I have lived happily in a state of unlicensed love with a same-sex partner for more than 28 years. We were both born in this country, so we didn’t need marriage to ensure our rights to live and work here and obtain health insurance. When we reached middle age and realized we needed to give some thought to long-term planning, we could afford to hire an attorney to draw up wills to give our relationship protections similar to those enjoyed (for free) by married couples.
We haven’t needed marriage, and in many ways we didn’t want it. You might say we hated marriage before hating marriage was cool, though we are not really the hating types. As feminists we tend to view marriage skeptically, as an institution that oppresses women and shores up the social and economic powers of patriarchy and heterosexuality. We are proud of having built a secure, loving and mutually supportive relationship. Years before queer critics of marriage railed against the unfairness of forcing couples to marry in order to prove their worth or secure a set of rights and benefits, my partner and I were happy to sing along with Joni Mitchell: “We don’t need no piece of paper/From the city hall/Keeping us tied and true.”
I am a Terp against marriage — as much as I respect particular marriages and anyone’s desire to be married — but I am also a Terp who is emphatically for marriage equality.
Marriage equality is a matter of civil rights, plain and simple, and as such I am committed to fighting for it without a shred of doubt or ambivalence. If the state is going to be in the business of licensing relationships, then it cannot discriminate against same-sex couples that want to be civilly married. I may not want to be married, but that is my business and my decision. Legally, however, I should have the same right other citizens have to marry whomever I choose.
In a few weeks, Maryland voters will be called upon to uphold or reject the Civil Marriage Protection Act. If the law is upheld by an affirmative vote on Question 6, Maryland would be the first state in the nation to approve the right to same-sex marriage through a popular vote.
My hope is that voters in the state I call home will vote out of love rather than fear and in support of justice rather than injustice. We need to work hard in the coming weeks to educate voters on the issue and to mobilize them to vote in support of it.
This Thursday, Oct. 11, is National Coming Out Day, a day when we celebrate being open about and inclusive of sex and gender diversity. There are two Question 6 events being held on campus that day: a panel discussion with four of Maryland’s openly gay legislators who helped to pass the Civil Marriage Protection Act in the general assembly and a rally with Sen. Ben Cardin and other leaders in support of marriage equality.
I am not asking you to approve of me. And I’m not saying marriage will be good for LGBT people or that LGBT people will be good for marriage. All I am saying is that no group of people should be denied equality before the law. If you agree with me on that single, enormously consequential point, please vote yes on Question 6. I hope you will support the cause of equality regardless of how you feel about marriage or homosexuality.
Marilee Lindemann is an associate professor of English and director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.