Cheers from queers and their allies were heard around the world last week when American President Barack Obama publicly declared his support (albeit limited) for same-sex marriage.
In the media circus that followed, one man, Tony Perkins, led the charge against Obama’s “evolved” views. (Perhaps because he himself does not believe in evolution.)
Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, an ordained hate group in the US that actively promotes bigotry in the name of Jesus Christ. Though I usually scoff at the hateful words spewing from Perkins’s mouth, something he said the other day gave me reason for pause.
When asked by Wolf Blitzer on CNN if he thought gay people should be allowed to be on their partner’s health insurance policy, Perkins replied, “If [that benefit is] available to all couples who want to do it… [for example] if a brother and sister are living together and they want to be able to be on one another’s insurance, that’s fine.”
What’s interesting is that Perkins, without intending to, highlighted the quandary of people in all sorts of relationships not visible in today’s society. It seems that in our quest for rights, we queers have forgotten to include other equally deserving parties.
If I can build on what Perkins said, just why shouldn’t people who live together, who support each other every day, and who are similar in most ways to the married couple across the street, be afforded the same rights and benefits as their neighbours?
I’m talking about the single mom who lives with her parents to raise a child. I’m talking about two best friends who live together in a non-sexual capacity but support each other in every other way. I’m talking about the polyamorous trio who are in every way just like a married couple—except that their sex life may be more dynamic.
It seems odd to say this, but there is no good reason to disallow people from simply declaring who they want to share their rights with. Hospital visitation rights, joint tax-filing, and shared social security benefits should not be the luxuries of holy matrimony.
If we strip away the rights and benefits that come with marriage and afford them to everyone, then what’s left for marriage? Would the institution wither and die? Of course not. At least surely not at any faster pace than it is already.
At its heart, marriage is not about affording a select group of people certain rights or benefits, nor is it about producing and raising children. Today, at least in the West, marriage is about declaring your undying love for the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. If you don’t have someone to do that with, or simply don’t want to, you shouldn’t be punished for it.
Advocates of equality should enjoy this moment in our history—a moment when the most powerful man in the world affirmed our existence—but we should also take pause to think of those still waiting in the wings.