Steer me into a voting booth, and I guarantee I will cast my ballot in favor of peaceful cohabitation between two like-gendered people. I insist they receive all the same legal, property and tax advantages our federal and state governments confer on today's married couples. According to the group, Freedom to Marry, there are over 1,100 such rights, benefits and responsibilities. They include access to health care, parenting and immigration rights, social security, transfer of property, and veterans and survivor benefits.
These are the same kinds of rights I received when I married 52 years ago. In the interest of equal protection under the law, same-sex couples that make a commitment to each other should receive all 1,100— the same as opposite-sex marrieds.
Hold it. What was that last phrase again—opposite-sex marrieds? Surely, there's a redundancy there. In a world of same-sex marriages must I now distinguish my own half-century marriage by modifying it with opposite-sex? Must ninety-plus percent of the world's married people also precede their marriages with opposite-sex?
Guide me toward that voting booth again. This time, pose the question differently: Are you in favor of same-sex marriage? I'll vote no every time. Isn't it odd, my willingness to support same-sex unions but not same-sex marriages?
Gays have every right to ask that question. To them, it must surely be a needless distinction. Why are you straights so stingy about sharing the marriage word? Check your dictionary, they say. As a phrase, same-sex marriage has worked its way into common parlance, clearly defined in Merriam Webster's 11th edition. Why are you so uncompromising? Get in step with the dynamism of language.
Straights volley: Why must you gays insist on describing your union as marriage? Your dogged resolve harms your cause. It helps buttress the wall that the American majority has built against same-sex marriages. Though the wall is crumbling in some locales, same-sex marriage is prohibited in 29 states by popular vote. Recently, California Chief Justice Ronald M. George, writing for a 6-to-1 majority, announced that same-sex couples still have the right to civil unions. But he added that California voters clearly expressed their will to limit marriage solely to opposite-sex couples.
Might you change the majority's attitude if you abandoned the notion of marriage and substituted a less entrenched word? Might you change the position of your president, who says he is a "fierce advocate of equality" for gay men and lesbians, but, as a Christian, opposes same-sex marriage? Equally important, might you show some consideration for us married straights? When you describe your union as same-sex marriage, you leave us little choice but to differentiate our unions as opposite- sex marriages. Redundant? It's flat-out weird.
Among the general populace, gay men and women hold a reputation for creativity. Sure there are exceptions, but, by and large, the world admires gays as creative and interpretative artists. Put these gifts to work. Break the logjam. Develop a fresh new name, a unique creation that applies only to your special union. You might just bring out the best in both sides.
Start with the well-worn partnership. Not distinctive enough? How about unionship? Blendship, maybe?
On first hearing, these new words sandpaper the ears. But did Grendel's mother squeal with delight when young Grendel bounced into the cave
to tell her he planned to start a new relationship called, of all things, marriage? There's a first time for everything.
Unimerge? Commitmerge? Merge'ncare?
None of these words need be prefixed with same-sex. Tell the world you're amalgamerged and everybody will know you're committed to a same-gendered person. Talk about the dynamism of language—here's the way to let it shine.
With the array of choices limited only by your own creativity, why cling so fiercely to marriage, anyway? It's an institution that guarantees a fifty percent failure rate. Establish your own new word and right-minded people will find a way to grant you equal protection under the law.
If you conclude that you can't find your own neologism, then be prepared for the straight world to impose its own coinage. Married straights can be creative, too. As a reasonable entry, I submit my newly minted verb, "to connube." Consider its history. The Latin infinitive, nubere, means "to marry." It's been around since Roman times. Root-wise, it plays.
Once the word catches on, English-speaking gays will announce to their parents, "We're in love. We're getting connubed." When their wooden anniversary rolls round, they'll happily proclaim they've been connubed for five years. Used adjectivally, what city hall official would balk at issuing a connubement license? And as s a noun, the word can fit with religious texts and prayers as the "Holy Sacrament of Connubement."
Now's the time to make it exclusively yours. Perhaps most important, it's ultra-safe. Can you imagine the straight community railing against connubement? At the same time, you'll be doing married couples a huge favor. We won't have to go through life as opposite-sex marrieds.
While we're at it, who decided to call the non-gay world straight? Why haven't militant gays organized against that usage? Instead of standing up for marriage, stand against straight. Strike it down. Call us heterosexuals straight and you're implying that you're crooked. You gain nothing by being connected, even indirectly, with a word whose synonyms include twisted, warped, underhanded, unlawful, deceitful, false, fraudulent, insincere mendacious and corrupt. Talk about weird? That's flat-out unthinking.
Bob Natiello's recent stories includes "Dog Fight," which won Manhattan Media's 2009 "Eight Million Stories" fiction contest.
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