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Monday, April 26, 2004

Boycott marriage?

An intriguing juxtaposition in yesterday's papers: The Boston Globe profiles Unitarian Universalist minister Vic Carpenter, who has decided not to perform any weddings, gay or straight, until the law gives the same rights to gay and straight couples. It's a fine article — and it's almost impossible not to like and admire Vic — but what kind of boycott is it if a minister who "usually performs about 10 to 15 marriage ceremonies a year" decides not to perform any between now and, oh, May 20? That's a boycott that won't even dent his yearly average.

To my knowledge, of the 30-some-odd Unitarian Universalist ministers whose consciences have led them to refuse to sign marriage licenses until same-sex couples can legally marry, only two live in places that are not poised to begin legal recognition of same-sex marriage. (Update 4.27.04: Please also see my followup post.)

Meanwhile, the New York Times Magazine's Ethicist takes up a related question:

My partner and I have discussed marriage — one of us wants to marry; the other has issues with the institution, specifically the fight over homosexual marriage (we are heterosexual). We believe that gays and lesbians should have the same rights as heterosexuals. Why should we be privileged with the rights and protections of marriage when others are being denied?

Is it ethical for us to walk down the aisle? C.K. and D.C., New York

I share your opinion of the marriage laws but not your conclusion that you must defer your wedding until utopia arrives. Many who sincerely denounce the inequities of our society inevitably profit from them. If you're a man who works at a job where the lack of flex time or on-site day care disadvantages women who do the bulk of child care, you benefit from sexism. If you're a middle-class white person who attended a decent high school and then applied to college, you had a huge advantage over a poor kid or an African-American from an inferior high school. It is impossible to lead an immaculate life in an imperfect world. The task is not merely to insulate yourself from being a beneficiary of injustice — even if that were possible — but to combat injustice.

Were there an organized boycott of marriage as a way to reform the law, you should observe it. But without that, I see no point in your becoming refuseniks. Doing so would not influence the marriage laws. You would do better to lobby your state and federal representatives and contribute money to freedomtomarry.org or similar organizations. You should seek ways to bring about change, not just to make self-comforting gestures.

There are many reasons not to get liquored up in Vegas and marry Britney Spears, or not to marry at all, but yours isn't one of them.

("Speaking in codes," Randy Cohen, New York Times Magazine 4.25.04, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 26 April 2004 at 5:30 PM

Previous: After May 17, litigation.
Next: Unitarian Universalists run for TV President.

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2 comments:

Maya:

April 26, 2004 09:34 PM | Permalink for this comment

I'm pretty sure that one of my pastors is part of the marriage boycott, and to my knowledge, DC has no plans to recognize same-sex marriages. And probably won't for a long time--I suspect Congress would have to OK it for the District, and that'll never happen.

Phil on the Prairie:

April 27, 2004 05:35 PM | Permalink for this comment

I'm about to get married myself, and my fiancée and I did talk about the injustice of the situation (our favorite couple to hang out with can't legally marry, which tempers our joy a bit). We're going ahead with an official ceremony recognized by the state, however, acknowledging that at this point it is a privilege our friends don't have. I like the idea of contributing to a freedom to marry fund.



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