Waymon Hudson

An Interesting Social Experiment

Filed By Waymon Hudson | November 26, 2008 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: marriage, marriage equality, partner

I recently came across an interesting blog post over at Religion Dispatches. Tom Ackerman published his "Marriage Manifesto", which is a fun little social experiment and statement that I think I might try during this holiday season.

Ackerman decides to launch an experiment with language love, and the law:

I no longer recognize marriage. It's a new thing I'm trying.

Turns out it's fun.

Fun indeed! Ackerman decided to no longer recognize the marriages of those around him, much like what happened in the last election. It's an interesting idea.

Ackerman replaces the words husband, wife, spouse, or fiancé, with "special friend, companion, boyfriend, or girlfriend." When he is questioned or corrected by his married friends or acquaintances, he simply says, "I'm sorry, my beliefs don't recognize your marriage."

It's an interesting theory and experiment. As Ackerman puts it:

A marriage is a lot of things. Culturally, it's a declaration to the community that two people are now a unit, and that unity should be respected. Legally, it's a set of rights and responsibilities. And spiritually, it's whatever your beliefs think it is.

That's what's so great about America. As a Constitutionally secular nation, or at least in reality a vaguely pluralistic nation, we can all have our own spiritual take on what marriage is. What's troublesome is when one group's spiritual beliefs deny the cultural and legal rights of another.

But, back to the point. They say their beliefs don't recognize my marriage, I say my beliefs don't recognize theirs. Simple. It may seem petty, and obviously the legal part of the cultural/legal/spiritual trilogy is flip-floppy, but it may be the cultural part that really matters.

I think I'm going to try this little act of peaceful rebellion. I'm curious as to the reactions I'll get when I make people take just a moment to examine how some LGBT folks feel every day. It might only last a second, but maybe they will realize that their relationships could, in theory, be "up for interpretation" and they'll take a step back when dealing with relationship recognition for our community.

Or maybe not.

But I'm betting it will lead to some interesting conversations.

Be sure to go over and read the entire article on Religion Dispatches.


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Interesting little experiment. I live in Mass so I wouldn't do it here.

Waymon, we will all be waiting with bated breath for your updates on how you make out with this experiment.

I'll be sure to update everyone as I go along. I'm starting today and I'm very interested to see how folks react.

I thought about trying this out, but then I realized that I spend so much time in queer communities, any married couple I'd find myself talking to are already going to be allies, and more often than not, queer themselves.

You'd be surprised. Think of all the common conversation you hear or have at the grocery or gas station or store. :)

I'm going to start doing this too.

I get the concept, but I don't get what it looks like in action. I've never treated my married and unmarried-but-coupled friends any differently. Some of them are attached to their relationships in ways I must negotiate (dinner with both instead of just one, for example) and some are rather independent of each other. I don't get how I'd "not recognize" a marriage in practice.
I'm still agitating for renewable civil unions for all. The whole idea of committing to one person for life, instead of rechoosing that relationship as you get older, defies human nature. Witness our horrific divorce rate. Why aren't we trying to help free our straight brothers and sisters locked in this creaky institution? We should be inventing and showing them new ways of doing things. Let them imitate us instead of us imitating them.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 26, 2008 7:58 PM

You know, in Catholic Ireland--where same-sex marriage does not yet exist--the media and many people typically refer to one anothers' spouses as "partners," rather than husband, wife or spouse. It really threw me when I first arrived, and still feels very progressive to me. But unfortunately, it doesn't mean that Irish society isn't homophobic.

Although it is moving in a positive direction of change for the better.

Rick Elliott | November 27, 2008 4:22 AM

The Methodist minister of predominantly gay Bering UMC refused to do straight marriages in the church until LGBT folk were allowed to marry in church.

I now refer to my husband as my "illegal, undocumented husband".

There are no more heterosexual "husbands or wives". They are now "civil-unioned male domestic- life-partner" and "civil-unioned female domestic-life-partner".

Maybe when we finally get tired of the extra syllables and mumbo-jumbo we'll return to the terms we ALL know and understand.

i think this experiment is a waste of time (ie: kind of wussie)....i see your point but why not spend your time helping the established channels (groups like HRC, Join the Impact, etc.), succeed1!?!

What you "no longer recognize" is one of the foundations of civilization whenever and wherever civilization has existed farther back than we can remember and without some form of which society would break down within two generations. What *I* don't recognize is an amusing novelty which a small but obnoxiously loud minority has been calling for for not more than 15 years and which, at best, changes nothing and, at worst, further damages the real thing.

I should congratulate you for being clever, but this is nothing like a meaningful argument.