In Las Vegas, the Marriage License Bureau is open seven days a week; 8 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m. on Friday through midnight on Sunday, including holidays. A license will cost you $55 (cash only). At Vegasvows.com, you can find links to all kinds of marriage facilities, including the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, where a Pink Caddy Wedding in the Doo Wop Diner Chapel includes an Elvis impersonator and a live Internet broadcast of your wedding to friends and relatives all over the world.
At this time, same-sex marriage licenses can be legally granted in six states, but I wonder why Nevada businesses haven’t gotten in on the action. Nevada marriage entrepreneurs must surely be salivating at the prospect of at least doubling their profits. And Nevada attorneys must be eager for the opportunity to take advantage of a new divorce demographic.
A few years ago, that argument might have been seen as facetious, but with this recession, I wouldn’t be surprised if economics turn out to be the deciding factor in a very politically divisive issue. However, I am curious why gay and lesbian couples want to get married when the only model we have – the heterosexual model – leaves so much to be desired. Not only is marriage trivialized, as in Las Vegas, but the frequency of divorce (40 percent, according to a 2008 Census Bureau report) has given rise to the term “starter marriage,” a sort of warm up marriage for the real thing down the road.
So, why do so many gay and lesbian couples want to get married? Well, I don’t hear too many of them saying they are doing it for the status, the money, or to keep their parents happy. I hear obvious answers, like the legal and civil protections and benefits that go to married couples. Then there is the main reason: the simple dignity of society recognizing a lifelong commitment that two people want to make to each other regardless of their sexual orientation. It makes me wonder how the sanctity of marriage – particularly our current model – can be undermined when two people who happen to be gay or lesbian want to get married for the very reasons people used to get married in the first place.
Locally, the momentum for same-sex marriage has been building since 1999 when Louisville passed comprehensive anti-discrimination Fairness protections in employment, housing and public accommodations. Recently, Mayor Fischer made good on a campaign promise and signed an executive order that provides equal health insurance benefits to the Metro government’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees and their partners. I think it’s a foregone conclusion that when gays and lesbians are allowed to marry in legally sanctioned partnerships, the sun will continue to shine, the wind will still blow, and the Ohio River will still flow in the same direction.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote:
“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”