By RICH BENJAMIN -
I PICKED up my jangling cellphone one recent Saturday to hear the elated voice of Zachary, my longtime buddy and college classmate. “I just proposed to Caroline,” Zach announced, inviting me to the wedding and angling to plot logistics. “So when are you flying in?”
“Oh, I’m not coming to your wedding,” I said.
It’s true. I’m boycotting all heterosexual weddings.
How utterly absurd to celebrate an institution that I am banned from in most of the country. It puzzles me, truth be told, that wedding invitations deluge me. Does a vegan frequent summer pig roasts? Do devout evangelicals crash couple-swapping parties? Do undocumented immigrants march in Minuteman rallies?
Heterosexual ladies and gentlemen, please. Don’t mail me that wedding invitation. It’s going straight to the bin.
I’m not a gay-rights activist. Given the choice between a round of golf and a “discrimination teach-in,” I’ll take the golf. Back in college, when I was asked to take part in a protest, I declined because it conflicted with Uncle Duke Day, an annual keg and marijuana bash.
But now I’m a conscientious objector to all heterosexual weddings. It’s less activism than common sense. Why should I financially subsidize and emotionally invest in a ritual that excludes me in all but five states (and the District of Columbia)?
A poll last month showed Americans are split on same-sex marriage. A narrow majority, 51 percent, supports it, while 47 percent do not. Though Zach falls into that slim majority, he scolds me for being “peevish.” He says he resents me for blowing off his special day, for putting political beliefs ahead of our friendship and for punishing him for others’ deeds. But screaming zealots aren’t the only obstacles to equal marriage rights; the passivity of good people like Zach who tacitly fortify the inequality of this institution are also to blame.
They’re proof of a double standard: Even well-meaning heterosexuals often describe their own nuptials in deeply personal terms, above and beyond politics, but tend to dismiss same-sex marriage as a political cause, and gay people’s desire to marry as political maneuvering.
What many straight people consistently forget is that same-sex couples aren’t demanding marriage to make a political statement or to accrue “special rights.” When I ask my gay friends why they wish to marry, they don’t mention tax benefits. They seek marriage for the same personal reasons that straight people do: to share life’s triumphs and trials with their beloved, to start a family, to have the ability to protect that family, and to celebrate their loving commitment with a wedding.
I call on all gay people to join my boycott of straight weddings this summer, regardless of where their straight loved ones stand. Yes, our boycott may bruise some feelings. But then again, our inability to participate in this institution is hurtful and bruising, too.
In recent years, many straight people have admirably pledged not to get married until gay people have the right to do so nationwide. I can’t ask friends like Zach to cancel their weddings, but I expect them to at least understand why I won’t attend. Straight friends and family need to accept their wedding invitations as collateral damage to exclusionary marriage laws. They should feel the consequences of this discrimination as sharply as we do.