A little over a year ago, my partner and I announced that we were going to be handfasting at Beltane and getting married a year and a day later. (The wedding is this Sunday!) Included in our announcement is the fact that we will not be getting legally married.
On the phone with my mother the other day, I got another dose of "I think you two ought to just get legally married. What about ________ issue? Have you thought of that?" Over the course of the last year, I have heard about health insurance (no longer an issue, thank you Obama), intensive care visitation rights (also soon not to be a problem, a la my favorite president, Obama), protection for our children, tax benefits, and others.
Yes, of course, legal marriage comes with a whole host of benefits, legal, financial, and otherwise. If it didn't, there would not be a movement to expand the definition of legal marriage to include same-sex couples as well as heterosexual couples. For the most part, I support this inclusion and do see it as a human rights and equality issue.
On the other hand, my partner and I are polyamorous, polyamory being the opposite of monogamy in the quick definition. There are many flavors of poly, but my partner and I are specifically what we call polyfidelitous, meaning that we would like to have more than the two of us in our marriage. So yes, right now we can "pass" as a straight monogamous couple, but that denies who we are in our sexuality and a legal marriage now could seriously complicate power dynamics etc. in the marriage we ultimately want to develop.
So why are we getting married with just the two of us now? Because we want children and are emotionally ready for children. Making a formal commitment to each other in front of our friends, family, and the gods feels like the right way to start. First, we bind ourselves to each other, make ourselves fast, so to speak, and then from that foundation, we grow.
I believe, and my partner agrees with me, that the idea of marriage needs to be radically redefined. Marriage needs to be defined as being among consenting adults. Period. If a person is an adult and capable of giving consent, then that person is a viable marriage partner in whatever configuration of partnership they choose to engage in. I do also think that detailed marriage contracts should be negotiated (duration of marriage, procreative goals, procreative consequences, financial consequences of divorce or dissolution, etc.), but then again I think every partnership needs to take a long look at such logistics and negotiate them deliberately regardless. It would certainly clean up divorce court!
We are eagerly looking forward to our wedding this weekend. We have worked with other clergy to craft the binding ritual that will work best for us, and unlike the broken and exclusionary system of legal marriage, our pagan wedding will include all of ourselves, not just the parts that "pass" as conformist and non-threatening to the status quo.