THE BEDROOMS OF THE NATION
I love love. I love connecting with people and learning about their love. I love ritual. I love marking significant moments. I love creating ceremony. I love being part of sacred moments. In short, I love my job.
But there is one part of my job that feels funny to me, and that is the signing of the marriage license.
Don’t get me wrong, bureaucracy is real and I will do what I can to help navigate it. If you need the benefits of a legal marriage. This could be to aid with immigration, to extend your visa, and so on. I totally understand, and I will happily sign your license and help you work the system a little more smoothly. If one or both partners in a queer, trans, or same sex relationship are trying to come Canada from a country in which you are unsafe, not only am I honoured to sign your license, I will do it without charge for as long as our rights in Canada are maintained. Signing the licenses of LGBTQ+ couples still gives me a bit of a thrill even two decades after we got legal (and the same length of time since I signed my own).
The part that makes me scratch my head, though, is the realization that when I sign my name, I am doing so as a registered representative of the province of Ontario. And this is not a role I ever would have imagined taking on. When I sign my name, I am, by implication, contradicting the words of Pierre Trudeau who, in 1967, famously said that “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”
State sanctioned marriage says, this relationship is privileged. State sanctioned marriage says, we know who you are and who you are connected to. State sanctioned marriage says, there are special rules just for you. Sounds a little uneven, no?
I guess somewhere along the line I have become more of a relationship anarchist than I realized. I want to decide what each relationship in my life means to me. I want to be able to choose who my next-of-kin may be. I want it known that my chosen loves are every bit as important to me as my familial ones ~ maybe even more! And I’m not sure I want government documentation making these choices for me.
In the lead up to a wedding, you are making dozens ~ maybe hundreds! ~ of small decisions: about decorations and appetizers and guests and clothes, and and and ... Just don’t forget about the big decisions: What does it mean to you to get married? Familially? Legally? Spiritually? What matters to you? There is no right or wrong answer beyond what is right or wrong for you.
I will always happily sign your license for you. But the world I dream of (in this way and in so many more) is one in which the choices we make about our lives are not simply automatic, but are based on conscious choice and full awareness of the options available to us. So add a few more questions to your decision-making to-do list, and let me know what you think!