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The Buddy System

I don't think the government should get involved in gay marriage. But, on the other hand, I don't think the government should be involved in straight marriage either.

That might sound like a strange sentiment coming from a happily married guy like me. But The Queen and I, not religious in the slightest, got married only because it was the only option available to us. If we could have gotten civilly unionized, we probably would have gone that route. Instead, we just made it as secular an affair as possible, with a retired judge as the officiant and a ceremony held in the Seattle Aquarium.

The fundamental problem with "marriage" is the word, not the institution. It means different things to different people, which largely accounts for the acrimonious debate over gay marriage that grips the nation every election year. For some "marriage" is a religious arrangement, where two people are joined together by God; to others it refers to the purely secular tradition of pledging fidelity to one another in the hopes that your friends and relatives will give you DVD players and ice cream makers. Until the two sides in the gay marriage debate agree on a common definition -- something unlikely to happen anytime soon -- we're going to just go around and around in circles on this issues for decades to come.

The gov needs to get out of the marriage business altogether, ya'ask me. Separation of church and state, yo. It should relinquish claim to the word "marriage" altogether, let it revert to its original, religious meaning, and wash its hands of the whole thing. Don't get me wrong -- I still think there should be a secular equivalent. Just don't call it "marriage." And don't call it "civil unions," either -- that term is sullied by those who have been trying to pawn it off as some kind of bargain basement matrimony.

I think the United States should adopt the Buddy System.

Here's how it would work. When a citizen reaches Buddying age, he or she will receive a charming, hand-written note in the mail from the government. This is what it will say:

Hi there! Welcome to adulthood. You've had it relatively easy so far, all things considered: what with the parents, and the no job, and the not paying taxes, and the ability to eat an entire Italian sausage and black olive pizza without feeling like crap the following morning. Sure the whole puberty thing sucked, no argument there. But by and large life has been pretty sweet.

Unfortunately things get a little trickier from here on out. You might have to work a job you don't particularly like, or find yourself with all kinds of obligations you'd just as soon avoid. Maybe you'll feel your idealism leech away, and your patience for the status quo dwindle. Perhaps the people who signed your yearbook "2good + 2b = 4gotten!" will move away and 4get you, and your opportunities to meet new, fun people will become increasingly limited. And -- trust me on this one -- no TV show will ever seem as cool as the ones you enjoyed when you were 13.

Yeah, adulthood is a drag sometimes. And that's where the Buddy System comes in. At some point, you may find it useful to Buddy up with another person, someone you will watch over and who will, in turn, watch over you. Like the earlier version of this system you may have used at school or at camp, your Buddy's job will be to make sure you don't get lost. But less a literal "don't get lost in the forest during a dayhike" and more a figurative "don't get so lost working at a crummy job that you forget how much you like gardening." Or, you know, whatever.

So, at some point, feel free to take a Buddy. Or don't: whatever works for you. But iIt's a scary world out there, and sometimes a Buddy is just the thing you need to make it seem a bit more manageable.

Also, couples wishing to Buddy would be required to have their ceremony somewhere awesome, like a waterslide park or a Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert or the Seattle Aquarium. And an open bar would be mandated by law.

I think this is a compromise the whole nation could all get behind, don't you?

Posted on April 17, 2006 to Great Ideas


You've got my vote. If I get Buddy-ed at a bar, do I get extra credit?

Posted by: The Girl on April 18, 2006 10:06 PM

Remember when you got engaged, and I couldn't get the marriage thing? And after your awesome aquarium wedding I got behind the wedding thing? You've hit the whole issue right on the head with this post. The Queen is a lucky, lucky woman. Yeti readers are also lucky.

Thanks for an awesome post.

Now if we could simply remove health insurance, disability/life insurance benefits, and retirement from the equation, so much the better. Many, many "marriages" are based on a need for some degree of access to some necessary service, and have nothing to do with being a "buddy" at all.

Neither government nor church has any right to say how much I pay for/whether I have access to health care based upon who sleeps in my bed and/or what my relationship to that person is.

Posted by: Melissa on April 18, 2006 10:07 PM

I don't think there is an argument to be made. The U.S. Government discriminates in the tax laws and in a few other areas (healthcare visiting/decision making rights being one that jumps to mind) when they give benefits to one class of people (the married) and then say some other people (gays) are not allowed to join that group.

I can't believe there isn't one senator (my own senator from AZ that happens to be gay I am looking in your direction) willing to step up to the podium in session and argue for ending goverment sanctioned marraige benefits as long as some Americans are not entitled to them.

Posted by: ctsc on April 18, 2006 10:19 PM

But...but...how will you greet your male friends? No one uses "pal" anymore...but "buddy" is used all the time. How will they know if you're talking about your Buddy or your buddy?

Posted by: New Blue Shoe on April 18, 2006 10:33 PM

Here in Pennsylvania my wife and I got married without any ceremoney to speak of. We went to the courthouse, got the "contract", "marriage papers" or whatever you want to call them, and just had our neighbors sign our "contract". The courthouse says we are married.

It has something to do with the Amish and Mennonites, I'm too lazy to study the history, but at our age we just took advantage of the law and avoided a ceremony. Easy on the relatives and easy on us.

So we just have a "buddy" contract.
How's that? Why not for everybody?

Posted by: Buck on April 18, 2006 10:38 PM

right on Buddy

btw: Buddy you are behind on the mortgage payment this month

Posted by: asdfasdf on April 18, 2006 11:22 PM

I agree 100%....but did you really get married IN the aquarium? How can I arrange that?

Posted by: Karan on April 18, 2006 11:22 PM

I'm an evangelical Christian, and I'm completely and utterly in favour of this. As long as when someone gets religiously married you give them their civil union certificate without having to do any more paper work, that's cool with me.

Also, in Britain we never had a buddy system so we might be confused by the name. We'll think of something better though, we generally do. (PATRIOTISM = T3h R0x3r)

Posted by: Mark on April 19, 2006 1:25 AM

I'm all over that as long as it doesn't require matching t-shirts.

Posted by: galetea on April 19, 2006 2:23 AM


Posted by: Lucy on April 19, 2006 4:03 AM

*sniff* I love this view of marriage. The Buddy System is spot-on.

I'm gonna go hug my Buddy.

Posted by: Sharon on April 19, 2006 4:09 AM

The less the government is involved with any thing, the better that thing is.

Posted by: Andrew on April 19, 2006 4:11 AM

Why get a contract at all? Why do you need a social contract of any kind? I mean I have plenty of friends and I don't have any social contracts with them and I'm pretty sure they are life long friends, why is it different when the friend is of the opposite sex? Why do you need a contract to be faithful to a partner? I'm all for gay marraige simply because it allows everybody to be treated equally but at the same time I wonder why gay people would want to take part in such a flawed thing? Remember marriages from a goverment perspective where a transfer of property, you were transferring the daughter from the property of the father to the property of the husband, so it begs the question why would women want to take part in such a thing when all it does is trivialise them to objects of property?

Posted by: e.thermal on April 19, 2006 6:18 AM

There are so many people who should have received that letter. Reading "So at some point, feel free to take a Buddy. Or don't: whatever works for you" would have helped people understand that Buddy Systems, or marriages, are not mandatory! They don't necessarily complete your life.

That being said, I know I want to be a wife. Or a Buddy. (...to one specific person, not in general.)

Posted by: Kelly on April 19, 2006 6:26 AM

My former roommate married a Mexican. They got married in a Catholic church in Mexico. Turns out in Mexico, where they really do have separation of church and state, a marriage in a church is not legally recognized. So they had to get married a second time to make it legal.

Posted by: Eric on April 19, 2006 6:33 AM

In one world I constructed for a novel, there are two different words: "mate" is the word for the person you share a deep emotional "soul-bond" with, and "spouse" is the person you contract to have children with and share responsibility for said children. The two different relationships are often (but not necessarily) with the same person.

Society and the government only has an interest in making sure any children are properly cared for. Beyond that, write a will to determine the disposition of your property, do what you want with whatever partner, and we can all get on with our lives.

Posted by: Dorothy on April 19, 2006 6:56 AM



Posted by: Evil Timmy on April 19, 2006 7:40 AM

Damn, you like Italian sausage and black olives on your pizza, too? It's gotta be the first name. Or the love of evil, horrific poops 16 hours later.

Nope. It's the name.

Posted by: Matthew Peck on April 19, 2006 7:43 AM

Wow, good post. I especially like the letter you've written. It definitely rings true.

I too am very sick of the whole marriage debate. It needs fixed, for sure, but every election year it completely detracts from other important issues, such as education reform and stuff. It sucks that the only exposure we get to our candidates is a bunch of repititious BS about gay marriage, and nothing on some other issues we find important.

On the whole, well said.

Posted by: Jeff on April 19, 2006 7:55 AM

I am Orthodox Christian and our definition of marriage would still exclude many relationships that the state is ok with. So, I came up with (a much less humorous version of) this very idea. Civil partnerships governed in similar ways to an LLC. You sign a contract, your annual tax info reflects the ongoing commitment, you recieve the legal and tax benefits, you abolish the relationship when you desire with penalties vis-a-vis the legal benefits (and great acrimony). Their would be rules about allimony, child support and custody, etc.

If you want to be "married" you go to church.

In reply to the post, "why a contract at all?": If you are in a position that you need someone to make legal, financial, or medical decisions on your behalf, you need a legally-binding document of some sort. A state-outlined contract is easier to uphold than a unique document like a living will. If you are in a coma and your mom wants one thing but your gay "buddy" has a better idea of what your actual wishes would be, then you want him/her to have the solid support of the state.

Posted by: the other white jason on April 19, 2006 7:59 AM

The buddy system sounds great to me. Great post.

Posted by: Chuck on April 19, 2006 8:09 AM

Just want to warn you. I linked to you on my blog. Be prepared for, oh, I don't know, maybe 10-12 hits.

Everyone should read this post except for the polygamists whose heads might explode.

Old, really old, saw. Friends are friends and pals are pals, but buddies sleep together. It works!

Posted by: spiiderweb on April 19, 2006 8:17 AM

Frankly, I think the church should get out of "marriage" as well. Once upon a time, marriage was the way to build wealth, gain land, etc. A daughter was a commodity, traded for another. When did the church decide to step in? When did the government decide to let the church step into every aspect of anything?

Posted by: Gina on April 19, 2006 8:25 AM

Why is a ceremony required at all?

I think once 'we', aka, those of us who want to get buddied, "just do it" without all of the fanfare, then it becomes something more personal than public. Which I think it should be anyway. What if all the straight people STOPPED getting married in protest until gay marriage was legal? Aka, took the government out of the equation?

Yeah, not gonna happen, is it? :)

Posted by: wenders on April 19, 2006 8:33 AM

Gina: uh, the "church" has been around a lot, lot longer then any government. the church, was already in every aspect already whenever some people decided to put together a new government (whichever we are talking about). and i suppose the very smart people that helped put the government (whichever one) thought that it was a good idea as well.

Andrew: like roads/interstates, sewer systems, competing telco physical networks? would a free market approach to sewer systems being laid down really be the best thing over what we have now? how about civil defense? or how about national defense? would a hogpoge of market-centered mercenaries do us better? sounds more like anarchism then a nation.

Posted by: powers on April 19, 2006 8:56 AM

Gina's description is right. Marriage existed long before any of the religions currently claiming it as their exclusive domain were invented (Christianity, I am talking about you).

Marriage is a social and economic arrangement whereby people who commit to a lifelong relationship aquire certain civil privileges related to taxes, joint property, death-bed and other medical rights, inheritance, child custody, etc. If religions want to bless some marriages among their members as they see fit that is their right. They do not have the right to impose a definition of marriage based on their religious beliefs onto people who do not share those beliefs. That violates everyone else's freedom of religion.

Posted by: flerf on April 19, 2006 9:09 AM

i'm buddying up this summer.
great post!

Posted by: divinemissk on April 19, 2006 9:13 AM

I would disagree with you on the point about the language of marriage.

'Marriage', and any variation of it, has come to mean a union of people who want to share the rest of their lives with one another. This really can't be dismissed or let go.

If there became different terminology, I think I would be offended. I would feel as if I was receiving ANOTHER label [in addition to the ones already forced upon me...faggot, fairy etc etc] that sets me apart from everyone else. It would be another situation of the LGBT community being treating unfairly.

For me, it's a 'must have' situation. I must have equality. No comprimises.

Posted by: John on April 19, 2006 9:29 AM

Don't take this the wrong way, but your age & number of children (and perhaps your ethnic heritage?) dis-allow you from the usage of "yo", unless duplicated, as in "walk the dog with a yo-yo".

Posted by: jon on April 19, 2006 9:44 AM

Sure, labelling all couples the same would be a great solution to the problem at hand, but unfortunately it's a little unrealistic.

The whole terminology problem can be traced back to (I'll use Christian-based examples, since Christianity is predominant in the US) the fact that the government's view of a union uses the same word as the church does, even though marriage is a civil, binding contract, and Marriage is the acceptance of a Holy Sacrament.

This difference is key, because technically, a couple who has received a civil marriage, but not the Sacrament is "living in sin" in the eyes of the Church. However, nobody has really raised a stink about that until people started mentioning same-sex couples. I think the sad state of affairs is that a lot of people are hiding bigotry behind religion on that front--even if they don't know it.

I agree with John's post that the word marriage is ingrained far too deep in our vernacular to simply dispose of the term and issue a new term to all couples. If I were ever to get married, I would be partaking in a civil union only (though I guess a second date would probably be a better starting point), but to call that a civil union and to call other unions a marriage dives right into the "separate but equal" motto which we've already proven we can't handle.

The whole financial/heir/next-of-kin benefit issue is the real issue behind the granting or denying of same-sex unions. As someone up there has already pointed out, restricting tangible benefits to a certain group of people is discrimination, so the logical solution (HA!) is to either grant those benefits to all couples or to deny them to all couples. Personally, I want those benefits, so I'd like to see the former enacted. (Though, I'm not that naive)

It would defintiely be great if the whole nation could get behind the buddy system though--I know I would! And if I were having my ceremony at a waterslide park with an open bar, I'd be getting a new buddy every year.

Posted by: cory on April 19, 2006 9:55 AM

My Buddy and I had our ceremony in an awesome park, without benefit of clergy or legal authority. Instead, we had someone play the role of the minister/judge so that the whole thing was palatable to the family, and we signed the marriage licence later with a legally authorized person. That was almost 28 years ago. He's still my buddy.

Posted by: Celia on April 19, 2006 11:09 AM

Re: Civil partnerships governed in similar ways to an LLC. You sign a contract, your annual tax info reflects the ongoing commitment, you recieve the legal and tax benefits, you abolish the relationship when you desire with penalties vis-a-vis the legal benefits (and great acrimony). Their would be rules about allimony, child support and custody, etc.

Bingo! This is exactly what I always felt should be done. Separate the religious & civil meanings of marriage. Let the church deal with what they consider marriage, while any two people can sign a legal contract which gives them the rights currently associated with "marriage".

Posted by: Mike on April 19, 2006 11:41 AM

Kudos, Cory.

I was mentioning this post in a class of mine, and someone brought up [this someone being conservative] that we can't have one word mean two things. That would just be ridiculous and confusing. Marriage having two meanings?

Wow. I never thought of it that way until this classmate spoke up. I'm so glad he alerted me to this obvious conundrum. One word with TWO MEANINGS?! Who can even HANDLE that.

I forgot to say earlier, defectiveyeti...great post. I'm sure you didn't expect this to explode from it, but whatever. Great post.

Posted by: John on April 19, 2006 11:59 AM

I dunno if it's just me, but all this talk of definitions and terminology is taking all the romance out of it. :)

Buddy system is cute, and it was a cute post.

Equal rights for all.

Posted by: Kat on April 19, 2006 2:15 PM

Having just coordinated a wedding at a country club without alcohol at where people were sneaking away to the bar all night, I am in full support of the open bar byline!

Posted by: Dunyasha on April 19, 2006 2:15 PM

Amazing post, really funny/cute... From the serious side of things though, Cory is completely right on evertyhing.

Posted by: Blake Richards on April 19, 2006 2:53 PM

Well, I'm not to big on worrying about terminology. But I have asked myself, and brought up in discussions, the question, why should the government marry anyone at all. I enjoyed your thoughts on the matter. Though I can't help thinking that letter should be written in bureaucratese.

Posted by: Ellen K. on April 19, 2006 3:06 PM

I don't believe in any religion and my Buddy was raised evangical christian. This posed quite a problem when we decided to get buddied. Her church refused to marry us because I'm a big bad sinner and we had to get more creative (attempting the church was a big comprimise on my part and the refusal was shocking to her, although not to me).

We ended up having the wedding at an old movie theatre, which is now used to show concerts. There was a stage for the ceremony, plenty of seating, a bar in the back and a great sound system for our favorite SKA band (Skanksters ROCK!).

It was one of the greatest times I've ever had. It was all about the two of us making a decleration of our love and sharing the moment with family and friends.

If you look at it that way, it seems pretty universal, everyone should be so lucky.

Posted by: AZdave on April 19, 2006 3:45 PM

You’re system would work nicely in a perfect world, Matt. A world where faith in human nature would actually be well grounded. In that same world, I’m sure we could replace all those nasty divorces with the ‘Agree-to-Disagree’ system.

Posted by: Lung the Younger on April 20, 2006 12:45 AM

i proposed a similar idea on the blog which i contribue norlos.com a couple of years ago, but i like your idea of the buddy system for a name.
i have proposed this to a number of fundamentalist christian types and the ones i have spoken with seem to like the idea as well.
seriously, i think it is a very solid idea.

Posted by: jebus4me on April 20, 2006 5:09 AM

Theme song for the buddy system: "Buddy" by BS2000

tell somebody
they're your buddy
... (don't know what he says here)

loosen up a little
fuddy duddy

let's get silly
like the putty

body to body
you make a baby

given it to grampa
make him crazy

... (and on it goes)

Posted by: Manda on April 20, 2006 9:42 AM

wow, married in an aquarium...talk about holding your breath through the entire ceremony!

[da dum, cha]

Posted by: markus on April 20, 2006 1:18 PM

It seems good enough to me. At the time that my parents were married the state required them to have a religious ceremony, neither one of them being raised religious this was rather hard on them. They just needed the benefits that the state would provide them with as a couple (they'd been living together for years and already had my brother and myself. I got to attend my parent's wedding, how cool is that?!)
I'm sure they would have been happier with a nice party and a legal document.
I think though that there shouldn't have to be a change in termenology. We have words that mean more than one thing a lot in our language, it's an obtuse language like that, and we should be used to it by now.
That said, The Buddy sytem is a great idea. I'd totally go for it.

Posted by: cameron on April 20, 2006 6:45 PM

Again, great ideas from the mind of DY.

However, I think some people are mischaracterizing the opposition to gay marriage. While I used to think it was bigotry, or fundamentalism, or some other such force (I never thought of Cory's financial, etc. argument before, but I can see it), I have come to understand the main argument against it. It's none of these things at all.

Traditionalists oppose gay marriage because the family is the fundamental societal unit, and families start with procreating couples. Make all the arguments you want about adoption/children from previous marriages/artificial insemination/euqality/whatever, and they still won't change that biological fact. Understand this, and you will understand why such arguments would not sway the traditionalists.

And yes, as I understand it, some traditionalists want the state to get out of the marriage business, too.

Just my $.02.

Posted by: Squidley on April 22, 2006 12:00 AM

there is a man i love, who takes care of me, and who i take care of, who is kind and gentle and smart and sweet.

there is a tenderness and an anger to him, a righteous desire to correct what is wrong--and he is my buddy--and im sitting here, crying about him in my life.

and the neat thing is, hes straight and im queer, and it doesnt matter, we are pairbonded, and when he gets married, his wife and i will be pairbonded, and the buddy list extends

Posted by: anthony on April 22, 2006 5:42 AM

Steve and I had "MY BUDDY" engraved on the inside of our wedding rings.

Posted by: flea on April 22, 2006 1:48 PM

My husband and I are just as married as a couple who has kids. Having kids is not what defines a marriage.

Posted by: Ellen K. on April 23, 2006 9:10 AM