Non-Legal Union

I am married. I am a married lady. I am a lady married to a man, and although we dressed like neo-Victorian Goths and termed it a celebration rather than a ceremony, there’s no question in our relatives’ minds that our wedding united two people in traditional matrimony.

But it’s only as traditional as the red velvet cake and the ribbons and currant tea we served in vintage cups and saucers. For starters, we’re not legally married.

Marriage has long been argued to be a weapon of the patriarchy, a way of subjugating and enslaving females, a way of chaining them to the responsibility of child birth and rearing and absolute service to the ruler of the home. Marriage enforces an unbalanced power dynamic; it makes room for, even anticipates, exploitation. And while in the context of contemporary American culture people claim to get married for all sorts of reasons, many of them in fact marry for the financial advantages marriage will bring, or because they feel they should marry in order to have children, or to please family members. Individuals marry each other for love, too, but often find that their conception of what marriage is can’t sustain a loving relationship.

I recognize all this. I also recognize that currently in the United States, only five states acknowledge the rights of same-sex couples to marry. I feel that if financial advantages are offered to one type of couple, then the same advantages should be offered to any adult couple who wants to marry. I do not want to take advantage of an unjust and unfair system, especially when many of my friends who might desire to be married cannot simply because of their sexual orientation.

But beyond that, I believe that the state should in no way place any requirements or restrictions on whom, when and how I choose to marry. I do not need state authority to sanction my choice to share my life with another person. Neither do I feel I need the state to dissolve the ties of marriage should my partner and I choose to end it. Reliance on either state or church to define the boundaries of marriage and the relationships contained within it is a subscription to rigid gender roles. It is both limitation and restriction; a catalogue of what cannot be done but what is often accomplished anyway, to the detriment of lives and trust.

So it is for these reasons, and for many others, that my partner and I chose not to be bound in legal marriage. We never signed a license. We chose to share our lives with each other as equal partners and friends, and we decided to make that decision known to our community by hosting a wedding party and a pagan ceremony affirming our love for each other. We asked our friends and family to hold us accountable for our actions, to each other and to the people around us, to help us remember the difficulties we were facing in our life together.

Yes, we know the idea of a queer wedding is essentially antithetical. We hold no illusions about the difficulty of avoiding stereotypical, expected gender roles that others will place upon us. We know how we are perceived by outsiders. In spite of this, we think we made the right decision.  We’ve each chosen to commit to a person we love. How long this will last, neither of us can say. It could be until the day we die, or it could be until next year. Humans change and alter, and neither of us wants to keep our partner bound to a relationship that just isn’t working. If the day comes when we no longer wish to be together, then either of us will be free to go as we please. The enormous simplicity of our relationship and our commitment is part of its beauty. We define the boundaries.


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Outsiders are overrated.

Comment by Shanti Perez

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