Redefining marriage

Pennsylvania is littered with new billboards that ask questions like “Should Pennsylvania walk out on marriage?” and “Should Pennsylvania kiss marriage goodbye?”

Each time I pass one, I shout out, “Hell no!”

I suspect, however, that I’m interpreting the questions differently than they were intended. They are part of a statewide campaign for a marriage amendment, sponsored by the group Pennsylvania for Marriage. Legislation to put an amendment on the ballot already died in the state house from lack of support from our elected representatives, but the folks at PA4Marriage still think they speak for all Pennsylvanians. They’re intent on passing an amendment to ban marriage and civil unions.

All in the name of “protecting” marriage.

You see, they worry that letting people marry will destroy marriage by redefining.

We decided to do our part to test that theory.

So we got married, and now we’re waiting to see if the world falls apart.

We didn’t take this on lightly. We’ve been considering our options for a long time now.

One choice was to wait until we have full marriage rights at both the state and federal level. I’m often accused of being a “political purist,” but even I realized that this choice hurts no one but us.

Another choice was to go to Canada or New Jersey to have a marriage or civil union. That option carried the weight of some level of official recognition, but it would vanish the moment we returned home.

In the end, we decided that what was most important was to be married before our friends, our family (those who would attend), and our God.

So we had a wedding that means absolutely nothing legally but absolutely everything to us.

The law won’t call us married. Our employers and insurance company won’t call us married. PA4Marriage won’t call us married. But we call ourselves married and I truly believe that God considers us to be married.

We stood before family, friends and vowed to love and honor each other for the rest of our lives, to support and care for each other, and to work together to help those around us.

If that’s redefining marriage, so be it. Let Armageddon begin.



  1. December 27, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    I was relieved,of course, when the Massachusetts legislature, meeting as a state constitutional convention, cast 151 votes, the bare minimum needed, to avoid a ballot fight on same-sex marriage. Who needs another fight?

    However, Massachusetts’s same-sex marriage is a success only if:
    1. You think it is fine to have the name “marriage” but not the 1138 federal benefits of marriage,
    2. You think it is fine that the fight over the word “marriage” has cause Massachusetts to have four constitutional conventions in as many years and cost the LGBT community and Massachusetts taxpayers millions without adding one additional right that civil unions or domestic partners affords us, and
    3. You think it is fine that lesbians and gay men across the country have paid for Massachusetts “marriages” with laws and state constitutional amendments which outlawed both same-sex marriage and civil unions/domestic partners.

    Lesbians and gay men have already lost the fight for same-sex marriage and it is time to move on to a fight we can win.

    Same-sex marriage with all of the rights, benefits and obligations of marriage cannot exist in the United States in the near future. Here is why: Forty-five states have laws or constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Source: Human Rights Campaign) There has been over 48 million votes cast on this issue in 29 states and almost 32 million, almost two-thirds, voted against same-sex marriage. As the noted gay historian and professor at the University of Illinois, John D’Emilio, observed in his 2006 article in Gay & Lesbian Review, The Marriage Fight Is Setting Us Back, “The campaign for same-sex marriage has been an unmitigated disaster. It has created a vast body of new anti-gay laws.” There has already been, in effect, a national referendum and we have lost……BIG.

    Despite the title, “marriage”, same-sex marriage with all of the rights, benefits and obligations of marriage does not exist in Massachusetts. Massachusetts’s same-sex marriage, California’s domestic partners, and Vermont and New Jersey’s civil unions all have the same federal benefits of marriage: zero.

    Anecdotal reports of inappropriate or anomalous implementation of California’s two and one-half year old comprehensive domestic partner laws would not be solved by changing the title to marriage. Lesbians and gay men in Massachusetts have reported problems with their state’s implementation of same-sex marriage. (Source: G&LR 5/2007 Letters to the Editor, Marriage Equality Not a Reality In Mass. by Dale Mitchell, Cofounder LGBT Aging Project, Boston) Like California, Massachusetts’s legislature is having to plug some holes because both of these policies are new. Any new and comprehensive policy, no matter how well written, will have bumps along the road to implementation.

    In spite of the fact that true marriage is simply not possible in the US some pro-same-sex marriage activists will say, “Separate is not equal.” The analogy to Brown v. Board of Education (1954, US Supreme Court) is common but in error because it ignores the historical facts. “Separate but equal” was invented by white supremacists in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896, US Supreme Court) to oppress African-Americans. Domestic Partners was invented by a gay man, Tom Brougham, in 1982 and advanced by lesbian and gay organizations to obtain the benefits of marriage at a time when most of the lesbian/gay community viewed marriage as a discredited patriarchal institution in which we did not wish to participate. Indeed, the creation and acceptance of domestic partners and civil unions is more comparable to Brown than to Plessy because they promote respect and tolerance.

    The Myth About Same-Sex Marriage
    There is a myth that marriage has more rights and benefits than civil unions/domestic partners. That myth is born from the fact that civil unions/domestic partners have only been passed by states. States have no power to grant the 1138 federal benefits of marriage. However, a national civil union policy, which Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Dodd, & Biden have pledge to support, would.

    In poll after poll, a clear majority of voters say they would support civil unions with all the same rights, benefits and obligations of marriage but they would not support same-sex marriage. Illogical? Yes! But it is a fact we must live with.

    There have been no successful direct challenges to statewide domestic partner or civil union policies. Domestic partners and civil unions have been overturned only when they were included in ballot propositions whose primary purpose was to ban same-sex marriage.

    In 16 months, in April of 2009, the Equality Forum will focus on our failed attempt to achieve real same-sex marriage and where the LGBT community should go from here. It is time to realize that Federal Civil Unions = Marriage Equality.

    All of the rights, benefits and obligations of marriage are attainable, with public support, under the title civil unions or domestic partners. Same-sex marriage is not. This should be the object lesson of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. We may not like that fact, however, it is none-the-less a fact. It is time that someone in the lesbian and gay community tell our leaders that their strategy on same-sex marriage has failed. We must return to the successful strategy of attaining our rights through civil unions and domestic partners which has worked well for over 20 years. Who among us will be brave enough to say, “The emperor has no clothes” before we are all stripped naked of our rights.

    Leland Traiman,
    Chairperson, 1984 Domestic Partner Task Force, City of Berkeley, which wrote the first domestic partner policy enacted into law

  2. Karen said,

    December 29, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Leland, your comment is very informative and I’m glad to have read it!!!

    I noticed those absurd billboards as we drove across the most beautiful state in the Union for Christmas. Honestly, yes, I do think PA and every other state should kiss marriage goodbye. Every marriage should be reclassified as a civil union. Government has no business in matters of religion, which is what a marriage ceremony is. Religion should have no business in civil matters. Why this is even a question boggles my mind.

    If people think that extending benefits to homosexual couples who are in a committed relationship threatens society, they need their heads and consciences examined.

  3. January 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Congrats on your marriage!!! What do you folks do for fun now that the world has ended and all the anti-marriage-equality folks have been raptured away? I like playing apocalypse soccer myself.

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