OP-ED: Can We Please Move Beyond Prop. 8 -- and Marriage Itself?

11:45am | This is not your typical Proposition 8 opinion.
                                                                                                    
I am not here to praise nor denounce the decision made by the Ninth Circuit Court. I am not here to argue that gay and straight relationships are socially the same (they are not: one only has to step into a bar representing either sexual orientation to see that). I am not here to have an argument about this country being founded on Christian principles (that is not particularly true). I am not even here to tell you that a marriage is based on procreation (that harkens to its archaic origins of a patriarchal business transaction and downsizes its genuine oeuvre and spirit of love and dedication -- particularly for those couples who are unable to have children, naturally or otherwise).

As an openly gay man, I am not even here for reasons that have to do with my so-called rights -- because everyone is seeming to miss that this issue is not about gay rights. It's about marriage -- and for me, that's exactly where the problem lies.

We have two opposing sides: a typically conservative one in which belief of marriage is between a man and a woman since they procure babies and develop the traditional notion of a family; on the other side, a typically liberal view that a couple is a couple, despite baby-making capabilities, and all couples deserve the same benefits proffered by being married.

The initial part of my crux comes with the fact that both sides are rather twisted in their logic. Firstly, we have what is no doubt a contract between two people, no different than a business partnership in which two individuals agree to certain terms and opt to make that business/marriage theirs through their choices, contributions, and behaviors. Conservatives, ironically the ones asking for the least amount of governmental interference -- particularly amongst business contracts -- are essentially asking for more governmental interference; they would like the government to dictate and regulate what a legal relationship is. Liberals, in the same torsional twist of irony, often claim that the exact problem with human rights is the government designating definitions for humans, creating an unfair hierarchy, e.g. citizen versus alien, where rights become suspended; they claim, "We're all just humans" and yet want the government to favor married couples over everyone else.

Before I have cosmos thrown at me and religious texts stacked around me, I want to emphasize a few things. With regards to the left, I understand that it is entirely inhuman and unfair that a couple, due to gender, cannot visit their loved one in a hospital, for one of many examples of the inequality same-sex couples experience. With regards to the right, I understand that without procreation, our species would not survive. I get this.

My issue lies in a simple space: marriage, in and of itself, is not what is required for both equal rights to be granted (there is the option to provide rights to both married and unmarried couples and individuals, y'know) and our species to continue (2007 marked the year where over 40% of babies were created out of wedlock). My caveat is marriage itself and why, under any circumstance, the government is involved in such an affair and grants a disproportionate amount of benefits on two people who have to do little else than walk into a City Hall and say, "I do" -- be it gay or straight or [insert sexual identity here]. In fact, despite being gay, I could grab my female roommate, marry her, and be blessed with over 1,000 social and legal and economic and political benefits for doing... Absolutely nothing. It is as profligate as it is redundant. We call marriage the highest form of a relationship and yet, we permit compulsive initiation into this sanctified institution as well as compulsive abandonment of it, as seen by the exorbitant divorce rate.

Unmarried America is the one suffering from this rather banal debate. In fact, in a report by Business Weekly, single people -- which make up 42% of the workforce and over half of households -- receive penalties for being single, ranging from higher taxes to fewer job benefits. Sadly, we are building a social ladder that is relegated to those who choose to engage in a legally-recognized sexual relationship -- an odd, if not outright baffling concept especially if we take the word "individual" in the Constitution to mean anything.

This is not to say that I am entirely against married couples receiving certain benefits that will help contribute to society or benefit business; contrarily, I agree such benefits should exist.  My problem lies in, 1) benefits that should be extended to single people and are not; and 2) that such benefits should not be given just because two people say, "I do," but rather because they have built an established relationship within society (e.g. living together for several years before marrying or successfully getting their child into school before being granted the benefits).

Until marriage in and of itself becomes what it touts itself to be -- a timely, un-compulsive dedication of two people who help foster each other's aspirations and goals which, in turn, benefits society via their contributions -- instead of being a contract that requires little oversight, little regulation, and little thought, the government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all.

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