My name is Lindsey Doe, and I teach human sexuality at a university. Some years ago, a brilliant and driven man asked to be a preceptor for the class. I accepted his offer and gave him some lectures to lead. One such lecture was on the interplay between sexuality and law. He created a very simple and informative PowerPoint from an anthropological perspective, and in it, he shared the following information:
One, that marriage is a “cultural and/or legal kinship contract in which intimate relationships are recognized.”
Two, that an anthropological definition “does not include the notions of sex, romance, gender, or number.”
Three, that marriage “exists in all cultures at present.”
And finally, that “Anthropologists find that the restriction of marriage for specific group(s) of citizen is an effective (and common) way of disenfranchising said groups.”
I had been trained in human sexuality, and even a bit in relationships, but I couldn’t remember learning about marriage in this way. Suddenly, instead of viewing marriage as a religious institution with its own right to decide membership, I understood that marriage is a cross-cultural, systematic phenomenon in which the relationship between individuals is recognized, appreciated, and blessed by the people of their community.
In that moment, I felt like I had been enlightened. Marriage could be – and it is – universally-implemented, like parenthood, like the right to work, and the right to ownership over one’s own body.
Lindsey, Lindsey, I thought, marriage doesn’t have to be about what people want or feel entitled to. It doesn’t have to be about taxes. Or church or state. Or “Why do people care so much to be recognized in this one particular way?” IT WAS ABOUT ACCESS TO HUMAN AND CULTURAL BELONGING. RIGHTS!
My culture values love. It values love between people regardless of their genitals, beliefs, status, hairstyles, even intentions. It values personal choice, and consent, and self-expression. Legalizing same-sex marriage isn’t about changing the culture; it is about changing the law to be congruent with the culture.
Today we are more congruent.