Abolish marriage. For everyone. Problem solved.

February 23, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

Sometimes wisdom comes from the unlikeliest of places. Sometimes from under a rock, sometimes from a rancid pile of rotting asparagus, sometimes from deep in the turgid backwaters of vicious, Southern-bred homophobia.

And sometimes, in the case of Alabama Supreme Court justice Glenn Murdoch, it just might be all three.

Alabama, you see, recently became the 37th state to legalize gay marriage. And, being Alabama, it was none too happy about it, either.

But amidst the madhouse jumble of legal wrangling that forced this most homophobic of flyover states to treat all couples the same regardless of sexual orientation, Justice Murdoch had a rather startling legal epiphany.

In short (and legal experts can correct me if I’m not reading this exactly right), Murdoch noticed a potential loophole in the marriage statute just big enough to drive a truck full of hate straight through. He noted that, technically speaking, there’s actually two ways for his state to meet its legal obligation to treat all couples the same: The first, of course, is to let them all marry, sans bigotry or discrimination. This is, it seems obvious, the only fair, reasonable and compassionate thing to do.

The other way, of course, is to allow no one to get married – not heteros, not homosexuals, no one at all. Because if Alabama had known, when it first allowed marriage in the state in the first place, that gays would have to be included, it might never have let it happen. They might have blocked everyone. And they still can.

Isn’t that something? In other words, Murdoch realized it’s theoretically possible to completely abolish marriage altogether in Alabama, as a (particularly cruel) way to prevent those damnable gays from destroying the fabric of modern society – sure to begin any second now – and still meet the equality mandate.

And vice-versa. Right, kid?

And vice-versa. Right, kid?

It’s sort of brilliant, no? In its heartless tyranny, its loathing of fundamental human dignity? And life? And love?

It’s not going to happen, of course. It’s just a curious potential snag, one that, at worst, could be used to bash Alabama’s gay couples a little longer.

But wait just a second. Let us examine Murdoch’s heart-punch of an idea a little closer. Because it just might be that this man’s tortured legal mind has unwittingly coughed up a rather astonishing solution, not merely to end America’s gender-riffic culture wars once and for all, but also to transform the deeply flawed, eternally broken institution of marriage itself.

Abolish marriage entirely! Can you imagine it? If it went, say, nationwide? If we really took it seriously? At least, as a thought experiment?

No more stigma around one’s marriage status, no more 50-percent divorce rate, no more married people going without sex for months on end, no more slogging it out in a loveless marriage for the sake of the kids, no more getting married and letting yourself go and putting on 75 pounds because, you know, screw it.

No more cheesy wedding industry. No more wedding DJs. No more divorce lawyers. No more Bridezillas. No more Say Yes to the Dress. And so on, ad nauseam. And of course, no more marriages that actually work beautifully, full of love, home, stability, family.

But above all, no more deceiving ourselves that we are what we’ve been so heavily programmed to believe we are: a monogamous, mate-for-life organism that thrives best when forcibly paired for multiple decades, often very unhappily. Wait, are we? See what a grand experiment it would be?

Let us imagine: Marriage is hereby abolished. What do you think might happen? Would we immediately invent new modes and definitions of intimacy, coupling and commitment, along with new rituals and ceremonies to honor them, and to hell with the church’s scowling dogma that screwed it all up in the first place?

Abolishing marriage means abolishing all religious-fueled bickering about it. Well, maybe.

Abolishing marriage means abolishing all religious-fueled bickering about it. Well, maybe.

Or would we, instead, run scattershot to the winds, naked and thrumming, experimenting with every polyamorous, threesome, communal structure we can come up with? Would it be chaos? Would it be amazing? Would we copy Mexico City’s idea, from a few years back, for “renewable” marriage contracts lasting two, three or five years each, and then you’re free to go?

Perhaps you think it all sounds far too cruel, too disruptive, to dissolve marriage as we know it. You might be right.

But I don’t think so. I think it might be all kinds of beautiful to see the human animal redefine love, commitment and family as we really feel and experience them, without the normal codes, constrictions and regulations, nearly all of which were invented by organized religion to further control society and tame the fiery human heart, and shame it when it fails.

One thing we know: Marriage has a shockingly high failure rate. Few actually believe it’s what we were “designed” to do, that it’s somehow encoded in our DNA. It’s just something we made up. It sometimes works. It often doesn’t. We know it can be stunningly beautiful and deeply felt. We know it can be ruthless, spiteful and heartbreaking.

What we don’t know is, what would we be like without it?

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Mark Morford

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