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John Marcotte: defending marriage by denying divorce

The Sacramento political activist's tongue-in-cheek campaign hits Prop. 8 proponents where it hurts.

December 09, 2009|Meghan Daum

Not to dump the gory details of my life on you, dear readers, but I recently married. This occasion had been preceded by many years and many manifestations of commitment phobia, not least of all the persistent if irrational thought that, despite all evidence to the contrary (I am nearing 40), I was simply too young to get hitched.


FOR THE RECORD:
Divorce: Meghan Daum's column Thursday said that supporters of an initiative banning divorce were seeking to get it on the ballot in March. The election is in June. —

But in late October, I found myself walking arm in arm with my brand-new spouse (who'd been just as altar-avoidant as I) down the streets of Manhattan after a small, ad hoc ceremony in Central Park (ad hoc in that we had no chairs for our guests, not in that we'd gone jogging and suddenly decided to stop and recite some vows). Given that I happened to be wearing a seasonally inappropriate white dress, we caused a bit of a scene. Tourists snapped photos. Passersby cheered and applauded and gave us high fives. How reassuring, I thought to myself. How cozy and inspiring in an "it takes a village" kind of way. Maybe marriage isn't so scary after all. Maybe the threat of divorce doesn't hover above us all like a menacing Zeppelin.

"Congratulations!" a man shouted.

"Thanks!" we yelled back.

Then the man turned to his buddy and said, not exactly sotto voce, "All my weddings sucked."

Hey, it's just like the commercial. Dress: $600. Shoes: $200. Rings: $1,000. Getting a reality check approximately eight minutes after saying "I do": priceless!

I thought of that guy recently when I read that John Marcotte, the Sacramento political activist and comedy writer who began campaigning this summer for a statewide ban on divorce, received the go-ahead from the California secretary of state to try to collect about 700,000 signatures to get it on the ballot in March. Marcotte, who is married and says his wife was among the first signers, calls the movement -- the 2010 California Marriage Protection Act -- a natural extension of the 2008 California Marriage Protection Act, a.k.a. Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. His website is rife with slogans such as "Closing the budget gap -- one marriage at a time" and "You said 'Til death do us part.' You're not dead yet." You can also buy T-shirts.

"Proposition 8 tried to make traditional marriage safer by making sure that Adam Lambert and Ryan Seacrest can't profess their eternal love to one another," Marcotte writes. "Prop. 8 backers recognized that gay marriage was just the beginning of a very slippery slope. Next, people would be marrying goats, trees and particularly stylish armchairs."

So, uh, yes, the thing is a stunt. And, uh, no, Seacrest has never said he is gay (as for Lambert, I only figured out who he was about five minutes ago, but apparently he's said he is).

Marcotte's project is a political statement designed to call the bluff of the very group it's pretending to embrace: those seeking to protect marriage by limiting it to heterosexuals. The measure, of course, isn't meant to pass but rather to expose the hypocrisy of those who see gay marriage as a threat to their own unions. "Prop. 8 only attacked the problem from the edges," Marcotte writes. "I'm going after the heart of the matter. . . . If you can't get divorced, you can't destroy traditional marriage."

Never mind that more than a few commenters on Marcotte's site,

rescuemarriage.org, don't seem to get the joke, a confusion that's resulted in as much unwarranted indignation ("What you are trying to impose is communistic. Not democratic.") as misplaced elation ("This article is so right on!"). Never mind that much of the media coverage suggests that certain interviewers can't tell that he's kidding. Never mind that the measure probably won't make the ballot even if it gets those 700,000 signatures and they're all valid; a lawsuit could easily keep it off the ballot. In the end, Marcotte wins either way.

The Facebook page for the California Protection of Marriage Act has garnered more than 23,000 fans, and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann tipped his hat to Marcotte on a "Best Person in the World" segment last month.

I'm probably not enough of a joiner to add my name to the Facebook page, but I'm glad Marcotte is fighting the good fight. He's fighting not just for the rights of gays and lesbians, who surely deserve to be feted as they parade down the street in post-wedding rapture, but also for the cause of irony itself, which -- in this often painfully literal society -- needs all the help it can get. My husband and I still think the moment when the guy said all his weddings sucked was one of the best parts of our own wedding.

Doesn't everyone, gay or straight, deserve to hear that kind of gem? At the very least, everyone should be able to utter it. And somehow "all my civil union ceremonies sucked" just doesn't sound the same.

mdaum@latimescolumnists.com

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