Monday, June 27, 2011


I’d prefer for this issue just to go away, quietly. I’d prefer for me just to ignore it. But nearly everybody around me seems to be obsessing about it. Since, imho, they are all missing the mark by a pretty wide margin, I am impelled to shoot my arrow into the maw.

One of the important experiences in my past was a long-drawn-out negotiation of divorce and property settlement with a former wife, and her attorney, and my attorney. There really was not all that much to fight over and most of what there was the ownership was pretty clear. The main problem, as I see it from retrospect, was that the woman had an unholy desire to hurt and take advantage of me in any way that she possibly could find. This was coupled with an education and career in the twists and turns of the written English language. Bluntly, she employed every subterfuge and device that she could imagine. Actually, I suspect that she borrowed most of them from the real estate and mortgage industry of this great country. The long and the short of it was that we struggled for over two years, it became the major concentration of my time and energy and affected every part of my life. Even the lawyers, on both sides, got tired of it. At the end, she ended up having to pay me over twice what I had originally asked for, in return for the property of mine that she held back for herself.

Another set of experiences also has a strong impact on my point of view. During a period in my life when I was single and moderately wealthy, I had opportunities to idyll and play for weeks at a time under the roves and mingling with people in a very different and foreign culture, that of modern Ethiopia. I ate, drank, danced, partied, prayed and slept with natives. Previously I had had some vague suspicion that the prevailing attitudes, standards, laws, and mores of my own culture, having to do with sexuality, might be a bit twisted and perverted. The profound experience of being able to look back at it from the outside, has taught me a great deal that few around me can see.

Just for example, I remember a particular discussion I had with an older Ethiopian gentleman about the drug Viagra. I can still see and hear his belly-laugh at the americans who believe that such a drug could be beneficial or pleasant or helpful.

For the longest time on my bulletin board I had posted a quote from Bishop Desmond Tuttu descrying the ruckus about priestly pedophilia, in a world where problems of persisting violent struggles, starvation and disease plague large populations. Only in America, where anything sexual is perfectly permissible in public so long as it is used to sell something, but highly improper for pleasure, could such a brouhaha arise.

Where am I going here? The issue of the day, at least in the newspapers and the discussions at my church, is “gay marriage”. Maybe the tv too, I wouldn’t know. Is it right or wrong. I can envisage some pretty thorny legal situations arising. A same-sex couple can marry in one state, then move to another where their marriage is no longer accepted. Or a hetero couple can marry, then one of the members submit to medical science’s wizardy and physically and legally change their sex, in a state where even cohabitation in certain venus may be punishable by law. The variety and kind of ridiculous fabricated conflicts that could arise, boggle the mind.

We base our culture and our laws, to a high degree, on the writings of a misogynist from almost two thousand years ago, who spent all his time with other men, never married and barely tolerating others who did. He did, in fact, devote considerable discourse and energy on the subject of whether or not a grown man must have his penis mutilated in order to gain admittance, upon death and leaving his body, of the most hallowed permanent vacation place. It escapes me why his opinions are considered to be paramount, especially on this subject.

So the reason I am bothered enough to write is this: hearing and reading all the discourse, debate, and acrimony, on both sides of the aisle, I have yet to read or hear one person correctly identify, even mention, the root of the difficulty, the true foundation of the problem.
As usual, it is money. Not sex or morality at all, but lucre.

To go back to that failed marriage, I recall after that experience being truly regretful that no one in this culture will ever tell young people in consideration of matrimony, the nasty truth of what marriage (ANY marriage) really is about here in this land. It doesn’t matter if you pretend to do it in a church or synagogue or mosque or Las Vegas chapel, or just the office of the justice of the peace, or maybe even out in the woods. Before you can do it you have to get a license, that should be a clue. The plain fact is that making a marriage is an act of creating a contract. Most importantly, it is a three-way contract, between two individuals and the state. No one is told, in advance, that there is simply reams and reams of fine print which is written upon that contract and which both individuals must accept and adhere to. Obviously even fewer people ever actually READ the fine print. Not until one or the other actually finds themselves in a lawyer’s office discussing the opportunities of divorce, do they begin to understand the breadth and depth of all of that verbiage.

When you marry, it changes your financial status in all kinds of ways. It immediately changes your withholding and tax status. It affects your last will and testament, whether duly recorded or simply assumed. It affects all the contracts you have with insurance companies, health, automobile, hazard, whatever. Amounts of money that you pay to these various entities will change, immediately. Money, money, money. In most of these situations, you will find that you will benefit, financially (at least, until you show up in divorce court!)

People cannot rationally discuss whether or not gay marriages should be legal until they recognize and accept that society grants substantial financial advantages to couples who sign this marriage contract and agree to all of its terms.

The simple way (KISS) out of all this morass is to change all of the laws and regulations to be transparent to marriage. Make it a religious and only religious institution, which has no effect legally, has no affect on anybody's wallet. Then, all this nonsense about same-sex marriages would fade like the fog on a September morning. Ain’t gonna happen, is it. People just have to make drama, don’t they. Sigh ….

1 comment:

Rev. Don said...

Latent sanity:
I agree that money is the underlying bete noir of the same sex marriage debate. Its a brilliant analysis. I would add one more caveat and it is a linguistic one. There should be a distinction between marriage and matrimony though I know that we use the words as synonyms. Marriage is what those of us in the church are resisting. The agreement between the couple and the state that you have so eloquently detailed is matrimonial, and maybe your pastor (wink wink) wouldn't have as much trouble with that.