Far from being a union of one man and one woman, marriage, for most of human history, has been the union of two men: the husband and father-in-law’s wealth and property. Marriage was a business arrangement in which love was highly incidental. Forget kids or compatibility, the only thing guaranteed going in was a well-negotiated contract.
This week the Supreme Court took up the debate over same-sex unions. As Justice Roberts remarked on Wednesday, political leaders have been “falling all over themselves” to endorse marriage equality. Fine. But why do so many gays and lesbians want their romantic relationships recognized by the state in the first place?
There are, of course, bureaucratic matters: tax breaks, hospital visitations, and other federal benefits many same-sex couples are currently denied.
This week, we’re all hoping that the Supreme Court will rule on the side of all that is fair and good and affirm the rights of gay and lesbian people to be married.
But while we’ve got our thumbs on champagne corks, anxiously waiting to celebrate, let’s just take a breath for a minute and recognize that while marriage equality is just major step forward toward equality for same-sex couples, it’s just a step toward equality for all in America. We’ve got to look beyond marriage to the other ways gender, sexuality, and love will still be regulated by the government, even if gays can finally tie the knot.
This summer, a Los Angeles gay bar called the Abbey banned bachelorette parties from its establishment until marriage equality is achieved, which sparked discussion in LGBTQ communities elsewhere about the tradition of straight bachelorettes celebrating impending nuptials in queer spaces. Here in Portland, a gay bar called CC Slaughters announced it would permit bachelorettes and their parties to celebrate there provided they didn't “flaunt it.” That is to say, bridal veils, tiaras, penis hats – and, presumably, sequined “Bride” T-shirts – now have to be checked at the door.
Just how long brides-to-be have been crashing the gates of gay bars for pre-nuptial fun, I can't say: the bachelorette party itself is a relatively new phenomenon (historical info online is spotty, but the first how-to-plan-a-bachelorette-party guide was published in 1998, and etiquette and bridal books only started referencing this alternative to the bridal shower in the 1960s). Why precisely dancing at a gay bar, or seeing a drag show, evolved as the counterpart to male bachelor party traditions (mostly, if Hollywood is telling me the truth, going to Vegas and either accidentally marrying strippers or accidentally killing them) is another question.
Part of it at least stems from a perception of gay bars as safe spaces for straight women – where they can drink or dance without likelihood of being hit on or groped the way they might be in straight clubs. (I like dancing in queer clubs for just this reason – and sometimes drag my computer or a book to happy hour at the gay bar in my neighborhood, partly because they have really good drink specials and partly because I know no one will tap my shoulder and ask me what I'm reading or working on.) Perhaps seeing a drag show, or dancing with gay men, or watching male strippers might provide straight women with a means to act out sexually without running a real risk of zero-hour infidelity (the likelihood of which is the running joke in pretty much all plans and narratives around bachelor/ette parties).
We spend a lot of time in the handful of decades that we exist in this world being told things and telling things. But there are comparitively very few moments when we allow our pretenses to drop and we come together to share something honest, and complex, and for many of us a little (or a lot) scary. That's a transformative thing.
Essentially this judge, the dishonorable Charley E. Prine Jr. of Harris County, has decided that even though there is no evidence to suggest that a gay man is even statistically AS likely to molest a child, that Flowers cannot trust Evans to watch the children while he does anything. No grocery shopping, no quick run to the store, no day home sick from school. This is the undue burden that is put on queer parents, to be trapped in a situation where another human being’s bigotry and ignorance is much more powerful than your life or the quality thereof. The law also allows the children to be left with persons related to their father by blood or marriage, but since Texas does not recognize Flowers and Evans' marriage, Prine has the power to bully them and rain down animus upon a group of people he doesn’t like, at the same time assuring himself a long and happy career in Texas.