Thursday, October 29, 2009

LOVE & MARRIAGE

It must be nice.

While gay couples in the United States, in Argentina and all over the world are fighting to be fully recognized by their governments, straight people in those very same places have the luxury of taking for granted and taking great advantage of their right to legally wed.

And they do. With gusto!

Some marry for love. Some for money. Some (in real life and in movies like Green Card and The Proposal) to stay in a particular country. Some are totally cavalier about marriage, more or less deeming it a labor of love (emphasis on labor) rather than a celebration of it. As a gay man who is legally barred from marrying for love, money or a green card (unless it's to a woman, which would really defeat the purpose), I'd rather not see the institution taken lightly or handled carelessly or ungratefully.

I have never been able to stick to any particular opinion of marriage. Something about the notion of "legalizing" your relationship, turning it over to the state, doesn't sit well with me. But then again, it would be a nice option to have, and I think every straight person should be thankful to at least have the choice to choose one way or the other and not take it for granted or, worse, treat it with recklessness or complete indifference.

You know, the way they do all the time on TV. There is a current storyline on One Life To Live, my favorite daytime soap, in which diva-for-the-ages Dorian Lord -- who is running for mayor of Llanview, Pennsylvania, the fictional town where the show is set -- is about to marry her lesbian campaign manager in an effort to make a point. Her bigger motive, definitely ulterior, is to steal the mayoral contest from her challenger and adult-life-long rival, Victoria Banks. The vow exchange will be the centerpiece of a mass gay wedding that will involve hundreds of gay couples. The aforementioned point: Shouldn't everyone have the right to use and abuse the institution of marriage?

So much is wrong with this storyline. Would gay rights ever be the central campaign issue in a small town in swing-state Pennsylvania? What about unemployment and health care? And what U.S. small town has dozens of gay couples, much less out gay couples, willing to publicly prove a point -- any point? Furthermore, exactly what does a mass gay wedding actually prove? That a lot of gay people want to get married? Isn't that already the basis of a the gay-marriage debate? Yes, it would give publicity to the idea of same-sex marriage, but is seeing a bunch of gay couples (led by an obviously fake one) pledging their undying love for the cameras going to change the minds of the Proposition 8 crowd?

I don't think so.

But the interesting thing about the storyline is how so many of the straight characters on the show have blasted the entire thing. Ironically, not because they are opposed to gay marriage. They're calling it a circus because the marriage at the center of it is a sham. And they should know a sham when they see one: Few adult characters in soap land have been married less than three times, and most of them walk down the aisle at least half of those times for reasons that have nothing to do with true love.

I know, it's only a show. But it does reflect the confusing approach that many straight people take toward marriage. Onscreen and off, they can love it or loathe it and still use it and abuse it in whatever way they see fit to suit their purpose. I can't say that given the opportunity, gay people wouldn't do the exact same thing, but it sure would be nice to have the right, too.

Postscript: Today I noticed the following Facebook status update from one of my "friends," a former high school classmate:

"Republican values rock, less government, less taxes, thats the way I like it!!"

My response: "And no to gay marriage!"

I can't wait for the tirades to start rolling in.
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