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04/24/2014

Nice try, anti-equality movement, but the lesbian 'throuple' story makes our argument, not yours

by Jeremy Hooper

Social conservatives are itching to make hay about a story of a lesbian trio who live together and are planning to raise a family:

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Nice try, I guess. But no. Three times no.

The fact of the matter is that this is not a legally married trio. Two of them are married to each other, and the third woman is connected via as much legal paperwork as is available to enjoin the three. They are not legally married because it is not legal for three people to legally marry under civil law—and no marriage equality group that is focused on same-sex marriage is arguing for that to change.

The reason I say it makes our case more than the opposition's is because of the marriage ceremony that the three did, in fact, have. Like all of us, these three women were perfectly free to have a ceremony. Whether it is a religious celebration or some other form, there is very little limitation on what kind of love-honoring event that American citizens are allowed to host. The reason for this is because the ceremony itself is not the legally-binding element of marriage. Yes, we vest power within religious people who can them solemnize the union, but the ceremony itself is always optional, at least in terms of the civil law.

And of course equal access within the civil law is the only thing for which the marriage equality movement is fighting. Our belief as a movement, stated often and loudly, is that everyone can and should be free to make the ceremonial decisions for themselves, but same-sex couples should have the freedom as opposite-sex couples to obtain a civil marriage license. In this particular instance, two of the women obtained a civil license, as they were legally allowed to do under the laws of Massachusetts, and then someone pronounced them to be married. For this matter, that is where the marriage equality conversation begins and ends. That is the only thing for which the organized marriage equality movement has fought. Once that civil license is legally obtained, where the couple takes the paperwork, how they choose to solemnize it, and what kind of household they run is pretty much up to them. This goes for the religious couple who finds a mainstream Baptist church ready and willing to throw a major church wedding that will bound the two in what they believe are the eyes of God, and it goes for a trio who wish to have a non-binding ceremony and live together in a scenario where two are legally married and the third is as legally connected as she possibly can be. Barring unlawful choices, people are basically free to choose how to conduct their wedding ceremonies, as well how to conduct the lives they will proceed to live within the context of their marriage.

In their own way, these three women are highlighting that the choice of ceremony, religious or otherwise, and the personal fulfillment of vow are, in fact, detached from the freedom to marry one person under civil law (i.e. our movement's one and only marriage goal). The anti-equality social conservatives don't get this because they are so hellbent on closing their ears to what marriage equality activists are seeking and saying, and because they are so determined to force the always-optional religious ceremonial element of marriage onto this civil rights conversation. They want to use their personally-held views on the supernatural elements of marriage to dictate civil marriage policy. This is a wrongheaded view whether it comes from someone who believes he or she has a spiritual right to have multiple spouses or from someone who believes his or her Catholicism limits marriage to one man and one woman.

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