Guest Blogger

An Unconventional Wedding Announcement

Filed By Guest Blogger | October 26, 2014 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: commitment ceremony, critiques of marriage, gay marriage, intersectionality, liberation, marriage equality, privilege, same-sex marriage

Editor's Note: Guest blogger Ashley Horan is a Unitarian Universalist minister and the executive director of MUUSJA, the Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance. She lives in Minneapolis with her partner Karen, their 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth, a very bad cat called Bodhi, and a soon-to-be-born tiny human being.

Two years ago last Monday, my beloved and I made vows to one another in front of the people we love best in the world. In the language of our faith, we made a covenant -- a deep promise between us, held by our community, and sustained by that sacred power of creativity known by many as God. And then, we celebrated at the best party we'd ever been to.

wedding-invitation.jpgOur commitment ceremony was an important threshold. It was not, however, a marriage. "Marriage" refers to a union, usually between a man and a woman, recognized by the government as the marker of kinship and legitimacy. And there are clear benefits associated with legal marriage: visitation rights, death benefits, property rights, parental recognition, health coverage, citizenship, and many more.

So why didn't we want to get married?

First, we understood our commitment as covenantal, not legal: we made promises to each other, our community, and the Holy... not the State.

Second, we're from a long line of queers (and in Karen's case, folks of color) who have insisted that we -- not the state, or church, or societal convention -- decide what we promise one another, and how we want to be in relationship. We get to say "You are my family," and thereby make it true, whether or not it is affirmed by the capricious whims of the reigning regime.

Third, we believe that all humans deserve basic care and protection from the state, whether or not we are married. All of us deserve health care, the right to be recognized as parents to the children we raise, access to our sick and dying partners, a pathway toward citizenship, and the ability to pass along property and money after death.

And we believe that any fight that aims to expand access to these rights to some people - but not all people - is not enough.

For many LGBTQ folks, access to marriage has been deeply significant, making many feel included and affirmed, and granting them access to essential rights. And the movement to win these victories politicized many who had never been activists before; it brought disparate groups together in common struggle.

But marriage equality has also been a distraction. It has diverted billions of dollars from other queer causes. It's been led largely by white middle- and upper-class gays and lesbians, dismissing the leadership and needs of other queers, gender non-conforming people, and communities of color.

It has used divisive identity politics to call certain communities "enemies of equality," delegitimizing the experiences of queer members of those communities. It has lacked the intersectional analysis to see how racism, transphobia, classism, ableism, misogyny, and capitalism have excluded queer people with multiple identities.

In short, while we're genuinely happy for those who celebrate the coming of marriage equality, we don't believe we've "won the fight." And we don't desire civil marriage ourselves, for both religious and political reasons.

So earlier this month, when we learned that Karen's employer is eliminating "domestic partnership" as a coverable insurance category, we were upset. As of January 1, our relationship -- whose legitimacy we've had to prove already with a stack of documents and legal affidavits -- will no longer be "valid" without a marriage certificate. My coverage will be dropped, Karen won't be recognized as our soon-to-be-born child's parent, and the baby won't be insured.

forced-into-marriage.jpgWe can get avoid these penalties by getting married now, and it won't be a hardship. Family and friends will help cover costs, and we'll be more legally secure than we are now. This is a "#FirstWorldGayProblem."

Still, we feel we're being forced into it. "Marriage equality" has actually disqualified us from benefits for which we were previously deemed eligible, making us choose between our beliefs and our need for healthcare and legal protection.

We're lucky to be able to access these rights through marriage, yes. But we also know that the two-people-who-are-romantically-committed style of partnership is not accessible to everyone who needs healthcare, parental rights, citizenship, and more.

So, friends, consider this our wedding announcement. Sometime soon, Karen and I will go get legally married. And since everyone knows that when you get married you get to create a wedding registry, we want some things from you!

Here's our list:

  • If you donated to support marriage equality, give equally to other organizations working for trans* rights, fighting queer youth homelessness, elevating voices of queer folks of color, etc. Some suggestions include TYSN-MN, SONG, the Brown Boi Project, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Center on Halsted, Howard Brown Health Center, and many more.

  • If you canvassed, phone-banked, marched, or organized for marriage equality, donate equal or greater time to another, more intersectional queer social justice campaign. Protest mass incarceration and police brutality; find your local affordable housing coalition; volunteer with small organizations led by communities most directly affected by injustice.

  • If you supported marriage equality because it gives more people access to various rights, commit to working for campaigns that expand those rights to all people. Fight for universal health care, comprehensive immigration reform, tax reform, prison abolition, and racial and economic justice.

  • Read more about why a lot of queer folks and people of color resist legal marriage as the pathway toward benefits many consider to be basic human rights. Start with this article by Dean Spade and Craig Willse.

rainbow-flag-sun-backlit.jpgKaren and I will get married, and our lives will be easier because we did. And if you choose to get married, we'll put on our best clothes for your wedding, and dance our butts off to celebrate with you.

But then, when it's all over and the DJ packs up her turntables and the appetizers are gone, we'll all grab each other's hands, look at one another in the eyes, and ask, "Do you take this life, this struggle for collective liberation, for better or for worse, as long as we all shall live?"

And then we'll all laugh, and say, "Yes. I do."

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