Marriage is a huge and scary thing. I mean, really. You look at someone and you say to them, “Hey, I’m never going to fall in love with anyone else. I promise. I want you to be the only person I sleep with until I am dead. Even if David Duchovny shows up at the front door holding a Whitman’s sampler.” And you’re supposed to mean it.

I respect people who have the guts to get married and stay married. I think it might require a certain failure of imagination; otherwise, how can you state definitively that nothing better will come along? All the same, that’s bravery.

So I believe that marriage deserves support. Not only is it a singularly ballsy act, it helps create stable households that, in turn, stabilize society. It’s good for children to grow up in families that don’t switch personnel in and out like a Broadway cast with food poisoning.

This is why same-sex marriage should be legal.

(Aha! You thought I was going to go off on some iron-jawed rant about family values, didn’t you?)

Marriage, as a legal contract, impedes splitting up. Divorce is too much of a hassle to undertake unless you really, really mean it. Think of living in a thick-walled hut of Styrofoam with your hands tied; you can escape, but it’ll take a whole lot of less-than-pleasant chewing to do so. You’re not going to gnaw through the wall the first time your spouse leaves towels all over the floor.

At the moment, gay people don’t have that extra incentive to stay in relationships. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy; opponents of same-sex marriage justify their position by saying, among other things, that gay relationships are fake and flimsy, that the only truly sustainable relationship is between a man and a woman. And then they deny gay people access to this powerful relationship-sustaining tool.

That’s just ridiculous. Opponents of same-sex marriage tend to give copious lip service to family values and the needs of children. If families are so important, why try to inhibit people from creating them in a deliberate, reasoned way? Why make it more likely that the children of a gay partnership, however they enter the family, will face an unstable environment?

Not only is marriage socially practical, it’s a matter of individual rights — something that this country is theoretically fond of, although the PATRIOT Act might disagree. In our culture, no choice is more personal than mate choice. We have the luxury of selecting a lover based on the responses of the heart and the groin.

At the very least, anyone who feels they can police someone else’s love life is displaying breathtaking arrogance. Assuming only consenting adults are involved, it’s really none of anyone’s business. Would Rick Santorum enjoy having gay people lurking in his bushes with binoculars? Well, maybe.

I can come at this as an idealist or as a cynic. The idealist argument for gay marriage is that love conquers all and it’s useless to try to stand in its way. Also, gay people shouldn’t be denied the chance to seal their love with a covenant. Besides, what about that whole “equality” ideal that we’re working for? Shouldn’t everyone get the same rights?

The cynic says that we’re never going to get anywhere close to total equality. Human nature thrives on hierarchy, oppression and struggle. But if there’s an area where rights are obviously being denied, it can’t hurt to fix it. Not that it’ll solve everything.

Cynically speaking, in being denied their right to marry, gay people are also being denied their right to marry people who are terrible for them. The deepest freedom is, after all, the freedom to err. If straight people can marry committee-selected strangers in front of TV cameras, gay people should be allowed to exhibit equal stupidity. It’s a basic human right. Look it up.

Speaking of reality TV shows, those of you who are worried that same-sex marriage would dishonor the institution of marriage, have no fear. It’s been as dishonored as it can possibly be. Not only are there shows like “Married By America” (although none of those morons actually got married, which is good), there are people who get married to spite their parents or exes, to get green cards, to cover up their homosexuality, because they feel it’s time, to get tax breaks, because they’re very religious but can’t wait any longer to get laid, because they’re drunk and in Vegas, because they’ve known each other for three days.

And people say homosexuals are the threat.

Homosexual marriage would in no way threaten heterosexual marriage. No one is suggesting a ban on heterosexuality, and I really doubt that legally wed gay couples would begin crashing straight weddings and burning up the marriage licenses. I think they would be too busy going to work, cooking, paying bills, making love, talking about the future — in other words, being married.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would do nothing to hurt straight people. It would benefit society by contributing to both stability and equality, and to gay couples who just want to build a life together like everyone else, it would make all the difference.

Besides, any people brave enough to get married deserve the chance to prove themselves — and all the help they can get.

Jackie May ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in English.