While listening to a radio show recently, I heard a male caller refer to his “husband” and was suddenly struck by the notion that perhaps the world would never be quite the same — not that that’s a bad thing, mind you.
Before I am threatened with dismemberment by zealots on either side of the gay marriage issue, I need to explain that I have this really laid-back attitude toward the entire subject. It truly matters not at all to me how someone else wants to live, as long as that lifestyle doesn’t impinge on my own or others’ rights or constitutes a crime. So I have avoided writing about it.
I must admit that at first I felt the Defense of Marriage Act probably was a silly effort to control the uncontrollable, and most likely was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court, of course, is going to tell us one way or the other very soon as it decides on a case involving the estate taxes of a survivor of a long-term same-sex partnership. How far the good justices will go is anyone’s guess, but those who regularly analyze their deliberations seem to believe they will not hold back the tide of sudden popularity for creating a new class of legally married people.
Having said all that, I have to stick my oar into the controversial waters for at least two strokes of disagreement with those who would equate the process as equal with the more traditional concept of marriage. I believe that if religion has meaning and ideals that are at least partially couched in the idea of procreation whenever possible, expecting to sanctify same-sex unions with a church wedding with all the trimmings is a bit over the top. It’s up to a church whether to agree to this. But those denominations whose poli
cies abhor it should stick to their position, without ridicule or pressure, from even devout members of the congregation or parish or whoever may wish otherwise.
Marriage, even between man and woman, is a legal contract, a civil action subject to law. It can only be broken through court action. That is where the process belongs. Gay couples that wish to tie the knot should be able to do so with impunity and without fear of disenfranchisement of the same rights and responsibilities afforded to those in a traditional union.
I have a question about this issue that might be considered frivolous, but in my opinion is a serious problem of identification, a semantic nightmare that offends my sensibilities. Chalk it up to my age, if you wish, but I find it jarring for one male to call another his husband or his wife. The same thing applies to a woman calling another woman her husband or her wife.
“I said to my wife, Fred,” coming out of the mouth of George, is a burlesque line I remember when as a teen I managed to con my way into the old Fox Theater in downtown Indianapolis. It always drew a guffaw from the bald guys in the front row. It comes from a time not long ago when mocking homosexuals was an unfortunate everyday occurrence. Furthermore, “wife” denotes female and “husband” male, and it helps identify gender. If one wants to use a softer description, “partner” or even “companion” would be better, it seems to me.
Perhaps that’s silly, but no one really has explained to me how one person in a two-women relationship takes on the role of a husband, which Webster clearly defines as the male. The same applies to a man who suddenly is a wife without a sex-change operation. Please don’t equate my feelings with abject sexual ignorance or believe I’m making fun of the situation. It’s a solemn business.
We should come up with an entirely new word for same-gender couples. The dictionary writers most likely are hard at work on this problem as we speak. In the meantime, Fred and George or the guy on the radio who said his name was Brad probably should find some other way of defining their mates. It’s a small concession to us stuffy traditionalists.