United States
Posted November 4, 2009 from United States

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 My home state carried off a people’s veto in our election yesterday—we have repealed the laws passed that made gay marriage legal.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?

Comments 6

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  • Maria de Chirikof
    Nov 04, 2009
    Nov 04, 2009

    I am American but thought I would respond since I think it is a topic that deserves some discussion. I think of it as a sacred institution but one that some have tried to corrupt. (In Sharing Solutions post: called Marriage I wrote a bit about it)

    What kind of gets me is the slant the mainstream media puts on it, like the issue is now decided, period, when that is not necessarily the case. I was looking at the headline news and how they are calling it a "GOP Sweep" and think it is just a push to try to get Americans to stop thinking for themselves as they showed they are capable of.

    For States rights, I find myself in the awkward position of living in a state that seems to fight hard against indigenous rights while in theory supporting them. We often have to resort to going to the federal level to have the rights we have as a peoples honored. In cases like this I do support the Federal use of a national law and support over a states rights... I think I can sympathize with the gay/lesbian community in that I can understand wanting what should be an (what is the phrase? We hold these truths to be "self evident" maybe?) obvious thing is made to be something other then it is.

    I believe it is a remnant of that old idea of "I got mine, you get yours" that is changing in America, ever so slowly... I just tell myself to keep the faith and trust that the good and decent people of America will unite in a real way to bring about true and lasting changes where 'equality and Justice for all' will be more then words on paper...


  • Nusrat Ara
    Nov 04, 2009
    Nov 04, 2009

    That is really sad.

    Nov 04, 2009
    Nov 04, 2009

    HI, I am from Bangladesh. After reading your writing I feel so depressed by knowing that how the right of getting married for gay people has been taken away. However, in my country, Bangladesh, there is not any official data that shows that there are any gay or lesbian people. Therefore, there is not any conflict or confusion about marriage in my country.

    Apart from the issue of gay right in term of marriage, I would like to say that though there is not any issue like gay rights in my country, there is a issue of getting married a person of a specific religion with a person of another religion in my society.

    Thanks, Fahmida Yesmine

  • Kimmy1013
    Nov 05, 2009
    Nov 05, 2009

    My sister is getting married in a year's time to her partner of 4 years, another woman. Since my parents are against her lifestyle, and will have nothing to do with the wedding, she asked me to give her away. In spite of the heartache that comes with my parents' decision, I guess I never realized how blessed we are - that my sister and her partner have the legal right to marry here, and that I can give her away.

    I am sad to hear of the decision your state made. But I have to remain hopeful that some day it will be legal for ALL people to love who they love and marry whom they choose.



  • kelsperry
    Nov 05, 2009
    Nov 05, 2009

    This is a hard topic, and it's so personal to so many people. It's difficult to talk about without striking a chord, or offending anyone. I hope my opinion will be received as that-- and opinion, not meant to criticize or be judgmental in any way.

    I struggle with this issue because, although I have a number of good gay and lesbian friends, I see marriage as historically and fundamentally a union between a man and a woman. To me, the relationship between a man and a woman is unique, just as the relationship between and man and man or woman and woman is unique-- whether it be friendship, romantic, committed or uncommitted, etc. Absolutely I understand the necessity of providing homosexual unions the same rights as heterosexual unions, we are all human, and citizens :). However I do feel that based on the nature of the unique relationship between man and woman, the title of marriage should continue to apply to the institution it has always applied to: the union between a man and a woman. I have a hard time understanding why it's so important that we call homosexual unions the same thing. My homosexual friends are so unique and tend to really rejoice and embrace their unique situations and personalities-- why not do the same with their unions? They too are unique from the original institution of marriage. Historically, marriage has always referred to the union between a man and a woman-- instituted originally in a religious context. Because of these reasons, I feel the most appropriate solution, where all parties could be happy and have equal rights, is a situation where marriage applies to a union between men and women, while homosexual couples have their own form of committed union, and equal rights therein.

    Let me know what you think. I'm sure we won't have the same opinion, but I feel like it's so important to respectfully share ideas and beliefs.


  • Meg
    Nov 05, 2009
    United States
    Nov 05, 2009

    It's a hard topic for many people, kelsperry, and though I do disagree with you, yours take on the issue is the one that I feel I understand the most. For some people, what marriage means, historically, is sacred--right down to the gender of the participants. Although I stand by my vote for legalizing gay marriage, I do understand that, and I sympathize with it.

    Which brings me to my other question. What does marriage mean to people? In the United States, it has changed a lot in one generation. I am 24 years old. The expectations that my mother faced as a young woman are so different from the expectations that I face that she can hardly even advise me (although she does manage to, quite well). Some of the changes could be perceived as very bad--lack of commitment, lack of gravity, the social acceptability of divorce taking away from the seriousness of the institution. Other changes, perhaps, are not so bad--freeing, even, and liberating. Be they what they may be, there are very different expectations for women of my generation than there were of women in my mother's generation. Women are not only expected to have careers now, but we need to--households can no longer be run on one person's income, but often require two. Marriages have become marriages of two careers, rather than the uniting of two people around one career. Some marriages are greatly broadened by this, whereas others are simply complicated by it.

    Not that long ago--maybe two generations ago--when Franco ruled Spain, the Spanish women had very few rights within their marriages. At the crux of their legal relationship was the concept of permiso marital (marital permission). Without her husband’s agreement, a wife could not embark on any sort of activity outside the home. She could not take a job, start a business or open a bank account. She could not initiate legal proceedings, enter into contracts, or buy and sell goods. She could not even undertake a journey of any length without her husband’s approval. Under the Spanish system, the property owned by a married couple is divided into three categories: that which the husband has brought into the marriage, that which the wife has brought into the marriage and that which they have acquired since (their so-called bienes gananciales). But whereas the man did not need his wife’s permission before selling, lending, or mortgaging the property he had brought into the marriage, she required his for a similar transaction. Leaving the family home for even a few days constituted the offence of desertion, which meant—among other things—that battered wives could not take refuge in the homes of their friends or relatives without putting themselves on the wrong side of the law. Permiso marital was repealed in 1975. Laws against adultery revoked in 1978. Articles of the civil code which put women at such a disadvantage with regard to children and family finances were replaced in 1981. Divorce became legal in 81.

    Obviously, the concept of "marriage" has changed drastically in Spain in the last two generations--much more drastically than it has in the United States--and, in many ways, for the better. I guess my question is this: how can we achieve an equal, positive relationship between men and women (or men and men, or women and women?), without abandoning marriage entirely? How does everyone else out there see marriage? How do they define the perfect marriage, if they envision a perfect marriage at all? Who defines what marriage is?