These past few weeks, my Facebook newsfeed has been full of Chick-fil-A news stories and every time I turn on the news I’m hearing more from backers of “traditional marriage.” But what exactly is that? What is a “traditional marriage” anyway?
At face value we hear that “traditional marriage” proponents support a customary or biblical view of marriage that is “one man and one woman” — but is it really as simple as that? In his comments to the media, CFO of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, pointed out specifically that they were “a family-led business” and all were “married to our first wives.” Often proponents of traditional marriage also seek to marry someone of the same race, same religion, and same social class. Divorce would be forbidden, as would co-habitation before marriage, and pre-marital sex.
I don’t know many families that look like that; and I know I live in a large metropolitan city, but families in America today come in many different shapes and sizes. Many children today are born out of wedlock; most of these are raised in single-parent homes. Many couples cohabitate and never marry; some married couples separate and never officially divorce; many couples choose to marry much later in life, some couples may choose open marriages, and many may experience multiple marriages and divorces. And some couples choose same-sex marriage.
When Dan Cathy made comments to the media about his “support of the traditional family,” he wasn’t just railing against gay marriage, but against any kind of family scenario that didn’t look just like his. And the other politicos who claim to support “traditional marriage?” Chances are, they fall into one of the above categories, and the only thing “traditional” about their marriage is their heterosexuality, which illustrates both the hypocrisy and laser-like precision of where the lines in the sand have been drawn. Why is this? Because we are on the forefront of the culture-war —the delicate precipice where religion and politics collide — and whenever you are fighting for change, you are also threatening someone else’s “tradition.” With all of the other deviations from traditional marriage, I think it’s fair to say that proponents are clinging to their last enshrined legal “tradition,” which is a hetronormative definition of marriage, quite desperately.
But what if we could reshape what it means to have a “traditional marriage?” Could that option then be available to all loving couples, both gay and straight? If we could redefine “traditional,” to mean something more like living by a set of moral principals that inform your lives together and demonstrate that to the community – then I say yes, indeed, this is the whole point of marriage. Aside from the obvious financial benefits of marriage which include tax breaks and insurance benefits, marriage for many is a public statement before loved ones and the community (and oftentimes, God) where a couple proclaims their love for each other, and asks the community to support that relationship in return; because we all know that good relationships, like children, take a village of friends and family to thrive and grow. For too long the LGBT community has been asked to hide our loving relationships and grow our families under a bushel basket. Our marriages and our families are not made “untraditional” by virtue of our sexual orientation alone. Supporting loving families in all shapes and sizes should be what matters more than upholding traditions just for traditions’ sake. Because love is the best tradition of all.
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Valency was born in San Francisco to hippie parents, but is a Chicago girl through and through. Ten years of Catholic school helped her develop a finely-tuned bullshit detector, as well as a love of all sorts of Catholic kitsch. Valency isn't fond of labels. She is, however, fond of embracing her many paradoxes, and walking the fine lines between religion and politics, with an eye turned toward postmodern religion, feminist theology, and challenging patriarchy from inside religious institutions. She lives on the northside with her two daughters and two female cats, and is always looking for more ways increase the estrogen in her household.