With Labour Day here, the season of white shoes and weddings is officially over. Once again I took a pass on the former and was lucky enough to attend one of the latter. Dressing up, eating, drinking and dancing, all in celebration of love… what could be finer?
It is not so very long ago that debate raged in this country as to what same-sex marriage would do to the venerable institution of wedded bliss. They couldn’t allow us to marry, the conservatives crowed. It would destroy marriage itself! And yet now, four years later, it seems that nothing could be further from the truth.
While we’ve had gay marriage in some parts of this county since 2003, it wasn’t until July 2005 that federal Bill C-38 passed into law, making us the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage (darn! out of the medals once again!). Since then gay weddings have become so mainstream that an entire niche industry has sprung up devoted to planning and providing them. Gay weddings have become the topic of reality shows (you know you’re passé when….). Gay wedding announcement appear in daily newspapers. Why, the institution of same-sex marriage is so old hat, so very mundane and normal, that even Statistics Canada tracks it.
It seems conservative fears were entirely unfounded. Rather than undermining the age-old institution, gay marriage has supported it. And I admit I’m as surprised as Stephen Harper.
Considering how iconoclastic our community has always been, it is remarkable that gay marriage looks and feels pretty much exactly like straight marriage. Occasionally a couple will decide to “do it their way” and throw in a few variations that invariably titillate the assembled guests (“They walked themselves down the aisle! Their dresses weren’t white! There was no wedding cake, only mousse!”). Novel? Perhaps. But really, these are small deviations. Or put another way, is this the best we deviants can do?
I don’t want to rain on anyone’s heart-felt ritual here. I’ve always loved the diversity of our community and have no desire to police queer behaviour, be it public BDSM, or public “Till death do us part”. It’s important that we all can express queer in our own ways. Very dear friends have chosen marriage, and I have been honoured to witness their vows. I know that when they choose marriage, it was in part for the tradition, for the legacy of public promising that was enacted by our parents and grandparents and so on….
But I will never forget a comment made by an ex-lover one morning, as we were reading a newspaper article about high-end gift registries favoured by tony gay couples. “What if,” she wondered out loud, “Instead of registries and parties and flights and outfits, we declared our commitments by donating the same amount to AIDS research. And once AIDS was cured and everyone was treated, we moved on to malaria. And so on. Our love could change the world.” Good point.
New York City’s comptroller has estimated that state economy would increase by $210 million per year if gay marriage was legalized. Recession? What recession? Let those Americans marry! And that is just one corner of the world. Gay marriage is big business and big money. It seems like a lack of imagination that we are choosing to spend those gay dollars just like everyone else.
And more than that — more than the money involved and the economic impact of our actions — I’m surprised we haven’t invented new models for the declaration of love. Us, who have loved so hard and creatively and against so many odds! When it comes to the profound territory of our deepest, most heart-felt emotions and the hopes we wrap them in, we choose “I do” as opposed to the many, many words and ways that might just say it better; the many, many words and ways that might just say it more truly for who we are.