am

    @34. Straight Ally #3008

    In regards to the position that CU is a not a desirable stepping stone, I think that a lot of people (including me) frame it this way:

    Back in the day, restrooms, drinking fountains, schools, etc for "coloreds" and "whites" were "separate, but equal". It is now understood, whether constructed of marble or cement, iron or gold, it isn't the physical attributes that made the restrooms or drinking fountains UNEQUAL, but the "label" itself.

    In striving for a higher level of humanity, our society has deemed "separate, but equal" as truly not equal. Restrooms or drinking fountains should be accessible to all, regardless of race, religion, sex, etc…

    So – from an equality point-of-view, "civil unions" by definition of a different label, can not be equal to "civil marriage".

    You can't have "marriage" and "civil unions" just like you can't have "colored" and "white" restrooms, IF you want to live in a fair and equal society.

    You can however, have "marriage" (civil) and "holy matrimony" (sacrament) as they are distinctly separate items. Marriage is recognized and defined by civil law, and holy matrimony by various faiths.

    You can have a civil marriage without religious involvement or affiliation. And, as a privilege, holy matrimony is most often times granted recognition as a civil marriage.

    From a religious point-of-view, opponents of marriage equality confuse "holy matrimony" with "civil marriage" and often, simply can not grasp the two are separate states of being – hence, the misplaced outcry in opposition.

    Participation in religion is entirely OPTIONAL in the US and is, in fact, one of our fundamental freedoms. The government places no restrictions, or mandates, upon individuals as to what religion individuals opt to practice or participate.

    Similarly, the government should place no restrictions, or mandates, upon individuals as to what marriage they participate in… Just as there are options regarding religion, there should be options regarding marriage.

    The government has no interest in holy matrimony (sacrament), and therefore leaves such to the miscellaneous faiths to govern.

    I don't disagree that civil unions do provide extremely valuable rights and responsibilities, just like "colored" restrooms provided a place for coloreds to take a leak.

    But I do disagree that, as a society, we can grant civil unions and then pat ourselves on the back for advancing the state of humanity so…

    To begin to deserve that pat on the back, requires so much more – one thing being marriage equality for LGBT persons!

  • 38. karen in kalifornia  |  May 18, 2011 at 9:46 am

    @34. Straight Ally #3008

    Maggie has written a good explanation of policy.

    Now for the actual RI politics. There are only 10 Republicans in the whole RI Assembly but many RI Democrats are social conservative Catholics. In the House Judiciary Committee there wasn't even enough support for marriage equality to even get out of that committee. (the spin was that Dem. Weed Senate head didn't support equality so why make the whole House go on record and vote for it?)

    Once a CU bill was introduced 5 democrats on the Judiciary Committee who were dragging their feet for equality where suddenly fine with this setup….you know "everything except the word"

    Reps Lima and Marcello were on record as wanting "more religious exemptions" (appears denying teh gays teh M word was enough to solve their objections). Rep Martin had gone from being considered and "Equality Winner" by MERI to "undecided" with equality but it turns out ok with CUs. Rep O'Neil, also an "Equality Winner" was on record as only supporting CUs so he got what he wanted. Anti equality Rep Tarro was definitely against giving teh gays teh M word but thought protections were deserving only if we got CUs.

    So voila…CUs make it out of Committee to the full House…official second class citizens. Want to join us? Not so much I bet.

  • 39. John B.  |  May 18, 2011 at 10:41 am

    My legal marriage in Washington, DC matters every time I leave the District of Columbia to travel to another state, like Massachusetts (and hopefully Maryland and New York) or another country like Canada, where I can have some assurance that my marriage will be recognized. Not so for a "civil union" or "domestic partnership", which with rare exceptions has no legal standing whatsoever when one leaves the jurisdiction where it was created.

  • 40. SoCal Dave  |  May 18, 2011 at 11:27 am

    @DazedWheels (#27) That is brilliant! According to the pro prop8 side, Judge Walker had nothing to gain, but straight judges had everything to lose, (since their marriages would be "lessened" by same sex marriages). So only a gay judge could be impartial. Oops – they need to rethink their position.

  • 41. StevenJ  |  May 19, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Well said AnonyGrl! As an ordained minister, it's not lost on me that I can perform marriages, but not participate in one.

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