Thursday, April 9, 2009

Vermont Passes Same Sex Marriage

Earlier this week, Vermont passed a bill legalizing same sex marriages occurring in the state. While this is being touted as a victory for human rights, I can't help but wonder if we're fighting the wrong fight.

The Kingston Daily Freeman held a poll on on whether same sex marriages should be permitted, and a majority indicated that they approved. But the question was posed as a simple "yes" or "no." Is it really a yes or no question? I think the issue is far more complex than one that can be summed up in a single-word answer.

We need to have a broader conversation about government sanctioned relationships, the creation of inequity and privilege based on relationship status and generally interfering with the personal lives of citizens.

The idea that we complacently allow the government to attribute worth and incentives to something as intangible and sacred as love is a strange concept. For many, marriage is a sacrament. For some, it is a means to an end. Why the government should be involved is still unclear to me.

If marriage existed solely as a religious sacrament, available as an option to those who choose it, I really wouldn't have any problem. I certainly wouldn't choose it, but it would be available to those who wish to recognize their relationship in that way. Marriage as a social concept would exist without any legal attributes. When we insist on validating a relationship and, subsequently, invalidating other types of relationships, we inherently create inequity and this is why the fight for gay marriage isn't one that should be championed under the banner of "equality."

We can't end discrimination by expanding a practice that is inherently discriminatory. Of course homosexual people should have the same rights as heterosexual people. But shouldn't single people, regardless of their sexual orientation, also be eligible for those same rights? What is it about being "coupled" that establishes an entitlement to rights that are denied to others in our society?

Our government has no business valuing some people over others and our legal recognition of marriage does exactly that. I'm happy that same sex couples are making huge strides, but it is still being done on the backs of others. What is the point in fighting for rights when those rights are won on the backs of others? We only continue to undervalue certain groups when we expand an inequitable practice. Marriage is, by its nature, exclusive and while we may increase the inclusiveness it will never be a fair and just institution.

It is far bigger than an issue of just health care or taxes or the ability to make medical decisions. Adding in the social benefits of being "coupled," we are creating an incredibly unfair and discriminatory system based solely on whether someone is in a relationship or not. As long as we elevate the status of some individuals over others, we will never have true equality. Our actions further oppress others and, at some point, we need to reevaluate the system.

Government has no responsibility for policing morality. Society does this without any governmental interference, and we need to make changes there, too. We need to question the interest of government in relationships and start pushing back.

How can we fix the system so that it conveys the rights created by legal marriage to
  • Single people?
  • Divorced people?
  • People in short term relationships?
  • People in long term, committed relationships who choose to remain unmarried?
  • People in non-traditional relationships, such as polyamory?
The answer is simple -- you can't, and we should probably stop trying.

It's an issue I struggle with every day, as someone who has recently become engaged. I certainly feel like a hypocrite, but also recognize the spiritual, legal and social reasons that make this is important to my partner. It doesn't change the fact that I don't share the same spiritual considerations and wish the legal and social incentives were wholly non-existent. I'm perfectly happy as a single person and don't need the government, a religion, or anyone else to validate my love. I don't want to benefit from my relationship, and don't need to be rewarded or congratulated; I haven't done anything warranting it. The happiness I've found in our relationship is benefit enough and I don't need any reinforcement from society or our nosy government.


  1. Longtime reader, first time commenter ;)

    Although I'm not a huge supporter of the government's reasoning, there is something to the government having an interest in encouraging certain types of relationships. By encouraging couples (and indirectly families) the government supports and encourages a specific type of social network. Our government has implicit goals like the health and growth of its population. These are valid and rational goals.

    I'm not saying that goals are perfect, and I'm definitely not suggesting that our government's methods are effective. But our government has purpose behind the additional rights and benefits of marriage.

    Side note: because of DOMA, Vermont same-sex married couples will not be benefiting from the tax benefits of marriage. Marriage is explicitly defined as a legal relationship between a man and a woman in the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

    To back up the government selective encouragement: New theories are emerging suggesting that monogamy may have been instrumental in human evolution. Sure there are lots of theories pointing to polygamy as the natural way to go. But modern evolutionary theory looks at intraspecies cooperation as factor in natural selection. Monogamy (or at least stable relationships) helps build that intraspecies cooperation and may have been instrumental in the development of society and culture.

    On a final note, you're arguments come dangerously close to the theories of Rousseau in his Discourse on the Theory of Inequality. In that work he hypothesized that true inequality can only exist in a community of individuals with no rights. Because once the individuals have any rights, inequalities in the ability to practice those rights emerge.


  2. I'm all for stable relationships. But I think we can both agree that many relationships are extremely unstable; it doesn't mean the walls of civilization come tumbling down. Marriage doesn't change unstable relationships into stable ones. It just complicates the entire situation.

    I'm also a big fan of personal choice and am in no position to pass judgment on the choices of others. This is where my biggest concern comes into play; if it isn't hurting anyone, what do I care? The legal benefits of marriage, though, do hurt many in our society and we need to start addressing that.

  3. Excellent post, Brittany. Marriage as a stabilizing factor is a misnomer. If the government has an interest in encouraging certain types of relationships, then maybe they could try progressively rewarding people who stay together longer or maintain their status longer... it's time to think outside the box. Marriage is an outmoded institution.

  4. Judge Judy said if ya break up da engagement ya gotta give da ring back!

  5. Brittany: This is a great post even though it left me a bit puzzled about your personal choice - somehow that seems to contradict what you said... I guess that's why you're struggling with that ;-).

    I completely agree, though, that we can't fix the current system but we need a new & better one.

    Anonymous: Could please give some cites on the evolutionary link to monogamy? Intraspecies cooperation seems to require more than two people. That's why people used to live in clans... Also, the governmental goal of a healthy population admirable but there is no evidence that marriage is the best way to reach that goal. (I don't think population growth is an admirable goal anymore given that there are already too many people on this planet). This points to a crux with many of the rights & privileges that come with marriage: The underlying goal might be worthwhile but marriage is the completely wrong way of reaching that goal (Nancy Polikoff makes this point in her book; the Law Commission of Canada makes that point in "Beyond Conjugality.")

  6. Heya fantastic website! Does running a blog similar to this require
    a large amount of work? I have no expertise in coding but I
    was hoping to start my own blog in the near future.
    Anyways, if you have any recommendations or techniques for new
    blog owners please share. I understand this is off topic nevertheless I
    just wanted to ask. Thanks a lot!
    My blog blow job porn teen xxx

  7. Amazing! Its in fact remarkable paragraph, I have got
    much clear idea on the topic of from this article.
    Look at my homepage : mackeeper a virus

  8. First off I would like to say superb blog! I had a quick question that I'd like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Kudos!

    Here is my blog post - kohlenhydrat diat

  9. I'm extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one nowadays.

    Feel free to surf to my website: how many calories do you burn walking
    my web site: calories walking Calculator

  10. I'm really enjoying the design and layout of your blog. It's a very easy on the eyes which
    makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often.
    Did you hire out a designer to create your theme?
    Exceptional work!

    Also visit my page wordpress einrichten

  11. I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure
    whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my difficulty.
    You're incredible! Thanks!

    Feel free to visit my web blog - berechnung kosten arbeitszimmer
    Also see my web site :: steuberater in wiesbaden

  12. hey there and thank you for your info – I've certainly picked up something new from right here. I did however expertise several technical issues using this web site, as I experienced to reload the website many times previous to I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will very frequently affect your placement in google and can damage your high-quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Well I'm adding this RSS to
    my e-mail and could look out for a lot more of your respective interesting content.

    Ensure that you update this again very soon.

    my web blog ... payday loans

  13. If you are going for most excellent contents like me, just pay a
    quick visit this website every day for the reason that it offers quality contents, thanks

    Feel free to surf to my web page: payday loans

  14. whoah this weblog is excellent i really like reading your
    posts. Keep up the good work! You know, a lot of persons
    are searching round for this information, you can help them greatly.

    Also visit my web site ... microsoft Registry Cleaner

  15. We're a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with helpful information to work on. You have performed an impressive activity and our whole group will likely be thankful to you.

    Check out my web blog :: windows registry cleaner

  16. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog
    loading? I'm trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it's the
    blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

    my blog - exercises to improve vertical leap

  17. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I'm trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it's the
    blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

    Feel free to visit my web-site :: exercises to improve vertical leap

  18. Thanks in favor of sharing such a nice opinion, paragraph is good, thats why i have read it entirely

    My homepage: calculate bmr

  19. I just couldn't depart your website prior to suggesting that I extremely loved the usual information a person provide in your visitors? Is going to be back ceaselessly to investigate cross-check new posts

    Feel free to visit my weblog: weight loss calculator

  20. What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable experience on the topic of unexpected emotions.

    Look at my web-site: calculate bmr

  21. WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for disposal

    Feel free to surf to my web-site :: basal metabolic rate calculator

  22. Now you can Select Wipe Data or Factory Reset by pressing the Volume buttons to
    go up or down and the Home button to select options.
    The application Execution Environment provides an interface for application programming.
    If you don't like to cook or feel like you don't have time, there are apps for restaurants also.

    My blog post: samsung galaxy s4

  23. I am sure this article
    has touched all the internet people, its really really
    pleasant paragraph on
    building up new website.

    my weblog; CrossFit rubber mats

  24. I know this if off topic but I'm looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is required to get setup? I'm assuming having a blog like yours would cost
    a pretty penny? I'm not very web savvy so I'm not 100% certain.
    Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks

    Visit my homepage -

  25. I simply couldn't leave your web site before suggesting that I actually enjoyed the standard info an individual supply on your visitors? Is gonna be back often to check up on new posts

    my homepage :: CrossFit flooring

  26. Hello! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I came to take a look.

    I'm definitely enjoying the information.
    I'm book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers!

    Outstanding blog and brilliant design and style.

    Feel free to visit my web blog lexington hotels

  27. There's definately a great deal to learn about this subject. I like all the points you made.

    Also visit my web blog :: lake george Hotels

  28. Hey! I simply wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the
    nice info you might have right here on this post. I will be
    coming back to your weblog for extra soon.

    My site; latest immigration reform news 2013