Take the Oath: A Critic of Marriage Gets Teary

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Take the Oath: A Critic of Marriage Gets Teary

It’s inevitable. I’m thinking about marriage.

Not only because of what’s been happening down in Washington, where the Supreme Court’s been hearing arguments on two marriage-related cases. I’m thinking about marriage from up closer.

A month ago, a couple close to my partner and me asked us to serve as witnesses to their marriage down at City Hall in Manhattan. The news came as a surprise. By any possible definition, our friends are radical lesbian feminists, public critics of marriage. We all are. Our two long-term relationships add up to almost fifty years of partnering with no marriage in sight, until now. With just a few hours to think and many questions unasked, we headed down to City Hall with love on our minds, a taxi cab full of contradictions.

Not sure what else to do, I brought a bucket of roses.

Two hours later, there we were at the Manhattan marriage bureau, waiting for the cheeriest public worker I’ve ever seen, James Mitchell, to conduct the ceremony,

Waiting outside the chapel, we took lots of pictures and handed out roses. Our friends, it turns out, thought the red and white buds were just too cheesy to hold, so mostly we gave them away, to the clerks, the cops, the guards, the clean up crews, to the other couples. By the time Clerk Mitchell showed up to officiate, he had a rose of his own, as did just about every one else walking around the marriage bureau.

Mitchell began: “Do you take… to be your spouse?”

Even as my mind chewed over my usual critique, my eyes teared up. Mind is thinking: “marriage is a patriarchal plot, a way to replicate the capitalist status quo, an institution deeply rooted in creepy conservative values and an obsession with control and property…” But my eyes are becoming teary.

Two minutes later, it was over. Our friends “took” one another. They said “I do.” We handed over the rings. They kissed. We witnessed. We all stood there, happy, bemused and misty. Ever since, I’ve been thinking, what is it exactly that’s so moving about a marriage?

Just for the record, I’m for equality of marriage and everything else. Rights are rights and equal protection is in the Constitution, right there in the Fourteenth Amendment. I’m for everyone having free and equal choices and chances and