Friday, April 5, 2013

Is marriage for everyone?

No, marriage can't be the final item on the LGBTQ Movement checklist.

Yes, I am interested in getting married someday.

No, I'm not assimilating into heteronormative culture.

Yes, I like the sound of financial and legal benefits that come with marriage.

No, I do not want to marry my dad so he can avoid being taxed when he passes his [nonexistent] estate to me.

I don't know how I can have a favorite coffee shop—or even like coffee—when the bitter, caffeinated liquid just upsets my stomach. But time after time I go back to the little cafĂ© a few blocks down from my apartment for small cup of joe. I sat down this morning at the too-small table with my dripping mug and an icing-less cinnamon roll (the way cinnamon rolls should be). A cute, freshly shaven, cologne-misted, young man joined me at the table, laid down his mug, and asked, "Did you hear what Jeremy Irons said, worrying that gay marriage would allow fathers to marry their sons?" I looked up from my coffee and toward my partner—I'd say boyfriend, but it sounds so juvenile, especially after being with him for three years—and with a blank face asked, "Who?"

"The voice of Scar from The Lion King," he replied. Then I knew. Well, I knew the voice. Okay, maybe I only knew Scar's voice, but that's not the point. My partner then explained to me why Irons had made this statement, fearing it would allow a father and son to marry to avoid certain taxes. I took out my phone immediately and scoured Wikipedia for information on incest laws, trying to learn what exactly they prohibit here in the States.

Like Irons points out in his interview with the Huffington Post, this isn't about incest because incest is about intercourse, not marriage. So, eventually, I found myself deeply reading into consanguinity laws and family codes and came to the unsurprising answer that the laws vary state to state. Some states only prohibit intercourse with relatives (by blood and adoption), and others also prohibit marriage.

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around Irons' sentiments, I think because he, himself, is actually confused, too. You can tell in the video that he doesn't quite know what he's talking about, calling civil unions "civil partnerships," not knowing differences between civil unions and marriages, fearing that claiming the name "marriage" would debase what marriage "means," and finally saying "what it's called doesn't matter at all." Clearly, he's thinking out loud here, and there's a lot to unpack from his thoughts. Yes, some of his ideas are problematic, from fathers marrying sons to fears in what marriage may mean by giving access to same-sex couples. In a society that places so many taboos around incest, I don't think we need to worry about a father and son marrying for a tax break. Most states wouldn't even allow it with their existing marriage laws on consanguinity. And obviously he doesn't understand how "meanings" of marriage have already been changed and debunked over the years, decades, and even centuries.

What needs to be talked about is how unhelpful this sentiment is. This Oscar Award winning actor doesn't need to be thinking out loud with a reporter on a topic he doesn't know much about, especially not during a time when fundamental decisions are being made on same-sex marriage. We do not need to be placing these absurd ideas into opposition brains. It's a shame he said this on HuffPost's live podcast, and I wonder to what extent the Post had editorial control on publishing that piece of the recording. The movement does not need people worrying about members of society taking advantage of marriage laws for tax breaks—not right now, at least. But I think what is more scary is how people may conflict this idea, or same-sex marriage in general, with incest, just as the reporter did, just as I did, and just as many other people probably have too.

I can see myself getting married some day, and I want the full right to do so, with tax benefits and all, right away. The last thing I need for this right to be recognized by the high court is an absurd idea buzzing through news feeds about family members inter-marrying. The movement doesn't have time for that—we need to get on with other LGBTQ issues.

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