I don't

I'd love to satisfy my mother and annoy Rick Santorum by getting married to my boyfriend. But I care for him -- and our son -- too much to risk it.

Published November 20, 2003 9:35PM (EST)

"In this case, we are confronted with an entire, sizeable class of parents raising children who have absolutely no access to civil marriage and its protection ... It cannot be rational under our laws, and indeed it is not permitted, to penalize children by depriving them of State benefits because the State disapproves of their parents' sexual orientation."
-- The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

My mom has a rainbow bumper sticker on her car. She's determined to do her part for gay visibility in unincorporated McHenry County, Ill., despite the fact that there aren't any gay people in McHenry County to visualize. My mother almost paid a high price driving a gay-identified car: Last summer she and my stepfather were nearly driven off the road by a couple of men screaming, "Faggots!"

I'm opening with my mom because it's nicer than opening with George W. Bush, who took a break yesterday from trashing the economy, despoiling the environment and smirking at the queen to condemn the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for its ruling on gay marriage. Things are apparently going so well in Iraq that Bush can now turn his attentions to more pressing matters, like doing all he can to make sure my mom never has a chance to cry at my wedding.

And my mom really, really, really wants to cry at my wedding, Mr. President. She talks about it all the time, and she didn't appreciate your remarks on the subject. In fact, she thinks you're an asshole. But you're not the only thing standing between my mom and my wedding, Mr. President. There's also the small matter of my reluctance to get married.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

I was interviewed on a radio news program yesterday about the ruling in Massachusetts, and the first thing the host wanted to know was if I, along with the rest of the gay community (that enduring fiction), "was celebrating today."

Uh, no, I said, I'm not celebrating. While I'm pleased by the ruling in Massachusetts -- it's nicer to be called a citizen than to be called an abomination -- there are several reasons why it's premature to bust out the champagne. First, despite its strongly worded ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court didn't make it legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry each other. Instead, the justices ordered the Massachusetts Legislature to work something out, giving them six long months to posture, stall and demagogue. Gov. Mitt Romney has already promised to lead a drive to amend the Massachusetts Constitution. Also, the ruling has kicked into high gear the efforts of Christian conservatives to write anti-gay bigotry into the U.S. Constitution.

So any celebrations would be premature, I said on the radio. Monday's ruling was a battle won in the struggle for gay equality, not the end of the war.

The next person to grill me about the ruling in Massachusetts was clearly in a celebratory mood -- "Isn't this wonderful! What terrific news!" -- and wanted to know how soon I would be going to Boston to get married.

"Not anytime soon, Mom," I told her, "not anytime soon."

While the Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court seemed to single out gay men like me and my boyfriend in its ruling -- we have a 5-year-old adopted son -- we're not anxious to get hitched, which annoys my mother to no end. I've been with my boyfriend for nearly nine years, and our relationship is about as traditional as same-sex relationships get. I work and my boyfriend is a stay-at-home dad. Thanks to Terry, our son never had to go into day care -- a fact that would please social conservatives greatly if DJ hadn't spent all that time he wasn't in day care hanging around the house with an avowed homosexual. It gets worse: My boyfriend cooks and cleans (He likes it! I'm not oppressing him!); I mow lawns and remove dead, stinking rat carcasses from our crawl space (I hate it! He's oppressing me!). I haven't done my own laundry in the last eight and a half years; he hasn't paid his own Visa bill in the last five and a half years.

My mom looks at our relationship and sees two people who should be married -- if not for our own sakes, then for the sake of her grandchild. Every time a country or a wayward U.S. state legalizes gay marriage or comes close, à la Vermont, my mom pops the question. She would be right there with us in Hawaii, she said. Then it was Holland. Then it was Vermont. Then it was Belgium. Then it was Ontario. Then British Columbia. Then Singapore. And now, Massachusetts.

But we don't want to get married, I tell my mom, over and over again.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

We'll get to the reasons why a "traditional in every way but the cocksucking thing" couple wouldn't want to get married in a moment. First, some random reactions to the news from Massachusetts:

  • I love Barney Frank, but one of his aides needs to tell him not to pick his nose on "Nightline."
  • If NPR is going to invite a smart, articulate, right-wing commentator to weigh in against gay marriage, it needs to get someone with a little more gravitas than Margeret Cho to speak for the pro-gay marriage side.
  • The Family Research Council is asking members of Congress to sign an anti-gay marriage pledge. Maybe Barney can sign it with boogers.
  • Considering how miserable weddings seem to make straight people -- the work, the expense, the seemingly inevitable conflicts with your parents, the 50 percent chance of a divorce -- shouldn't people who don't like gay people want us to get married, just to make us miserable?
  • Gay marriage is declared constitutional in Massachusetts -- kinda, sorta -- the same day that the police in California raid Michael Jackson's ranch. Coincidence?
  • There is something fundamentally schizo about a society that will let two gay men or two lesbians adopt children but won't them get married. I'm glad the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court latched onto this issue, even if it did hand my mom some major ammunition.
  • A wife is legally responsible for any debts that her husband runs up, on the theory, I guess, that she got to enjoy the DVD player and plasma-screen TV he put on his credit card. Unmarried gay couples, however, can't be forced to pay off each other's debts. Is this something we want to give up?
  • This means we're going to be seeing a lot more of Rick Santorum frothing on the news, aren't we?
  • In 1992, Bill Clinton slapped down a minor rap star in order to demonstrate to white Americans that, despite being their favorite candidate, he could stand up to African-Americans. Since the Republicans are going to make gay marriage an issue in the presidential election, and since Dean is vulnerable on the subject, thanks to the civil unions law he signed in Vermont, I hereby invite Dean to pull a "Sister Souljah" on us. My suggestion, Howard: In a speech in San Francisco, slap down all those irresponsible gay men who are spreading HIV, whether through malice or negligence, which would play to your strengths as a doc and get you condemned by most of the gay media. Gay voters don't read the gay media, so you don't need to worry.
  • If we ever do get the right to marry in the United States, gays and lesbians will owe Andrew Sullivan no small measure of thanks. In the New Republic, in his books, on his blog, and recently on the Op-Ed page of the Wall Street Journal, Sullivan has waged war on the anti-gay right and their arguments against gay marriage. He cuts them to ribbons, he's relentless, and he's one of them -- he suffers from a bad case of Bushophilia -- so they can't dismiss him as a commie pinko fag. When a prominent right-wing politician finally pulls a Nixon-in-China on gay marriage, it will be Sullivan's doing, and not the press-release brigade at Human Rights Campaign. And he doesn't pick his nose when he's on "Nightline."

    - - - - - - - - - - - -

    OK, so ... I'm all for gay marriage, but I don't want to get married. What's with that? We're prime candidates -- together for years, one kid at home, the paperwork for kid No. 2 on the dining room table, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court using couples like us to make their case -- so why are we so reluctant to get hitched?

    My boyfriend used to claim he was against getting married because -- and I quote -- "I don't want to act like straight people." He managed to say that with a straight face, believe it or not. My incredulous mother pointed out to my boyfriend that straight people have been having kids a whole hell of a lot longer than they've been getting married. We already act so straight I half expect the "Queer Eye" guys to show up on our doorstep. (In fact, I wish they would -- our kitchen is a design disaster.)

    My excuse is a little better, I think: Has anyone noticed that making a big, public stink about your big, beautiful gay relationship is the KISS OF DEATH? Remember Bob and Rod Jackson-Paris, the "married" gay bodybuilders, with their coffee table "art" books and their cringe-inducing memoir about their big, beautiful gay relationship? Speaking of cringe-inducing, who can forget Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche on "Oprah," blathering on about being each other's "wives" after they'd been together for, what, four days? Or Melisssa Etheridge and Julie Cypher on Larry King going on about David Crosby's sperm? Some more-recent casualties: B.D. Wong wrote about adopting a child and then promptly broke up with his partner after the book tour. Bob Smith closed his comic memoir, "Openly Bob," with the uplifting story of how he finally found love in the arms of Mr. Right. His next book was about their breakup. Chip and Dale, the good-looking guys on "The Amazing Race," who insisted they were married? They broke up. Liza Minnelli and David Gest? That big, beautiful gay relationship is over too.

    I don't want to marry Terry -- the other father of my child -- because I like him too much to risk it. While it's always tempting to please my mother -- we have one of those clichéd gay-son-straight-mom relationships, can you tell? -- and it's likewise tempting to piss off Rick Santorum, I can accomplish both those things without getting married. I don't need to attract attention to our big, beautiful gay relationship by having a jinxy wedding. Shit, just writing this piece seems ill-advised.

    We've discussed getting "Property of Terry Miller" tattooed on my right arm, and "Property of Dan Savage" tattooed on his -- and inviting my mom to watch. "Property of ..." sums up how we feel about each other (it's also kinda sexy), and it sums up what most of us understand marriage to mean. "For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits," the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court wrote. "In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations." In other words, "Property of Dan Savage," "Property of Terry Miller."

    We've already taken on weighty legal obligations: We have powers of attorney, so I'll be the one pulling the plug on Terry, if it ever comes to that; and he's promised to remove the "feeding tube" from my throat, if the need ever arises (and, no, I won't make the obvious joke here about my throat and his feeding tube). We've taken on financial obligations: You should see the size of my boyfriend's freakin' Visa bills -- which, I would like to emphasize again, I pay out of the goodness of my heart, not any legal obligation. And we've met all of our pesky social obligations, from Terry listening to my mother criticize his parenting skills, to me listening to his mother talk about her prizewinning dahlias.

    But we'd like to keep it unofficial, at least for now, if that's all right with my mom and the justices in Massachusetts. I'm all for the right of gay and lesbian couples to get married, but I'm all for the right of gay and lesbian couples not to get married, too.

  • By Dan Savage

    Dan Savage is the author of the widely syndicated sex advice column Savage Love, as well as the editor of The Stranger, Seattle's largest weekly newspaper. His most recent book, "Skipping Toward Gomorrah," is available in paperback.

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