Oh, yeah–New England distinguishes itself yet again as the region of the U.S. that is fast on its way to full marriage equality. Governor John Baldacci of Maine signed the bill just minutes after it passed the Maine Senate by a hefty (although not veto-proof) majority, and New Hamphire is hot on Maine’s heels. (Paging Rhode Island–the right side of history, line one!) Since straights can get married in Maine by a notary public immediately after obtaining a license, it’s not like Mainers are all that stuffy about marriage protocol in the first place. Why not let the same-sexers be just as frivolous and irresponsible?
As Historiann wrote just one month ago, “I don’t think even most American historians appreciate how appropriate it is that New England has pioneered marriage equality, when we reflect on colonial New England (which I’m sure you all do quite frequently!)” Humor me with this re-run–it’s such a sweet, sweet victory lap, after all:
As Cornelia Hughes Dayton demonstrated so well in her 1995 book Women Before the Bar: Gender, Law, and Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789, New England led the way in the colonial Americas with its liberal divorce laws (well, liberal in that it permitted divorce at all!) because puritans as reformed Protestants didn’t see marriage as a sacrament. It was just another contract among mortals, like so many others, so it could be broken if one party didn’t live up to his or her end of the deal. This stunningly sensible legal insight is one that Historiann thinks has been lost amidst all of the talk of late–by Protestants!–about the “sacred” nature of marriage! Protestants, please: if you don’t want the gays to marry, just say you don’t want them to marry because you hate or fear them, because you like making invidious distinctions among people, or because you fear that you’ll fall into a delicious, seductive, forbidden gay marriage yourself. Don’t turn your back on centuries of Protestant tradition and say that marriage is “sacred!” Civil marriage is an American tradition.
To all of you latter-day Mathers out there who want to pick and choose to remember only those aspects of puritan history of which you approve, I say sit on it! The rest of us are going to dance at some really fun gay weddings this summer and fall.