I woke up to some very disappointing news. My home state carried off a people’s veto in our election yesterday—we have repealed the laws passed that made gay marriage legal. As it stood, homosexuals could legally get married in Maine, and religious organizations could legally refuse to marry them. We were one of the very few states where this would be possible in the United States. Now, homosexuals cannot legally get married, by anyone, in my state. Not because of the legislators, but because of the voters.
There is a lot that is problematic about marriage being the banner issue for gay and lesbian rights. Marriage, in my country, is an uncertain institution—our divorce rates are through the roof, and we are torn between clinging to its social and political sanctity, and declaring it a dying institution. In many ways, though, gay marriage has become the banner issue for gay rights simply because it is such a positive, universally identifiable thing. Regardless of how you feel about marriage, everyone understands weddings. Everyone understands love. It’s an easier thing to fight for than, say, “stop firing me from my job because I’m gay.” It’s big, it’s visual, and it’s moving.
I am a straight woman who believes in nothing so much as I believe in civil rights for all, regardless of sexuality (race, ethnicity, gender, religion…). While I cannot stop feeling heartbroken this morning over yesterday’s vote, I also find myself thinking about what marriage means, for all of us. It has historically been the crux of so much of society’s relationship between men and women, in many countries, the place where our relationships, roles, and rights have been defined.
How do you feel about the institution of marriage? Do you see it changing in your country, too? Do you think it should change, and if so, how?