Should we get straight-married in California this week?
June 26, 2013 8:14 AM   Subscribe

We're a straight couple who has always said we wouldn't marry while our queer friends couldn't. We have other issues with marriage, but it's clear that there are a lot of practical and long-term financial advantages. We live in Wisconsin (boo) but we're in California for a week (yay). What are your political, ethical and practical insights about whether we should get married here this week?

Relevant Details:
We already have an old set of gay-couple documents (wills, health care POAs, etc). We have no children and we each have health coverage independently.
I think the point for us would be to 1) secure the rest of those "special rights" formerly restricted to straight couples, and 2) "reward" California by spending whatever we spend on an un-ceremonious wedding here.
What else should we be thinking about?
posted by Mngo to Law & Government (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What else should we be thinking about?

Maybe about how your "queer friends," who still live in Wisconsin, still can't get married unless they can afford to travel to a state that allows it, and about how even if they do that, Wisconsin and the Feds still won't recognize their marriage, unlike yours.
posted by kindall at 8:28 AM on June 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you want to get married then you should get married, but many/most of your queer friends still can't get married, and I'm not sure what the Prop 8 decision has to do with anything (sure, it's legal in California now, but why didn't you get married when it was legalized in X state years ago?). Practically speaking, depending on when various counties resume performing gay marriages, it might be pretty busy. I just read somewhere that San Francisco alone has been training something like fifty new employees to handle the numbers they're expecting.
posted by acidic at 8:29 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

What else should we be thinking about?

The end goal here is marriage equality and I am a pragmatist. Consider getting married and donating some/all of those long-term financial advantages associated with the marriage to an organization devoted to marriage equality. To be blunt, your money will be more helpful towards achieving the end goal of marriage equality than any martyr stance against unequal marriage will be. If you had no financial incentive to become married, then standing with those who are prevented from being married is a reasonable position. However, given that the biggest fight going on is the PR war associated with winning over the entirety of the US population, it's inappropriate to try to be completely morally consistent if it means delaying marriage equality.
posted by saeculorum at 8:31 AM on June 26, 2013 [13 favorites] an alternative point of view: in this case, I don't really agree with the logic of not doing something in solidarity with friends who can't do it themselves. I understand the principle behind it, and I respect it as a stance, but I don't think it's particularly helpful to anybody.

Which is a longwinded way of saying that if you want to, you should get married. Show your support for marriage equality in other, more practical ways.
posted by Salamander at 8:33 AM on June 26, 2013 [13 favorites]

I get what you're going for, but, yeah, get married because you want to get married, not because you want to wave a little flag for your queer friends. It looks patronizing at best and bandwagon-jumping at worst.

Why don't you just get married in your home state and ask your wedding guests (or your family, or whoever) to donate money they would have used to buy you a gift to a local grassroots LGBTQ charity? That way you can be secure in the knowledge that you might have helped someone and not alienated your friends doing it.
posted by fight or flight at 8:34 AM on June 26, 2013 [26 favorites]

Agreeing with everyone above me -- bear in mind that is not only still illegal for gay people to marry in Wisconsin per Article 13, Section 13 of the state constitution, it is also illegal for them to marry in any state that recognizes same-sex marriage and then come back home (which is what you'd be doing). They can go to prison for it.

h/t to Pogo_Fuzzybutt for pointing out the execrable Wisconsin Statute 765.30 in the DOMA FPP:
(1) The following may be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than 9 months or both:
   (a) Penalty for marriage outside the state to circumvent the laws. Any person residing and intending to continue to reside in this state who goes outside the state and there contracts a marriage prohibited or declared void under the laws of this state.
If you want to get married, you should get married, but I'm afraid there is no meaningful ethical or political solidarity to be found simply by traveling out of state for the ceremony.
posted by divined by radio at 8:44 AM on June 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

Everyone should get married if they can. I understand your reasoning about the unfairness, but no couple should refrain from protecting their rights if at all possible.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:47 AM on June 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

Get married because you want to get married. Don't put your life on pause. Continue to fight for equality because it's the right thing to do, but don't fool yourself into thinking that California (or Wisconsin) as a state cares if you get married or that not getting married will be noticed and it will have any real effect as a protest.

Get married wherever you like and whenever you like. Don't let a court dictate that. It's your right, exercise it if you want.
posted by inturnaround at 8:58 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Consider that if you're trying to convince other straight people that allowing same-sex marriage won't harm marriage as a concept, a lot of them will interpret a marriage boycott as "Uh-oh, straight people aren't getting married because The Gays told them not to," which is not a good data point. "See, straight people think marriage is most valuable is a place where same-sex couples can also get married" is a much better data point.
posted by ostro at 9:19 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I find myself having increasingly less patience with the "we won't get married unless queer people can" thing. Maybe it's somehow significant in your particular community, I don't know, but I'm kind of feeling like it does nothing to further marriage equality and gives straight people a way to feel good about themselves without actually doing anything. Marriage, while good and exciting and all, isn't somehow going to solve all queer rights issues and I feel like the postponing marriage position ignores that. Even if you get married in a state with equal marriage, you'll still have legal advantages over same sex couples.

(I'm venting a little. I know someone with this position IRL and I've been holding my tongue. It's totally okay if you guys want to get married or if you want to do it in California or whatever. That you've even asked this question suggests you have some idea of what I said above. Don't present your marriage as this big principled political act and you'll not annoy people, even me.)
posted by hoyland at 9:22 AM on June 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

What are your political, ethical and practical insights about whether we should get married here this week?

As a straight couple, choosing to getting married in California during the week that DOMA got shot down as unconstitutional does not have the symbolic meaning you think it does. And in my social network, intentionally getting married in California for LGBTQ-related reasons would not be taken as a sign of solidarity, but a privilege-laden exercise of a right you never lost.

I think the point for us would be to 1) secure the rest of those "special rights" formerly restricted to straight couples, and 2) "reward" California by spending whatever we spend on an un-ceremonious wedding here.

Don't do item two. I would advise against consciously pouring your money into a state that wouldn't have reversed its policy on LGBTQ marriage if they could help it. And this battle is not anywhere near over yet: the DOMA strike-down still strongly suggests that the ability of queer folk to marry is a decision made by individual states.

You don't mention whether you're politically involved as allies or not, but your refusal to marry doesn't really help us, change policies or even the attitudes about LGBTQ marriage that affect marriage equality. Your use of your privilege as a straight couple, however, does. If you're concerned about your friends being able to marry, link up to your local LGBTQ organizations and find out how you can help, if you aren't already doing that. Or during your wedding, work in saeculorum's suggestion.

Marry because you two love each other. Please don't cite queer folk when you do it, and please stop citing it if you don't.
posted by Ashen at 9:24 AM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Why not ask some of your queer friends how they would feel? While I really want to legally marry my boyfriend of nine years I would feel so guilty if some straight friends held out. Your symbolic gesture is lovely but a more meaningful activity would be talking to other straight couples about the issue.

That and the tax difference is insane. We would have been 10k richer last year if we didn't pay the gay tax. Think how many phone banks, canvases and mailers 10k could buy.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:42 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I were you, and I wanted to make a political statement, I would hold out on marriage until your state reverses that especially foul equal marriage law divined by radio mentions.

But, I mean, if you want to get married, get married. I'm single, but there was a little part of me that had "I WANT TO GET MARRIED!" as a reaction to the news, so I definitely feel you. I think that if this lights a fire under you guys to make it official, sure, why not? I wouldn't go to California to do it, though, that makes no sense.
posted by Sara C. at 9:52 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a gay person, I do appreciate your quiet protest in this matter and your support for gay rights. The truth is, in states that don't allow gay marriage, people still can't get gay married -- they have to go somewhere that will marry them. And there will be a long road of further litigation ahead, I am sure. Plus, I don't think California did anything, they let courts decide. I'd go to Iowa or something and reward them, if you want to reward someone, because they actually decided it was the right thing to do and did it. But I would say, if you want to get married to secure special rights and because you love each other, you should just do it anyway.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:54 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with the posters who say that this "principled stand" doesn't really have much impact in the real world. So if you want to get married, then marry, and continue campaigning actively for equal marriage rights.

That said, what you should think about is do you really and truly want to get married or are you hiding behind your "principled stand?" What are these "other issues with marriage" that you have? Will they come up as problems if you do marry? Do you want to be married to this person, political principles aside? Would counseling help? (Not feasible if you have to get married ASAP if you want to marry in Cali, I know - but it's something to think about.)

tl;dr: Make sure that you aren't using principles as a smokescreen for any deeper issues or problems as individuals or a couple.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:58 AM on June 26, 2013

We live in CA and went to WA a bit ago for our mostly-cis-wedding (prior to this morning's rulings) as a Queer Solidarity Thing, while having our ceremony at home. Many friends of many stripes and ages were made glad by this. So were we, which is also important. I know other straight or straightish couples who have done this as well.

I think practicing solidarity is important in general, especially when it starts conversations about privilege, etc. Conversations often lead to actions, shifting perspectives, etc. You don't have to be preachy about it or regard yourselves as special, but I think it can be a very good thing, regardless of the immediately measurable "impact" or lack thereof.
posted by eyesontheroad at 11:00 AM on June 26, 2013

Best answer: The way that your stance best makes sense to me is if it's about what marriage means to you - i.e. that the institution of marriage is degraded by not being available to all, and you don't want to participate in something that is degraded in that way. The same way that refusing membership in a male/white/etc only club might not make any political or financial difference whatsoever, but it's something that doesn't square with your conscience.

So then I think it's a personal call whether the court decisions today are sufficient to elevate marriage into something you want to subscribe to.

I think it's absolutely appropriate to think about how best to use your wedding dollars ethically and to be thoughtful about the vendors and the location that you use.

That said, I don't see the particular social/ethical component of rushing into a California wedding this week. That would seem like much more of a personal interest thing. If it's a social thing, go home and plan something fun and thoughtful that your friends can actually feel part of in some way.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:54 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My own threshold is full federal rights (won today!) and marriage equality in my own state (Oregon... weirdly, boo!). So for me, in your position, I'd either move to a state with marriage equality or stick it out as unmarried-living-with-partner in Wisconsin. I just don't want anything to do with an institution that's not available to everyone, regardless of whom they love.

Odds seem good for Oregonians overturning our constitutional amendment in 2014. Looks like polling in WI is 46% against, 44% in favor and 10% undecided... I like your chances in the not-too-distant future.
posted by mumkin at 1:08 AM on June 27, 2013

If this matters at all to you, Kristin Bell and Dax Shepard are now engaged, after years of holding out for reasons similar to yours. At the very least, you're not the only one thinking this way...
posted by decathecting at 6:54 AM on June 27, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all your thoughts, including the clear sentiment not to make too big a deal of it.

It's probably not happening this week just for practical reasons, but this has actually been very useful to me in thinking through what Salamandrous points to--what marriage would mean to us. We've been a bit uncomfortable with the historical baggage of marriage, and that's largely but not entirely resolved by marriage equality. Not getting married has never been a protest thing for us, and I don't really talk about it except when people assume we're married.

Thanks also for concerns about our relationship, but we're coming up on our 25th anniversary, so I think we can survive a bit of state interference if we decide to go that way.

I'm actually surrounded by gay friends and acquaintances this weekend, and I appreciate being able to ask Mefi about it precisely because I don't feel a need to put a tangent on the celebration here. Just last night a woman receiving an award, instead of giving an acceptance speech, proposed to her girlfriend. Pretty cool.

Anyway, happy celebrating to all of you, too. I'm having coffee later with Kristin and Dax so I'll discuss it with them!
posted by Mngo at 9:36 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Looking for a quote about Mary Shelley and travel...   |   Harnessing the power of Pinterest Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.