The Stranger Wore White
Where does performance art meet political protest?It's hard, as someone unable to marry my partner of 8 years, not to feel utterly exasperated by this, but in reading the comments on Maupin's story, I realized that same-sex inequality isn't the only absurdity this performance highlights. It also makes a mockery of the country's so-called Marriage fraud laws designed to keep immigrants from remaining in the country via private arrangements with American citizens. In those cases, the Attorney General sees it as his/her duty to interfere and make a determination as to whether two people really want to be married or whether their marriage is "fraudulent." And yet, although there is no way that Feldman and his bride could pass the same interview that couples are forced to undergo when one of them is not a citizen, his marriage will not be legally "fraudulent."
When Brian Feldman marries Hannah Miller, an event scheduled for sometime after 3 p.m. Friday at the Orange County Courthouse. (Weddings are first-come, first-served, so you never know. The office closes at 4.)
Feldman, who does some outlandish things for outlandish reasons, has a pretty strong motivation for marrying a woman he doesn’t know. (Miller insists they’ve met a few times, but Feldman seems vague about it. “It’s a small arts community,” he says.)
He’s trying to point out the craziness of a state system that will allow near-strangers to marry, as long as they’re of opposite sexes, but will not allow marriages for committed partners of the same sex.
In thinking through why this might not strike all Americans as absurd, I do realize that what the immigration laws + Feldman's performance (let alone celebrity liaisons in Las Vegas) essentially say is that many in this nation feel that any two citizens of opposite sex and a certain age should be able to marry for any reason, any reason at all, if they see fit to do so. In other words, the argument would seem to be that marriage is a private matter so long as you are a citizen and fall within a certain demographic.
What that underscores quite clearly, though, is that what is really at stake in the marriage debates is access (and the ability to deny access) to a valuable societal status symbol. "We are legitimate and therefore entitled to the status and its benefits, and you are not." It also makes perfectly clear that all the chatter about protecting children and traditional values is a smokescreen for bigotry. If it weren't, Feldman's performance would also be illegal.
As Maupin noted, it will be telling to see whether "the people who claim that gay marriages harm the institution of marriage will show up to protest this one."