December 11, 2003

I Do-Nothings


I don't usually use this space to address social or political issues. Although I'm interested in such subjects personally, I find this website a better place for discussing such earth-shakingly important matters as stationery choices or the cheesiness of most wedding videos.

That being said, an article in the Village Voice caught my eye today. It's about straight couples who refuse to marry because gay people can't. That's correct. Living together: it's not just for pissing off your parents anymore!

One of the straight people quoted in the article, Mame McCutchin, justifies her decision to hold off on marrying her partner by saying "I wouldn't join a country club that excluded blacks or Jews." Neither would I, Mame. But marriage isn't a country club. We can't start another one across the street with a bigger pool, a greener golf course and a color-blind membership committee.

If there is a finer example of slacktivism than forgoing a legal marriage as a means of protesting discrimination, I can't imagine it. Why bother writing to your senator or donating to gay legal rights organizations when all you have to do is, well, nothing?

Aside from all that "hard" stuff like, let's say, voting, the only productive way to effect the kind of change that will lead to the mainstream political and legal acceptance of gay marriage is for more gay-friendly straight people to - brace yourself - get married. If the main argument of those opposed to the legal recogniztion of gay unions is that it threatens the institution of marriage - an institution forever strengthened by reality show quickie weddings and celebrities who divorce more times than most people buy new shoes - then it would seem more productive to leave the protesting to happily married straight couples rather than downtown hipsters whom the religious right would only see as living in sin anyway.

So, Mame, get married. Not only will you be effecting political change, but you'll also get a big party for your troubles! And if you have one of those moms who likes to plan every detail, you won't have to do a thing.

Posted by The Groom at December 11, 2003 04:37 PM

So let's see:

Downtown "slacktivism" = losing thousands in taxes and health benefits for a cause

Park slope "hard protest" = getting married and voting

Get a brain implant, Britney!

Posted by: kyril at January 5, 2004 02:32 PM


Your comment is nothing if not succinct. I welcome comments here, even if they are to disagree with me and compare me to a certain pop singer.

On the surface, it would seem that you are correct(not about the Britney comparison but about the gay marriage thing). It is terrible that gay and lesbian citizens don't have the right to get married. I've made many comments on the issue agreeing with you. And while sacrificing thousands of dollars in entitlements and health insurance in the name of equality is a noble measure, let's look deeper at what it involves.

Joe Schmo lives with his girlfriend Jane Schmo in New York City. They have no children. Because they believe strongly that no one should marry until everyone has the same rights, they forgo a legal marriage. Joe tells Jane, "Why should a homophobic government get the $35 they charge for a wedding license?"

Joe was born in 1974. He makes $32,000 a year (the national average). For the sake of keeping things easy, let's pretend that Joe will make his current salary for the rest of his working days (Of course, with raises, promotions and inflation over the years, his Social Security benefits would increase).

If he were to retire at age 67 (in the year 2041), he'd receive $1208 per month in Social Security benefits.

Joe retires and, for a couple of months, gets a check from the government. But one day he is hit by a flying bus (it is 2041 after all), leaving Jane widowed. Never having been married, Jane is left without Joe's Social Security benefits, which, if she lives for another 10 years could amount to over $100,000.

So, the government, which didn't get the Schmo's $35 forty years ago, now gets to hold on more than $100,000.

Remember, the money doesn't just disappear into the ether if you forgo marriage. It's still taken out of your paycheck every day, just like mine. Even if Jane lives in a place that recognizes common law situations, she'd still have to go to the trouble of filing paperwork and the requisite court and legal fees just to get her money, which in 2041 terms, could be a lot more than $35.

Kyril, we're on the same page when it comes to gay marriage. I'm all for it. But men didn't stop voting because women didn't have the same right and white people didn't stop marrying because of miscegenation laws. Laws change through the concerted efforts of those without any rights and their allies with them.

Single or married, it would seem that writing letters, donating money, and other advocacy on behalf of gays and lesbians is still more effective than saving $35. To assuage your feelings of guilt should you decide to get married, why don't you also write a check to GLAAD or the Labda Legal foundation on the same day you pay the clerk at city hall? That's what L and I plan to do.

And by the way: I don't think people who live downtown have a monopoly on slactivism. I saw an SUV with a "No War For Oil" bumper sticker parked on my block not too long ago.

Posted by: The Groom at January 5, 2004 03:39 PM

That's Lambda Legal, not Labda. Find them online at

Glaad is at

Posted by: The Groom at January 5, 2004 03:42 PM

Dear Groom:

Thank you for your kind permission to get married. I will consider it. You may be interested to know that Barney Frank also said that it's okay for heterosexuals to marry - as long as they make a special toast to any gay friends who attend the wedding even though they themselves cannot take advantage of the rights offered to hetero couples.

I have been a supporter of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, so abstaining from marriage is not the only way I support gay people. I also vote and avidly encourage others to do so.

Funny you mention celebrity marriages and reality TV shows as strenghteners of the institution when it should be clear to everyone that they do nothing but denigrate it.

As far as marriage is concerned I see it as a flawed institution - with or without the inclusion of gay people. It should be overhauled for all of us. That does not mean that I don't celebrate the unions of my friends who choose to marry, it just means that marriage may not be for me.

I wasn't aware that I was going to get a party if I got married. Does this mean that you're offering to throw me one? That's so nice! As a "downtown hipster", I request that you book a Ramones cover band and demand that everyone wear black to the reception.

Oh, one more thing - do you think the fact that you have an entire site based on wedding junk means that you are insecure about your pending nuptials? Just a thought. Maybe you should consider post-poning your wedding until a time when marriage and its related rights are available to all American citizens.

That would be a nice present to your bride.


Posted by: Mame at January 5, 2004 03:50 PM


I made a few assumptions about you based on what was printed in the Village Voice article and, of course, it was narrow of me to assume that you are doing nothing to promote the goal of full marriage rights for gays and lesbians. Newspaper articles exist in a sort of vacuum and salient details or quotes are often left out. I applaud your support of the HRC and I apologize for stereotyping you.

I take issue, however, with your choosing to call into question my confidence in my "pending nuptuals." In my post I only questioned your political choice - because your take on marriage in the article is presented as mostly a political choice - and not your love for your partner. I have no doubt that you are in a rock-solid relationship made no more or less stable by its legal status. I would appreciate the same respect.

If I didn't have complete confidence in my love for L and our life together, I wouldn't very well create a public website detailing our relationship, would I? How much crow would I be warming up for myself if I thought there was a chance of us splitting up? I love L. More than anything. I see the wedding as only one stop along the way in our life together.

And, listen, I could throw your line of reasoning right back at you: is the fact that you willingly appeared in a newspaper with an exponentially greater readership than my site indicative of your insecurity about your decision?

Weddings and the details that go in to planning them are crazy - and, yes, flawed - so I'm writing about them. The site is fun for me and hopefully for a few of the people who check it out. That's about all it's meant to be.

But forget about the fun for a second. Should only women care about pro-Choice issues? Are Jewish people the only ones who should be concerned about anti-Semitism? Do able-bodied people need to keep their noses out of issues that affect the disabled? Do whites have nothing to add to advancement of rights for African-Americans? I think straight married couples have a lot to add to the fight for equal rights for homosexuals in this country and simply disagree that opting out of marriage is the best way - or even one of the best ways - to further that goal. So let's agree to disagree on this issue but work in our different ways to push for full marriage rights for our gay and lesbian friends and fellow citizens.

Further clarification: I'm not disparaging "downtown hipsters." Some of my best friends are hipsters! I will listen to what anyone has to say, no matter their zip code or how much color is in their wardrobe. I simply meant that Tom DeLay, John Ashcroft, Dick Armey, George Bush and their conservative cronies could care less about two people - or two million people - in New York who decide to not get married as a form of political protest. To be honest, those guys aren't listening to Downtown Hipsters, Park Slope liberals, Upper West Side intellectuals or any other Big Apple stock character either, regardless of marital status. Maybe Wall Street Financiers, but that's about it.

Last one: while I'm willing to take some of the blame for a failure to write clearly, most people understood my sarcastic comments about reality TV. I was criticizing those who argue that gay marriages weaken "traditional" unions. Shows like "The Bachelor" and "Joe Millionaire" and quickie weddings - such as the recent Britney fiasco or J. Lo's trips down the aisle - do plenty to denigrate marriage. Perhaps the Christian right should go after Rupert Murdoch and Fox instead of worrying about people who love each other.

Thanks for your email, your honesty and for reading my rant. I encourage further dialogue and will do my part to keep it elevated.

With respect,


Posted by: Doug at January 5, 2004 06:08 PM

Dear Doug:

Looks like we (you, I, our spouses to be) all support equality and human rights but we're just going about it in different ways. Maybe this is an excellent approach; you reach some people, I'll reach others. If five people read that Voice article and it consequently alters their view or brings them awareness - it was worth it for me. I will continue supporting HRC, GMHC, and other institutions that are proactive in the fight for equality.

I think you're onto something about how the Christian right should go after Murdoch. That seems like something we can all agree on.

Best wishes for a fun wedding and a lasting marriage.


Posted by: Mame at January 6, 2004 08:49 AM


I came across this page by accident, but coincidentally have also made the decision to forgo a legal marriage.

I have several of my own reasons for choosing to not document my marriage on paper for the government to recognize, approve, and reward accordingly. I have gay friends and family, and I believe the laws bound to marriage do not fit my feminist ideals. I feel everyone has the freedom of choice, I respect their choices and have made mine and expect to receive the same level of respect. (Not that I’ll get it.) My boyfriend of 5 years and I have talked about this and just recently decided that we want to make our lifelong commitment to each other public, and we want to celebrate. Our families will be attending a wedding, and under the eyes of god and nature we will be husband and wife, but the government is not invited to participate in the festivities.

We talked with our accountant about this decision and he was not able to provide any sort of instances in which the financial benefits would be in our favor should we file the paperwork. I have several friends who have gotten married recently and all of them OWE more than they ever did before. I was wondering if you knew of more straight people who are making similar decisions when it comes to marriages, commitment ceremonies, and the conscious choice to not participate in a system which behaves more like a business with contracts and payments and clauses.

Posted by: kitty at April 28, 2004 08:16 PM