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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Devalued Marriage


I recently kissed my wife good-bye at the airport and took off for California, where, just days before, a federal district court had declared a ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional.

Many of those who support the ban on gay marriage argue that marriage between a man and a woman will be devalued if same-sex couples are allowed to marry. "Huh?" you may be thinking. "How could that possibly be the case?" 

I know, it sounds absurd. But amazingly enough, though it defies logic, I actually noticed the effect as soon as my plane crossed into California airspace. It was weird, but I could actually feel my marriage devaluing.

It doesn't seem like all that long ago that I married my wife Kit in Santa Monica, Calif. We had a caterer, a florist, a bunch of guests, a cake – all that stuff. Kit got her hair done and wore a special dress for the occasion. I wore a tux. At the time it seemed extremely special. But being back in California after Judge Walker's ruling, it all felt so ho-hum, so devalued. Riding the BART train from the airport, I found myself wondering if it would have helped if we had hired a live band for the reception. It was hard to know.

That night I actually had trouble sleeping because my wedding ring felt uncomfortable and foreign on my hand.

Here's the really weird thing – while I was experiencing all this marriage devalument, I wasn't even thinking about the court case! It didn't hit me until I was flipping around through the cable news channels. That’s when I figured it out: It was the Equal Protection Clause! That was why my marriage felt so dull and generally unspecial.

But how could this happen? How could two dudes (or dudettes) getting married to each other possibly affect my marriage?

Well, I was fortunate enough to see a person interviewed on one of the cable shows who explained it. This guy put it in language that I, as a law professor, could understand. He pointed out that counterfeit currency devalues regular currency. (I had to admit that was true.) So, he reasoned, gay marriage, as a kind of counterfeit marriage, devalues everybody's regular marriages.

The force of this argument is really undeniable. Tried though I have, I can not find even the tiniest hole in this guy’s analysis. In fact, the more deeply you think about what he was saying, the more sense it makes. It's really one of the smartest things I've ever heard anyone say. It shows an uncommonly strong grasp of economics, sociology, and some very basic rules of logical thinking. Wow.

Anyway, it got me to figuring, we should not only amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage, we should also take affirmative steps to strengthen the institution of traditional marriage.

Gold bullion coins Mmmmm, gold.
(Images courtesy U.S. Mint.)

U.S. currency was strongest back in the 1960s when we were still on the gold standard. Ergo, we should put marriage on a gold standard. Think about it: If every married heterosexual could, at any time, freely convert his or her spouse into a specified quantity of gold bullion, then every person who is married would value their marriage more. Divorce rates would plummet. That's just logic.

A lot of the same conservative talk show hosts who are opposed to same-sex marriage are also enthusiastic supporters of returning America to the gold standard. That’s why it’s such a public service for radio talk show hosts to tell us about important gold investment opportunities. It is my hope that thought leaders like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity will realize the synergy here and support the adoption of a marital gold standard.

My own personal story has a happy ending. I got through the whole trip without trying to hook up with any of the women around me. Now, that wasn't because my marriage felt like it was worth anything at the time. It's undoubtedly because I was attending a conference of law professors. That's its own libido kill. 

Most importantly, now that I am safe and sound back home – outside of the jurisdiction of California – my marriage once again feels like it is valuable. (Granted, not as valuable as it would be if I could take Kit down to a federal reserve bank and turn her in for gold, but, you know, still pretty valuable.)

Posted by Eric E. Johnson on August 31, 2010 at 09:52 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Current Affairs, Television, Travel | Permalink


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So, is one who is opposed to "only heterosexual marriage" a "heterophobe?"

Posted by: Michael Brockman | Sep 10, 2010 10:05:27 AM

Complete Nerd:

I did not attribute "all that glitters is not gold" to Willie Shakespeare or otherwise provide its source. Nor was I aware of Willie's quote. Rather, the version I used has long been in service and I also recall a popular song incorporating it (which is available for a ringtone - but I don't have a cell phone).

As to the "morbidly obese," they may indeed be worth their weight in gold. But keep in mind the Midas touch and what that might lead to. Alchemy, anyone?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Sep 2, 2010 6:52:57 AM

Since "gays" is often considered to be a term applied only to homosexual men and you need not be "gay" to get one, I think "same sex marriage" is the appropriate term. But, some might wish to fight for what was once to be the 13th Amendment:

"ART. 13. No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State."


You know, with DOMA messing with that right now.

BTW, will singles insist on the marriage tax penalty too? But, who knows? Senior citizens already can obtain domestic partnerships -- no need to be a same sex couple -- in CA right now. Straights are just trying to get all the gay and lesbian goodies!

Posted by: Joe | Sep 1, 2010 4:42:14 PM

As a preliminary point, I have to point out a glaring Shakespeare misquote from Shag. Much like people mistakenly saying "Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well," when it should be "I knew him, Horatio," generations of people have been bungling the gold quote. It should be "all that GLISTERS is not gold."

With respect to the article, the gold marriage standard would still lead to more marriages ending, but instead of divorce people would be cashing in. And if it's a weight based value determination there will be a huge run on marrying the morbidly obese!

Posted by: Complete Nerd | Sep 1, 2010 11:25:24 AM

Of course gay marriage will indeed devalue straight marriage in the sense that married straights will have to share with gays the numerous subsidies they get from singles. Either that or taxes on singles will have to be raised.

Who knows? Maybe singles will demand their rights, resulting in elimination of all those privileges our laws confer on marrieds, from tax breaks to social security, health insurance and immigration.

Posted by: Jimbino | Sep 1, 2010 9:37:55 AM

Is this yet another variation of the "Golden Rule"? And what about CA's own Republican Richard Nixon's role in dropping the Gold Standard? We are aware of Glenn Beck's connections to gold. I'm surprised that Eric did not mention Alchemy which may not be quite the same as counterfeit. But I enjoyed Eric's numismatist spoof, who as a bright law professor should be aware that all that glitters is not gold.

Now let's hear from another Prawf on "My Devalued Heterosexual Live-In Non-Marriage." (One-nighters need not apply.)

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Sep 1, 2010 6:16:01 AM

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