until _____ do us part

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 21, 2006

Led by Andrew Sullivan, gay-rights activists have argued for several years that if homosexuals and lesbians are allowed to marry, just like the rest of us, then they'll start acting just like the rest of us. In Massachusetts that proposition is currently being tested, and to some ways of thinking it seems to be true. Same-sex couples take out marriage licenses (just like the rest of us); they exchange vows (just like the rest of us); and then after a while they break up (just like the rest of us?)

The front-page story in the Boston Globe sounds almost gleeful about the fractured relationship between Julie and Hillary Goodridge, the couple whose names appeared on the landmark case in which the state's Supreme Judicial Court decreed that homosexual couples are-- you guessed it-- just like the rest of us. They aren't yet contemplating divorce, but they're living apart, and trying to figure out what to do with the daughter who is, thanks to modern science and jurisprudence, legally if not genetically "their" offspring.

It's all so cozily familiar: the tender, bittersweet story of a couple whose love was stronger than social conventions. Once society frowned on a union of Montague and Capulet, but in our day the recrudescence of that ancient form of bias is found in an unwillingness to allow women to marry women. But our heroines overcome that prejudice, and march down the aisle to live happily ever...Oops! Alas, love fades, and mutates, and grows cold. As soon as I can figure out the chords I'll put the whole story in a C&W song, and you can play it for your date, and he or she (I make no presumptions or judgments) will be moved to tears.

What's wrong with this picture?

First, some of "the rest of us" don't break up. I know scores of married couples who have persevered and repaired and nourished and retained a fragile marital bond-- sometimes in objectively awful circumstances-- because when they said "until death do us part," they meant it. It was a vow, you see: not a rhetorical gesture.

Yes, there are thousands-- millions-- of couples for whom the words were just words. Shame on them! If you want to say that they are no different from the unhappy Goodridge couple, I'll readily acknowledge that you have a strong argument. But notice, please, that your argument is predicated on the fact that these couples betrayed their own vows. You can judge them harshly if you wish; your judgment does not bear on the vows they violated.

Now why is the Boston Globe so intent on asserting the normalcy of the split between the Mss. Goodridge? Is it really a matter of asserting that gay couples are just like "the rest of us?" Or is it rather an effort to obliterate the distinction between those who keep their vows and those who don't?

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