My partner and I spent the last year discussing a potential move from Toronto to California so that I could start a PhD. Although in the end I chose to stay in Toronto for my studies, it was a lot of talking and strategizing and stress as we waited for responses to my applications.
We do not currently live together, we have three cats between us, only one of us (me) has US citizenship, oh and she doesn't fly… During those many anxious months, we were often asked if we'd get married so that she could immigrate. Every time it came up I had such vehemently negative response, she started to tease me for it. And an accidental very un-romantic proposal was blurted out:
“Of course I'd marry you tomorrow if you wanted to, I just don't want it to be for that!”
“It that a proposal?”
“I don't know! It could be?”
“Dear diary, it's just how I always imagined it would be…”
There are two main reasons for my negative responses to the idea of getting married so that she could have status…
First of all, I believe borders hurt people, and the process of immigrating is demeaning in the best of times, criminally inhumane in the worst of times. I was sponsored to immigrate to Canada by my ex. We did not get married nor did I ever want to, but we were common law at that point. I really didn't want to go through the immigration process again, especially not for the dubious privilege of living for a few years in a country we didn't intend to stay in. As much if not more than the first time, I did NOT want to get married for immigration.
Secondly, I am just not interested in having the state involved in my relationship, period. In the age of marriage equality, I know it's not a popular sentiment, particularly coming from someone who has chosen of her own free will to become an active participant in a wedding blog. But here's my rationale: marriage, should I choose to do it, is about my partner(s), my community, and possibly my spirituality.
It is a cultural practice that I do in fact believe in. I believe in the interconnectedness of people and life and that we need each other to survive the bad and rejoice in the good. I believe that cultural and religious rituals have value in celebrating and cementing those relationships (and I wonder if we shouldn't have some for best friends too, frankly).
I just don't believe in it as a legal practice. Like, for anybody. There is so much wrong with the legal aspects of marriage I can't even begin. So many privileges that it awards seem like things we should all have access to, not just those who happen to have fallen in love and/or enjoy having sex with each other. Legally speaking, I'd like a world where I'd be able to sign a contract with whomever I like, pledging to take care of each other and share expenses. These are the things legal marriage is really about: property, expenses, medical decisions, who is responsible for taking care of small people who are not yet legally emancipated.
All of those questions can be complicated, and marriage provides a one-size-fits-all solution. Except it doesn't actually fit all.
What kinds of trust and strong connections could we build if the strength of our commitments was not dependent on sex and romantic love? What would change if we valued other kinds of relationships just as deeply? It might sound weird, especially to most straight people who have spent lifetimes dreaming of “the one,” but a lot of queers do this every day. We make our own families and re-think what relationships can or should be, sometimes by choice and sometimes because we have to. And we learn that there might not be just one perfect person to complete us, but rather many imperfect people who make our lives whole.
In the event that I feel moved to involve the state in my personal affairs, I would like to be able to agree to share some or all of those rights and responsibilities with anyone with whom I share my life — whether or not we plan on or currently have sex, plan on or currently have children. In practice, that might well be my partner. Or my partner and our best friend. Or me and my two best friends and she and her two best friends. Or nobody. Yeah it's messy but life is, for many of us, very messy.
I recognize that at some point I may have to sign papers, because the state has a nasty way of making itself necessary. But I'd prefer not to and I plan to avoid it if at all possible. I mean, I am actually more of a socialist at heart, happy to pay into a system that protects the vulnerable and accomplishes things as a group that we can't do alone (see the bit above about interconnectedness). I just think it would be easier to do that if it didn't spend so much time and energy propping up the already powerful and regulating what people do with their own bodies.
Regarding an historic omnibus bill that decriminalized both “homosexual acts” and abortion, Canada's socialist poster-boy Pierre Trudeau famously said, “there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” There is no place for for the state in my bedroom or my relationship.