I believe the Wall Street Journal used to–perhaps they still do–have a section called “When Life Imitates the Onion.”
Rebecca adds: “We accept as a basic truth the idea that everyone has the right to marry somebody.”
Excuse me? Since when? Children don’t have the right to marry somebody. People in jail, in most jurisdictions, don’t have the right to marry somebody. The certifiably insane don’t have the right to marry somebody, nor does Canadian law accept proxy marriages, or plural marriage, or marriage between first degree blood relatives.
Marriage is a stamp that society puts on a relationship. Not all societies have the same rules about marriage, but they all have rules, formal and informal, and they have by and large been served well by them. If your society declines to put its stamp on your relationship, you’re not married. In Israel, which has no civil marriage, you can only be married by clergy, and almost all clergy there insist on marrying within the faith, so Jews have a great deal of difficulty marrying non-Jews, Muslims non-Muslims, and Christians non-Christians. This could be a good thing or a bad thing but it’s consistent and coherent.
“Jennifer Finney Boylan is a professor of English at Colby College.” Of course. Some things are so preposterous only an academic could believe them, to mutilate, er, sorry, re-assign a phrase.
I’d say the legal status of his/her marriage is about the least of Professor Boylan’s problems.by