Wednesday, December 19, 2012
My generation of women doesn't have to be married. Our mothers fought for this choice. In the 19th century doctors would prescribe different (think more painful and degrading) treatment for unmarried women with the same illnesses as their married counterparts. The laws were different for single women; their standing in the community was lower, their prospects fewer. Basically, you were either married, living with your parents or considered a prostitute.
The fight for gender equality now means daughters of the Baby Boomers have the option of being single (if they want) and have the same social/legal/moral standing as one who marries.
Any plea for "traditional marriage" glazes over the plural marriages in the Bible and idealizes the McCall's magazine advertisements of the 1950s. In the real 1950s you could not, in the eyes of the law, rape your wife. Women were akin to children, only there were laws protecting children from abuse by the man of the house.
Yes, feminism and women's liberation, as promised, allowed women to forgo marriage (or not). It's feminism and women's liberation that should get all the credit for destroying traditional marriage.
Traditional marriage was limping along way before anyone thought of mass-producing cake toppers with two grooms.
The first cut was women's suffrage. The near thousandth was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Yes, traditional marriage is dead.
So naturally, marriage numbers are down for my generation. Wives used to be considered property. Who would want to enter a union with slavery undertones? Only 51 percent of American adults as of 2011 (down 5 percent), according to the Pew Research Center, are married.
How is it even that high? Who brought marriage back into the national dialog as something Americans should want to do? Who made something old, ugly and weird suddenly desirable?
In one word: gays. An entire swath of Americans who would have otherwise not cared whatsoever about marriage were unexpectedly forced to examine the idea of matrimony.
I include myself in this category.
As women were asking why they would want to be married since they no longer had to be, same-sex couples began wanting to be married even though they couldn't.
Marriage, all of a sudden, was worth fighting for. Homosexuals made the case for why they wanted/deserved to be married. It was about rights: next of kin, Social Security, power of attorney, taxes, insurance.
The institution of marriage, as told to us by same-sex couples who still can't get married in most places, is a partnership. It is a contract between two people recognized by the state.
This is not the marriage of the Bible. As long as women are considered equal under the law, marriage as we knew it a century ago, or 1,700 years ago, is gone. Their movement, after all, is called Marriage Equality.
Gays saved marriage. They put a new spin on what for women of my age was an antiquated notion. They made Americans think about marriage. We discussed spousal privilege and what it means to be a husband/wife. They made marriage less of a wedding dress fantasy and more of a pragmatic way to build a life with someone you love.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases about same-sex marriage. One is a challenge to Prop. 8 in California, the other hinges on the federal Defense of Marriage Act signed by President Clinton. It means homosexual couples could have the federal government recognize their unions by June.
- Tina Dupuy, editor-in-chief of TheContributor.com, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org