The Great Compromise

Although an oversimplification, the dispute about gay marriage seems to arise largely from semantics. Proponents argue that “Homosexuals deserve all of the same financial and social rights and benefits of marriage;” a few states attempt to give gay couples these rights and benefits through “civil unions.” The pith of its opponents’ arguments distills to, “Marriage is between a man and a woman.” How might we assuage both of these parties’ acrimonious feelings without satisfying their demands entirely? What is a good compromise? A suitable settlement might be to create another word for secular or religious marriage between members of different sexes or of the same sex. Of course, some will object that “civil union” is sufficient for homosexuals. A particularly austere term, it does not convey the idea of intimate and joyful yet solemn nature of marriage. It is often restricted in states such as Vermont to same sex couples, and is usually not ordained by a member of any religious clergy. Moreover, civil unions do not receive all of the same tax benefits as marriage, and “civil union” in general is more diminutive than “marriage.” After all, how many people want to utter or receive the sterile proposition, “Will you engage in a civil union with me?” Society needs a new nomenclature that can be applied to same-sex or opposite sex marriages, that conveys more gravity to the relationship at stake, and that will serve most of the same legal functions as conventional marriage. We want to create a new, fairly secular concept that will dialectically redefine marriage between same-sex and different-sex, not simply add verbiage to an already ineffective idea. Another reason we need a neoteric word is that the concepts of marriage and failure prove themselves synonymous far too frequently. As network television helpfully demonstrates through programming like “Joe Millionaire,” “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?,” and “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé,” the green curves of the dollar sign often prove far more matrimonially alluring than the shapeliness of any man or woman. Along those lines, what is so magic and sacred about the term marriage, when fifty percent end in failure, some spouses beat each other, and children of broken families are spewed all over the country? Do gays really want the more hollowed and less hallowed institution of marriage with all of its problems? Will homosexual relationships be better if they are described in statutes as marriages, instead of the civilized-sounding civil union, when something superior to contemporary marriage could be devised? The new legal word might add some precautions that would enhance permanency, like required courses and written agreements for more tranquil cohabitation. And, so armed with a denotation of a unity between two people and a connotation of a serious, meaningful relationship, one faces the logical question: What word? provides some synonyms: “connubiality, fatal step, hook, life sentence, shotgun, wedlock.” None of those would prove effective and some are simply ridiculous; even wedlock, perhaps the most sensible, is entirely reminiscent of “headlock.” After taking into account the ideas of Ralph Greco, a contemporary philosopher, famous for posing the age-old, cryptic riddle to his disciples, “Are you happy or are you married?” I brainstormed through the following: nuptacrux, marrowbondo, heartnership, and matrigimation. Nuptacrux, a blend of nuptial and crux, seemed like a nice choice, except “nup” seemed reminiscent of “nope” or “dupe,” and “crux” had some rather unsavory rhymes. Marrowbondo, united to the bone, brought back undue references to indentured servitude as well as the James Bond movies. Heartnership conveyed a warm, touch-feely sensation, but it seemed inane. Try to imagine someone notoriously belligerent like P. Diddy, heartnering. Matrigimation, a cross of amalgamation and matrimony, seemed more like something one would read in a thick, leather-bound science textbook than hear in the real world. None of these worked, and thus confronting seemingly ignominious defeat, I came to a fifth word. “Alegate,” from the Latin alligare which means literally “to bind to” and the Spanish alegre, meaning “happy.” The noun form would be alegation. But, isn’t that really what marriage is, happy yet constraining? And, one has to admit, especially when blinded by the light of a giant diamond, “Will you alegate me?” has fairly nice ring to it. (A serial marrier, like Elizabeth Taylor might be labeled as an alegator, but what do you want from me? Alegate is only my fifth try.) At the beginning of the piece, I mentioned that creating a new concept like allegation might be a suitable compromise between proponents and opponents of gay marriage. To quote Larry David on the subject, “A good compromise is when nobody’s happy.” In that case, alegation could potentially be a great compromise.