Marriage for All, But Not This 20-Something

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

She's an ardent proponent of marriage equality, but the ideal gets fuzzy in her own life. Krystie Lee Yandoli meditates on her part in the trend by 20-something women to delay or forego marriage.

(WOMENSENEWS)--The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month passed a bill to repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defines and limits marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife."

The vote has garnered support from a number of state-level politicians too, including Washington State Sen. Ed Murray and California Gov. Gerry Brown, who has called DOMA "a strain on our common values."

If passed, the repeal bill--the Respect for Marriage Act--would provide federal protection to couples married in states that recognize same-sex marriages and also provide national leadership on the issue. Same-sex marriage is not currently a federal issue, although DOMA blurs the line for states.

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Repealing DOMA would provide a huge landmark for lesbian and gay rights in the remaining 44 states where same-sex marriage is illegal.

Same-sex marriage is a key issue on my radar because it feels like the equivalent of the civil rights battles for previous generations. Bans on same-sex marriage are one of the remaining examples of flagrant discrimination.

When New York State's Gay Marriage Act went into effect in July, I planted myself on the corner of Worth and Center Street in lower Manhattan as a reporter for Women's eNews and watched upwards of 8,000 same-sex couples line the streets of New York City to declare their love for each other, sign marriage papers and join legions of heterosexual New Yorkers who have done the same.

The event raised my morale, made me feel hopeful about humanity and about the future of our political discourse, all because of one main feeling that everyone could relate to: love.

Three Months Later

Fast forward three months, when I was sitting in my off-campus college apartment watching commercials for "Kim Kardashian's Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event" on E! and "Say Yes to the Dress" on TLC.

Meanwhile, some young women on campus have started putting college boyfriends dead-center in their post-graduation plans. They are key factors in their equations when applying for jobs all around the country.

For them, the mainstream cultural idea of a big, white wedding--$10,000 dresses, thousand dollar wedding cakes and all--is apparently recession-proof and an inescapable destiny, even as other members of our generation are occupying the country's parks and common grounds to protest social inequity.

I draw back from all this, which makes me realize a paradox: I passionately advocate for gay marriage rights, but have no interest in getting married myself. How can I simultaneously feel so passionate about same-sex marriage and yet cynical about entering a conventional heterosexual marriage myself?

It's not that I don't believe in love, happiness or tax breaks. But I still wonder about the limits of equality between men and women within this age-old arrangement.

In the 19th century, becoming a wife meant relinquishing the right to owning property, making a will and earning a salary. Until quite recently, a married U.S. woman couldn't take out a bank loan without her husband.

The confinements to certain kinds of work and the blockage from higher education options--Columbia University, for example, didn't accept women until 1983--required women to depend on their husbands for survival. Within the marital system of "protection," well-known abuses persist, in the form of domestic violence and sexual battery.

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