Pride swelled and swooned this past weekend. People pranced around drinking mineral water, some genially, some purposefully, all pretending that Halloween was in flux.
But others were not impressed. Gawker broke a story about a longtime La Jolla resident who published this letter to the editor in her local newspaper, the illustrious La Jolla Light:
There’s probably too much to say about this laughable little polemic. Since I want to talk about something else, I’ll leave it at this: not all people who oppose gay-marriage are this dumb. Sadly, not all people who oppose gay-marriage are this smart.
The opponents of gay marriage cling to one religious argument—the unconvincing “God willed it so”—and one civic argument: allowing marriage between single-sex couples will destroy the fabric of marriage itself, and marriage won’t mean the same thing. In fact, the civic argument turns out to be a linguistic argument in sheep’s clothing. This is why our lawmakers have given gays “civil unions” but not “marriages.” Because if you let gays marry, the reasoning goes, the fabric of marriage deteriorates so rapidly and the definition becomes so slippery that, pretty soon, the dude who used to be the captain of your high school swim team is marrying a manatee in an elaborate underwater ceremony. And they essentially suggest that the marriages men have with women are cheapened by association.
In parts of Nepal—and indeed, all over the world—people define marriage in almost the same way that Ms. Weber imagines in her stirring meditation on the future of our dangerously gay world. Nepalese custom has kept alive the practice of polyandry, whereby a woman shares multiple husbands. It gets even wickeder. The Nepalese, who are notorious for their widespread excesses and extravagance, often choose two or more brothers to bind the union. And I couldn’t even share an Otter Pop with little brother Travis.
This article, although written in 2005, sheds light on why some rural Nepalese choose polyandry: it is practical. If one husband has to go into the city, the other husband can stay with the kids, or help out at home. If one husband unexpectedly dies, the family unit does not wither away for want of a father. With fewer husbands to go around, polyandry serves as a population check in an environment where resources are often scarce.
The Nepalese haven’t started bombing nations indiscriminately, nor have they enslaved Indians in internment camps. The fabric of their society has not unraveled, nor has their traditional definition of marriage. They haven’t turned into dissolute moral paupers, nor are they out to hoodwink anyone. The Nepalese haven’t even begun joining manatees in matrimony.
For untold millennia, in fact, humans have been doing things that enhance our livelihood and increase our happiness. This has worked pretty swell for us: we have air-conditioning, toilets, and the Wine Rack. We used to wed for economic or political reasons. Then some rabblerouser came around and planted the silly little idea that people should get married when they have eyes for one another, instead of eyes for the dowry. People pooh-poohed, and Petrarch and Shakespeare made fools of themselves with salacious prose and whiny dramas. Yuck. Now people accept the idea that marriage can be as much about love as it can be about getting more goats. Then someone else came around and suggested that people with different racial backgrounds should be allowed to tie the knot. People pooh-poohed, and people got so worked up about it that they did some very unfunny things. Now, in America, people accept the idea that marriage can unite two people who look different but who love the same.
Then, someone came along and said that gay people deserve the same right to marry whomever they want. People pooh-poohed, and all those Greek philosophers rolled over in their graves.