Celebrating 10 Years of the Rights Associated with Marriage

The Third Way thinks it learned something worthwhile by offering a bunch of apparently straight people who have full civil rights a chance to judge the motivations of those who don’t.

At Third Way, for example, we went beyond traditional polling and conducted a series of innovative and intensive one-on-one interviews — akin to the sort of market research tool used by the Fortune 500. Those interviews proved revelatory and have profound implications for extending marriage to lesbian and gay couples.

We started with a simple question: “What does marriage mean to you?” People spoke of the kinds of things you hear in a wedding ceremony: lifetime commitment, responsibility and fidelity. They called marriage “a big step” and “the most important decision of one’s life.” Nobody talked about legal rights or taxes.

Then we asked them why gay people might want to get married. The overwhelming answer? “I don’t know.” But when we probed deeper, we found that they did have some idea — they had heard the messages from LGBT advocates. They would talk about how gay couples want rights, benefits, equality and fairness. Not surprisingly, that led them to the idea of civil unions, because they told us that if you want legal rights, you should have a legal contract. But that (in their minds) had nothing to do with marriage.

To them, all the talk about rights indicated that gay couples “just don’t get it” — that they couldn’t really understand the true purpose of marriage.

Of course, the problem with their little project is that most people with full civil rights have a difficult time seeing the benefit of those rights because they’ve never had to think about doing without them. The Third Way’s little project would have far more validity if they actually talked to people who had married for the rights it grants couples.

Like me.

You see, described at a very crass level, Mr. EW and I have a Green Card marriage.

That’s not how we thought of it. Rather, after having lived together for about a year or so, we were facing career choices that might have forced one of us to move to a remote city. We knew we wanted to stay together as we embarked upon the career changes we were considering. But we also recognized that that would be far easier to do if we were married, not least because Mr. EW’s visa was at that time tied to his job (and, of course, also because if we moved we could share health benefits). So on a Thursday, we decided to do it. And the following Monday, we got married. Our reception was a night with friends and our brothers at the local Irish pub.

(The picture above isn’t actually from the wedding; it’s from the celebration we had in Sedona the following year. The best picture of from the wedding day–of Mr. EW carrying me over the threshold of the Irish pub–is in some box somewhere.)

And that Monday–the day we swore our lifetime commitment before a judge for the legal benefits such an oath would give us–was 10 years ago today.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There has been plenty of that stuff that straight people who don’t have to think about these rights cite when they think about marriage: commitment, responsibility, fidelity, the whole in sickness and in health bit. And we’ve been pretty schmaltzy in recent days as we think about how great the last decade has been together. But we are also aware–acutely so, when we see friends who for no rational reason aren’t granted the same rights we have enjoyed–how much easier those rights have made it for us to sustain our commitment to each other.

So while it’s very easy for the Third Way to congratulate itself that it got a bunch of people “from Middle America” to complain that gay men and women deprived of civil rights “don’t get it,” it’s a fundamentally dishonest project. The people who “don’t get it” are those who pretend they can separate the institution of marriage from society’s full recognition of that institution, legally, through the rights it conveys.

  1. tejanarusa says:


    And congratulations on making it ten years when so many who think they are marrying for the “right reasons” (and spending a fortune on the party) can’t manage it.

    I remember a few years into my first marriage trying to explain to some unmarried folks how marriage changed things, even when you are determined to ignore at least some of the traditions. It’s so intangible, it was very hard to get across.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, in the Third Way article some of the bigots are actually pointing to how much $$ and money they spent planning the wedding.

      I know it’s not for everyone but I HIGHLY recommend separating the whole legal marriage thing from the celebration.It also seems to separate the stress from the actual joining of two families, which is so important. And I think it also makes it easier for the couple to plan the day(s) they want, rather than be beholden to some sense of what is proper. Plus, we were able to do it reasonably cheaply even in two go-arounds.

  2. Kelly Canfield says:

    Congrats! Christopher and I have turned the corner into 11 years, and boy did it seem to pass very quickly.

    ..it’s a fundamentally dishonest project.

    And as someone trying to obtain equal rights in this matter, may I add that it is beyond offensive too.

  3. dakine01 says:

    The people who “don’t get it” are those who pretend they can separate the institution of marriage from society’s full recognition of that institution, legally, through the rights it conveys.

    Yep. The marriage as social contract versus the marriage as state sanctioned/licensed endeavor.

    • greenharper says:

      France, of course, does separate civil from religious marriage. Civil comes first – in the town hall. This can be pretty elegant, depending on the town. That’s the only marriage that concerns the civil authorities.

      Religious marriage comes second, if at all. It’s up to the couple.

      In the States, divorce or dissolution is a matter for the civil authorities only. There may or may not be a separate religious proceeding, e.g., in the Roman Catholic Church, a canon law annulment of the marriage.

      Sure, this means that there never was a marriage as far as the Church is concerned. But every canon law annulment of which I’ve ever heard followed a civil divorce or dissolution.

      So, in a sense, we’re half way there.

      To me, what’s logical is to separate state and church. Civil marriages for everyone. Religious marriage ceremonies in addition for those who wish.

      Corollary: States would no longer authorize pastors, priests, etc., to perform state-recognized marriages in virtue of their religious status.

      Seems logical to me.

      • mzchief says:

        To me, what’s logical is to separate state and church. Civil marriages for everyone. Religious marriage ceremonies in addition for those who wish.

        Corollary: States would no longer authorize pastors, priests, etc., to perform state-recognized marriages in virtue of their religious status.

        States have certainly gotten themselves in legal trouble discriminating among religious groups by recognizing some and not others. Similarly the states have had legal troubles from recognizing some religious representatives to perform state-recognized marriages and not others. It’s time for the US to walk its talk regarding the separation of state from church. Your two-prong approach is a great solution.

        • spanishinquisition says:

          Yes, it’s a matter of a legal contract between consenting adults, which it shouldn’t be anybody’s business who adults contract with.

          • mzchief says:

            The states compose the vast bulk of the U.S. land mass; the two other areas considered integral parts of the country are the District of Columbia, the federal district where the capital, Washington, is located; and Palmyra Atoll, an uninhabited but incorporated territory in the Pacific Ocean. The United States also possesses five major overseas territories: Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands in the Caribbean; and American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific. Those born in the major territories (except for American Samoa) possess U.S. citizenship. American citizens residing in the territories have many of the same rights and responsibilities as citizens residing in the states; however, they are generally exempt from federal income tax, may not vote for president, and have only nonvoting representation in the U.S. Congress.[48]

            I’ve previously read the above and thought that no one should be left out from full citizenship with all the rights, responsibilities and representation. This should the Commonwealths and what Mr. Spooner said!

  4. scribe says:

    Happy anniversary, you crazy kids. Crossin’ the threshold at an Irish pub is tres cool.

    Seriously, though, I for one am quite sick and tired of Third Way types, in just about any context. They lack intellectual honesty, not as a matter of mistake or error but rather as a foundational principle. Their only utility is to point out… well, whatever suits their moneyed masters.

    The point is, and has long been, that there are two contracts involved in a marriage: the legal and financial bundle of benefits and obligations that society has decided go with marriage, and the religio-social stuff. Either bundle could exist without the other, and neither depends on the other. The wrongness of the religio-ideological clowns ganging up to deny another group access to both merely because the religio-ideological clowns don’t like them is neither just, nor American. Let’s hope it’s about done with.

  5. phred says:

    Happy Anniversary EW!

    The Mr. and I met 19 years ago today : )

    Marriage is the best thing ever, which is why it ticks me off so much that ignorant bigots deny it from our gay and lesbian fellow citizens.

    And by the way, someone should also mention that the Third Way’s tactics are highly manipulative and misleading. How one asks a question (especially for survey purposes) can strongly influence the answer, skewing the results. Their “probing deeper” rubbish sounds like an exercise in getting to their predetermined outcome. It’s entirely dishonest.

  6. NoniMausa says:

    I wrote a little editorial a few years ago that said if “marriage” was simply about children, then no couple should be allowed to actually marry until one of them was, at the very least, pregnant. Everybody else could have civil unions. I got some pretty annoyed mail on that one.

  7. Petrocelli says:

    Happy Anniversary Mrs. & Mr. EW !

    Kelly, the ignorance is waning … victory is fast approaching. We Canucks are mystified as to why it’s taking your Pols this long to jump into the 21st Century.

  8. klynn says:

    Enjoy the many “best” days…past, present and future…and smile contentment from within.

    An Irish Blessing…

    May your neighbors respect you
    May trouble neglect you
    May the angels protect you
    And may heaven accept you

  9. mzchief says:

    Wow– all of this is amazing. I’ve noticed that schmaltz is not only “normal” on such a high water mark but is quite in order. Happy, happy anniversary and may you have many more like this!

    Terra” by Luar Na Lubre (in Galician)

  10. orionATL says:

    happy anniversary to ms and mr ew.

    a good marriage is a source of joy and of strength to each partner –

    that is a profound truth, but also a commonplace.


    a good marriage is also a source of strength and confidence to the wider family.

    it helps knit the family together with stronger bonds; it helps heal rifts; it helps in times of stress thru loss of various kinds.

    in short, good marriages in number help establish strong families in the wider sense of “family”.

    our owb wider family includes opposite sex and same sex strong unions, all of whom have helped thatn wider family thrive, and occassionally, survive.

    why should not all loving couples be permitted the social benefaction of “married” if they so choose?

    they all in my experience, each couple, contribute to the family,


    they ALL contribute to raising the children and supporting them into adulthood.

    is there a more important job for for “the family”?

    obviously, no.

  11. orionATL says:

    of the delightful photo of a very young couple,
    which i first viewed some hours ago,

    i have this to say:

    my instant thought, which has not changed in the intervening time,

    was of oberon and titania

    (and mendlesohn).

    much future happiness!!

  12. BeachPopulist says:

    Others here have done quite a good job of attacking this bullshit effort by Third Way so I’ll just be content to ask:

    Isn’t that possibly the worst wedding picture ever? Straight, gay, or alien from another planet, that picture would have to make you stop and think, “Is this what I really wanna do?”

      • eCAHNomics says:

        Thankee very much.

        I like BBQs. Which is why the best wedding party I’ve ever attended was 10/10/10 in tents. (Lesbian couple who had been legally married in MA earlier, but had a gigantic party on their property later.) Although it was catered, and therefore more formal than is my top pref, it was really a good time.

  13. Twain says:

    I like Mr. EW’s looks. Think he’s probably a keeper. May you have many years of laughs and happiness.

  14. Sharkbabe says:

    what a charming photograph and personal account, ew.

    i’ve always been a serial monogamist, with much excellence and only a couple (short-lived) clunkers. after the awesome older jewish gal and then the younger cop, i retreated to a tiny house with a cat and white wine and my govt job and myself, little suspecting that Patricia, the plus ultra, was in my future. anyway they’re battling gay marriage in MD but we just signed a bunch of domestic-partner stuff with lawyers so if i get hit by a bus tomorrow (please god please, i’m SOsick of existence lol, we joke about it a lot), she and not my vulture siblings is in control of my tiny monetary legacy.

    • Kelly Canfield says:

      Christopher and I have a similar set-up. His sibs are great; mine not so much.

      It’s amazing the expense and amount of paperwork one has to do to achieve unequality.

      The taxation rate still remains fucked up as well as survivorship on SocSec, so it’s very limited what we can do. But we’ve done it.

  15. demi says:

    My husband and I have actually considered getting a divorce (on paper only) in order to put the house in my youngest son’s name so that if something happens to the mister, his ex and her brats wouldn’t take me to the cleaners.

    • tejanarusa says:

      demi, honey – (just popping back in) – you two do have wills, right? A will done right can prevent anything like that happening, really.

      One of you dying without a will, now, terrible things are likely to happen.

      (sorry, old lawyers sometimes can’t let something pass…)Shutting up now.

      • mzchief says:

        I’ve seen some nasty stuff happen to straight and not, and, married and not regardless of how folks were prepared or what the law says. I think many jurisdictions have a crooked-ness problem like Roger Schuler (Legal Schnauzer) has been hammering regarding Alabama. { shudder }

        I think a systematic approach is in order to id’ing and shaming such jurisdictions and those officers of the court bought off within them (or anyone else) playing crooked games with other people’s lives like that.

        Further, single people should be equally valued in this society inside of left out to dry. At some place and some time everyone is single.

        • BeachPopulist says:

          That’s gonna take some doing — the picture, that is. I’m single, not much of a camera guy, and I’m not very techno-savvy (scanning and such) so it’s not like I’ve got a bunch of pictures laying around that I could upload. (Have never used Flickr or PhotoBucket or anything like that, so even if I had a photo I would have to study the instructions.)

          In fact, I was thinking the other day that maybe I should have a picture taken so that the executor of my (modest) estate will have something to send in with the obit.

          I can say this, though: mocking would be easy. My driver’s license photo is best described as my “America’s Most Wanted” photo. My passport photo? They get the drug sniffing dogs. A friend of mine told me, “Don’t ever go hiking and get lost, because if they use your driver’s license photo on the news story, no one will volunteer to search for you out of fear they might find you.”

          Handsome, I ain’t. (Was in my youth, but that’s long gone.)

  16. homeroid says:

    15+ years Mrs Oid and i have been together. Breaking on the 60’s we know we have to draw up a legal way for each other to over see each other when the inevitable happens. But fuck no we aint gettin married.

  17. tuezday says:

    A marriage, at its core, is an economic union pure and simple. And everyone should be able to take advantage of that.

    The advantage straight people have is that even with different last names, your true “union” is rarely questioned.

    Congrats EW on your anniversary.

    • homeroid says:

      Exactly. We have found that the advantage has been that we are separate legally. For some joining could be a boon. We can do more being separate.

  18. nahant says:

    Happy Tenth Anniversary EW ☺ Hope you guys have many many more years of a loving relationship.
    If only the rest of the population would just STFU and allow anyone to marry who they love and enjoy those same benefits as heterosexual couples enjoy..!!

  19. Margaret says:

    Well I thought it was a very nice picture, even before I knew who it was, (course that’s easy for me to say). I must say EW, that blue, (is it periwinkle?), is definitely one of your colors.

  20. tammanytiger says:

    What galls me about Third Way is that this bunch of hacks is now the most influential think tank in the Democratic Party. Is it any wonder that the Democrats have become an obstacle to progress?

    • PJEvans says:

      I refuse to recognize the ‘Third Way’ idjits as Democrats. They want republican policies, that makes them Republicans to me.

  21. Cellar47 says:

    My lover and I have been together for 38 years. We’ve seen more straight marriages come and go than waves lapping the seashore. That’s why they don’t want to give us the right to marry. They know we do it better.