2 min

Mad vow disease

Be careful who you invite into your bedroom

The government was kind enough to mail to me my package of tax forms. That’s when it really hit home. Revenue Canada has decided that I am no longer an individual, the master of my own affairs. My boyfriend and I are now common-law partners.

Cohabiting same-sex partners have the option of declaring themselves common-law couples for the past tax year. And from this year forward, it’s mandatory.

How presumptuous! The government has decided an awful lot about our relationship.

Like most other gay couples I know, we have used our lawless status to make up our own rules about our relationship. But no more. We now have imposed on us a modern bastardization of ancient heterosexual marriage – a device designed at first to subjugate and later to protect women and children, neither of which are present in our household, except as guests at smashing dinner parties.

We’ve decided to put our own legal contract together, to maintain a relationship on our own terms. I urge all gay and lesbian couples to do the same without delay. Not that we can be sure such a contract will stand up against common law. Where married couples are concerned, recent court decisions have been absolutely Catholic in upholding the permanence and inviolability of marriage. Couples are finding their own divorce agreements cast aside, and obligations of marriage re-imposed years after their break-ups.

At least marriage is entered into by choice. You might say these couples are asking for it. They generally stand before a roomful of witnesses, declaring that they will support their mate at least until death, and perhaps into the afterlife.

I’m surprised divorcing couples don’t plead temporary insanity at the time of their wedding. Love has often been compared to madness, and who but a complete loony toon would, at 25, vow publicly that they’ll still be supporting someone 50 years hence, even if the two haven’t seen or spoken to each other in decades? Yes, it’s mad vow disease. Surely those unspeakably garish bridesmaids outfits could be offered as evidence.

The courts, however, have decided that marriage vows trump the sober decisions of divorce. Apparently, what you both agree to when you marry is final, although what you both agree to at divorce is not.

Craziest of all, gay people now want to marry. After decades of fighting to keep the state out of our bedrooms, some of us are inviting it back in. What began as a charming public relations campaign is threatening to become an expensive and exhausting court battle.

Why? Because straight couples can marry, and we won’t be equal until we can do whatever they can do. Well, as mother would say, if straight people were jumping off cliffs, would you fling your queer carcass off the precipice too?

As individuals, those who want to marry should be aware of the increasingly burdensome and downright bizarre conditions of marriage. As a community, we should all be asking ourselves why we want to extend the province of laws which entrench the primacy of coupledom via restrictive regulations.

Please let’s be careful what we wish for – and very, very careful what we fight for.


David Walberg will be participating in a panel discussion about marriage as part of the National Lesbian And Gay Journalists’ Association annual conference. Free. 8pm. Sat, Jun 2. Member’s Lounge. Toronto City Hall.

David Walberg is Publisher for Xtra.