Thursday, December 6, 2012

Don't call it 'Gay Marriage'

As of today Washington State has joined eight other states by legalizing same-sex marriage. While I'm thrilled that state is finally joining the 21st century on this issue, the term 'gay marriage' is somewhat bothersome to me. While it's a minor concern, and far preferable to a discriminatory marriage policy, the language is still somewhat problematic.

The term 'gay marriage' implies that it's somehow different than marriage proper. I'd propose that it's not. For purposes of the law, at least at the state-level, 'gay marriage' is marriage; or "marriage equality", or "non-discriminatory marriage."

While this attempt at vernacular adjustment may be too much to hope for, I think it's important for a couple of reasons. First, it emphasizes equality (blah blah blah, about why otherization is bad). And second, it implies what ought to be the norm. Whereas Washington now allows for "marriage equality," Oregon, Idaho, 39 other states, as well as the federal government have a discriminatory marriage policy.

That is, saying something like, "Nine states have legalized gay marriage, while 41 have not," implies something totally different that, "Nine states have marriage equality laws, while 41 states have discriminatory marriage policies."

By all means, I'm thrilled at the steps being taken as a State, and indeed, when I think about the possibilities for progress embedded in much of my generation, I cast my usual political-pessimism aside and have a lot of hope for the coming years, and even decades. But there's still a lot of work that needs to be done both in the United States (It's very likely the Supreme Court will be considering the Defense of Marriage Act, or something similar soon), and abroad (with the most prominent being the anti-homosexuality bill that may be passing in Uganda, which will likely include a death penalty).

Today though, celebrate, Washington!
As for me... well I need more coffee.

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