Those in our Commonwealth who are seeking a referendum on same-sex marriage are right – the voice of the voice of the people must be heard. Who better than The People should determine what relationships are truly marriages; which unions further the goals of our culture and society and what relationships merely mock this most vital of institutions? Their initiative, however, does not go far enough. Marriage, the very bedrock upon which our entire society stands, it is far too important to let individual couples considering marriage to decide on their own if the relationship they are contemplating would indeed be worthy of the benefits bestowed on those who become part of this time honored, civilization preserving, tradition. Therefore, I propose that The People should decide who should marry on an individual, case-by-case basis. Gay, straight, or otherwise, doesn’t matter, if you want to get married, The People must approve.
I know that at first glance this seems both outrageous and cumbersome – but community approval of individual marriages has historic president. In the olden days, a couple who wanted to be married would publish the banns; that is, an announcement would be read in church, usually three weeks in a row, that a couple planned to be married. That way, if The People objected, they had a chance to stop the marriage before it started.
Now, we’ve come along way since the days of the vicar and the village kirk, but here’s where technology comes in. Under the system that I propose, when a couple goes to city hall for a marriage license, they would be required to sign up for a time slot on community access cable television. On their local cable channel they would present their case for why they should be allowed to marry. Then, through an interactive web link (or an 800 telephone number) The People would vote, straight up or down, if the marriage should be allowed to go forward. Not only would we preserve our most sacred institution, we’d boost the station’s ratings.
Some might say that this would place an undo burden on the couple. But, in time, it would become part of the whole wedding planning thing – like picking a china pattern or hiring a caterer. The couple could format their presentation so that we, The People, get a sense of their style and taste. A more traditional couple could perhaps have their priest or rabbi interviewing them, asking them about how they’ll raise their children, handle money, and solve conflicts. If we don’t like their answers, nope, ding – you’re out of here. Edgier couple might take a more contemporary approach, like Fear Factor – “Honey, I love you so much that I’ll eat ten cockroaches!” One look at their faces as they bungee jump off the Zakim bridge, and we’ll know if their vows will last a lifetime.
I’m not saying that this will be easy or pleasant. What happens if your prospective marriage is approved by only 47% of the voters? Would you qualify for something less than marriage? Like a civil union, or a common law marriage? There will be hard choices and hurt feelings. But we, as a society, in order to preserve the state of marriage, must not allow two people to marry simply because they think they’re in love and want to build a life together.