If you are a fan of the soppy and overused "it's all about love" argument, I hate to rain on your parade. Of course, people who marry should be in love, but the gay marriage argument is about neither love nor inheritance, insurance, or visitation rights. It isn't even about being gay.
Love is about mushy-gooey feelings, butterflies, red roses, and Barry Manilow. Marriage, on the other hand, is a matter of legal process and the power of the state. What about gay marriage, then, or equality?
It came to me when I had to fill in a form for a new passport. Because my country firmly believes in the exclusive union of male and female, I had to tick "single." If you have lived with a partner for 12 years and shared his or her bed, smiles, tears, laughs, and breakfast sausage, it feels more than a little ridiculous to be forced to publicly state you are single -- it is deeply humiliating.
I don't feel "single." I don't want to be "single." Yet the law gives me no other option.
Maybe because of the pressure of procreation, human society in almost every corner of the planet has evolved a status where the union of two people is considered an evolutionary success. Think of the class reunion when you were 30, and everybody was already married, engaged, or at least brought a hot date. And you were single. You felt like a failure.
As I have been out and proud for 20 years, having to tick "single" feels like being shoved back into the closet again. Many gays and lesbians only acquire the courage to "come out" once they have found a mate. After all, you need to have sex to be "homosexual." I certainly waited until I had a boyfriend before telling my parents I was gay. Having a partner is empowering. It bestows self-confidence. It feels good.
Being single, on the other hand, is considered an evolutionary and cultural signal of failure. You have passed on neither your genes nor your memes. (Both are equally important. Passing on genes ensures survival of mankind. Passing on cultural memes ensures the propagation of ideas and the advancement of humanity.) You are most likely deemed too ugly, too weird, too stupid, or any other cliché, to have found a mate. You are undeniably a loner, a weirdo, a failure! This pressure is the same, no matter the gender of your partner.
Certainly in the West, but through the Internet and globalization, in more traditional societies in other parts of the globe, straight people increasingly tolerate, or even accept, gays and lesbians. But a man with a wife and kids will still regard a single male with a certain amount of pity and condescension (or envy!). There are countless derogatory terms for single women of advanced age. If not children, then certainly a commitment to another person is a sign of maturity and achievement in this life.
Thus, by acknowledging the right for me to marry my partner, the government would enhance my status in society. I would subsequently be more proud, more social, and more productive. I would feel accepted and rewarded for my commitment by my family, friends, coworkers, and all of society. After all, marriage is not about having babies. If it were, governments would issue a breeding certificate instead.
Marriage is about creating a state of government-sanctioned, stable cohabitation that, among other things, allows people to feel safe, settled, and complete. Having a mate makes us better people. It teaches us responsibility and the art of compromise, such as sharing the last of the ice cream in the fridge, taking out the trash, and upholding proper hygiene. It is a cultural tool that, ideally, makes men and women less volatile and more productive, one that makes us more civilized.
By allowing gay couples to be "married" on the same terms as straight people, we allow them to be respected and feel respected. By letting me tick the right box on the form, you give me dignity. And dignity is what gay marriage is all about.
You can find Marten Weber also on facebook.com/martenweber.