Friday, July 11, 2008

Why Get Married?

It's not uncommon for us to be asked why we are getting married in North Carolina. From friends and family as well as strangers. I suppose the reasoning goes, why get married if the government doesn't recognize it; if it isn't legal? Sometimes the question is a little more crass - why get married if it doesn't really mean anything?

Most people don't get asked that question. They'll get asked, why are you marrying so-and-so? Or why haven't you two gotten married yet? Or, do you plan on getting married someday? But not, why get married if it's pointless?

As a result, I have had the opportunity over the last five years to think about marriage a lot, which has required that I make explicit what most people intuitively understand about marriage, but never examine or articulate. Despite this silence, there is something about marriage that makes us want to go so far as to amend the Constitution over it.

This is a good opportunity for me to try to explain, for you and for myself, exactly why Emerson and I are spending so much time and energy and money on what a majority of the country sees as nothing but a big party. So.... why are we getting married?

Because marriage is important.

And contrary to what you might hear from the ironically named Focus on the Family, it is not important because of babies. Certainly babies are a key component but when you want to create a family you don't start from scratch, building one up de novo, just like GM doesn't reinvent the wheel every time they design a new car. I already have a family and so does Emerson. The second we get married, though, we have created a new family, not from the mysterious ether of our love, but by joining our previously independent families together.

The family really is the basic building block of society; just look at any of the numerous European interbred monarchies and you can get a glimpse of why uniting two individuals unites whole swathes of people. And that is important because we are fragile organisms. We need other people to survive. If something happens to one of us, we are not living in a vacuum, a happy unit of two charging against the world. I no longer only have the support of my family, but his family as well, which is, of course, no longer my family and his family but our family. And that support is not really optional. Families, unlike knitting clubs and drinking buddies, have a binding responsibility for one another.

That is how I view marriage. Marriage is responsibility. And not just for us to be responsible for each other but for society to be responsible for us.

And the reason that we are getting married, even if it doesn't "mean anything" in North Carolina, is that marriage is not a private matter between two consenting adults who should have the right to do whatever the hell they want. Marriage is a public affair. We certainly don't need a marriage certificate to tell the world that love and care for each other, or that we plan to spend the rest of our lives inseparable. Spend three minutes with us and I think you'll figure it out.

No, we are getting married because we are asking for you to be responsible for our union. And that's an intuitive thing. If your best friend tells you he's breaking up with his girlfriend, you'd be curious and maybe a little concerned but it's his life and it isn't working out. But if he tells you he's thinking of divorcing his wife? He better have a damn good reason. Emerson is not my boyfriend. And we want you to know that.

For the rest of the world, society is ready to jump in and do just that, and that's why we have both civil and religious marriage. But Emerson and I don't have that formalized support. Our community (in the form of the State of North Carolina) won't offer that to us, but that cannot and will not stop us from asking for it. If it can't be from the state then it will be from our own community of family and friends, and before God (and on a goat farm).

We are also not forging a new path, creating something new and different and revolutionary. What we are doing is deeply rooted in tradition and in the human psyche. And as we are asking society to take responsibility for us, we in turn have a responsibility to enter into marriage. Marriage is so vital to human society, so vital to the kingdom of God, that we cannot allow ourselves to be given a free pass from that immense responsibility. The "benefits" we would get from legal marriage are of little importance when you compare them to pleasure and sacrifice and comfort and responsibility of entering fully into the most ancient and sacred of human traditions.

Emerson is not my boyfriend and he is not my partner. But I cannot truly call him my husband until that promise is witnessed. The wedding rites will not be created fresh to fit our particular wants precisely because marriage is not something that we desire; it is a necessity. And it is not within the power of the government to deny us participation in that rite because it transcends the state as it transcends us.

And that is why we are getting married. Well, that and the kick-ass party.


Anonymous said...

Just found your blog! Congratulations to you both. My partner and I are also planning a totally illegal wedding in North Carolina. Glad to hear that we are not alone. I look fwd to reading more of your adventure!

Anonymous said...

Your post on marriage was beautiful and should absolutely be published in a forum that would reach a greater audience. I would say more but I can't write as well as you can :)

words and steel said...

I would love to link to this blog post from my blog- it's beautifully written and lovely. Is that ok?

Michael Bruno said...

Absolutely! I would be honored. Link away!

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you are going to get a lot of this- but I just linked over from and your discription of marriage has me all teary. Well said.

jennifer said...

Lovely. My Fi and I have talked alot about our wedding guests role. Not just as consmers of food and booze, but as participants of this union. Beautifully written!

Cyd said...

I am also finding you via Weddingbee and just linked to this post from both of my blogs. Thank you for this. As I prepare to wed my fiancé next summer, it has long plagued me the governmental views of gay marriage, leaving me to wonder why it is so easy for me to get married and yet impossible for my considerable population of gay friends. Thank you breaking it down in an eloquent and articulate manner to the simplest of terms, the beauty of marriage.


Anonymous said...

This was such a beautiful post-- you managed to say so eloquently what marriage is all about. I wish the two of you much happiness.

sarah said...

..also from

I've been struggling with a way to honor my gay and lesbian friends at our wedding - a way for them to know that I am not altogether comfortable doing something that they "can't" do. It really bothers me that some of the couples I admire the most and are the best role models for us are not recognized by the state. In Oregon we have "registration" now for same sex couples.. I hope that one day SOON my friends will be able to sign the little piece of paper like I am. Your wedding sounds so beautiful and amazing, and organic and fresh! haha I'm sure all that witness it will recognize the sanctity of your commitment - and the state can never take that away from you. ((hugs))

Michael Bruno said...

Thank you, everyone who has commented here lately. It's wonderful to know that other people share our views of the beauty and power of marriage. We both truly appreciate the words of support and encouragement; and from complete strangers! It's wonderful!

Cate Subrosa said...

Thank you. You explained brilliantly something that I knew deep down but had never been able to articulate quite as clearly.

And "that and the kick-ass party"? I love your style :)

perfectly imperfect said...

Wonderful post and well said! Good luck and congratulations!

Unknown said...

I too found your post via Miss Sweet Tea & Weddingbee. I want to thank you for your fantastic words, and let you know that I, too, have linked this post on my blog. What you have said here is exactly how I feel about my upcoming marriage, and yet another reason why marriage is marriage regardless of sex.

In reading this, I thought of a post that Mrs. Lovebug wrote when she was planning her wedding. It is a reading that discusses how the guests at the ceremony are also involved in the marriage of the couple. Here is the link, just in case you are interested...