HOUSTON VOICE • JANUARY 21, 2000
VOICES AND ECHOES
Straight couples will suffer from marriage gentrification
by MICHAEL ALVEAR
I don't blame straight
people for trying to keep us
from getting married. We're
going to tear down their hallowed institution, and they know it.
Well, parts of it, anyway. We'll do to marriage what we've done to other dilapidated
institutions—fix it up, increase the property value and make it a place everyone
wants to live in.
If gay people move into marriage like
we move into run-down, in-town neighborhoods, straight people can expect all
the problems created by urban gentrification. Namely, that some of them will be
Urban gentrification tends to displace
retirees, households on fixed income and
families who simply can't afford the rising
rents and property taxes.
The same thing will happen with marriage gentrification. There will be victims:
couples who have fixed intellectual
incomes (and won't be able to afford the rising level of thinking), families who don't
respect diversity and couples who buckle at
the difficulty of propping up loveless marriages in the face of loving ones.
It's fair to take into consideration displaced straight couples before allowing gay
marriage. Where will these people go pine
the institution is refurbished? A cheaper
part of town, no doubt, but we have to
That's why I'm proposing that gay
activists back down from their demands of
full equality under the law and back a
more modest approach. Namely, creating a
government incentive program that slowly introduces gay marriage while softening
the blow to straight couples who'll be
uprooted by the beautification process.
The plan: Get rid of DOMA (the Defense
of Marriage Act) and replace it with
MARGE (Marriage Gentrification
Enactment). Modeled after President
Clinton's "empowerment zones," we'd
identify 20 marriage-distressed communities—"MARGE zones"—and make their
gay residents eligible for marriage.
These newly married gay couples
would also receive federal grants and tax-
exempt bonds to finance sweeping revital-
ization and marriage-creation programs.
This would have a dramatic effect in marriage-poor areas, which tend to have an
astronomical number of divorces, unwed
mothers and dateless gay men.
Part of the program would also involve
a set-aside for the covenant-challenged:
those straight couples who can't or won't
stay in an institution where love and commitment are the only criteria for residence.
Can MARGE work? Are gay people tal
ented and creative enough to reverse the
blight and moral decay that straight people have brought to marriage? Hard to
say, really. We're not exactly strangers to
the blight and moral decay thing. Still, if
we can make neighborhoods walkable,
we can make marriages livable.
Marriage is a once-grand neighborhood
in need of renovation. And who better to
do it than us? You don't want a tract-housing specialist. You want somebody who's
going to do with air, light and color what
Madonna did with tits, clothes and dyes.
Across America, low-marriage neighborhoods could be reclaimed by identifying them as MARGE zones. Armed with
engineering studies, architectural plans
and full-length make-up mirrors, we
could actually end up rehabilitating what
thrice-married, abortion-paying, DOMA-
author Bob Barr thinks we'll destroy.
Urban and marriage gentrification
share the same goals—safe, well-lit
streets (though I must say the current
lighting may be too harsh for the gay sensibility), more constructive behavior
(marrying out of love, not out of expectation), preservation of beauty (fighting for
character rather than sprawl) and a culture of service to others (children to
some, three-ways to others).
The only problem 1 see with MARGE is
HOMER (Homosexual Egos in the way of
Marriage Residency), a loud-mouth, self-
sabotaging gay activist off-shoot that is
sure to develop in response. Usually, when
a good idea like MARGE meets a bad
organization like HOMER, our civil rights
prospects are sure to suffer.
Michael Ahvar lias never renovated anything in hit life, with the possible exception of
his reputation, which is still under construction. You am reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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