A great deal of sanctimonious nonsense is written and said about the sanctity of heterosexual marriage, but not enough is said about the disastrous state of so much heterosexual marriage as it actually stands.
Take Liana Barrientos, 39, the Bronx woman nicknamed the “serial” bride after she married 10 husbands, reportedly without divorcing most of them, according to court records supplied by the Bronx's District Attorney Office last week.
According to police, when she was picked up Barrientos had nine other marriage licenses filed all over New York. At one time, police say, she was married to eight different men simultaneously.
You can probably guess at what she might have been up to, tying the knot with such impressive frequency. Seven of Barrientos' harem of husbands hail from places like Egypt, Georgia, Pakistan and Mali. Alarmingly, one of her husbands was deported after an investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, after he made threats against the U.S.
You almost have to admire her jaw dropping daring until you realize it probably had more to do with desperation. Only someone who is desperately in need of cash (nine of her 10 weddings happened between 1999 and 2002) without too many questions could have signed on to such a harebrained, easily rumbled scheme.
Reportedly, each previous marriage certificate included her birth date and location, Social Security number, parents’ names and signature. None of this was terrifically smart. That was underlined when she was indicted on felony fraud charges.
But whatever her motivation, hours after her arraignment she was arrested for failing to pay the subway fare at a station in the Bronx. Apparently money is still an issue for the “serial” wife. A man who now lives in Barrientos' old apartment told the press that she moved to a homeless shelter a few months ago.
What's fascinating is how long her marriages took to catch up with her. After all, during one 10-month period she applied for and received eight more marriage certificates. In fact, some of her marriages took place within days of each other.
On Valentine’s Day 2002, Barrientos was married in Hempstead; on March 1, 2002 she was married in Ramapo; on March 14, 2002, she was married in Huntington. Exactly how many times did she have to get hitched before a red flag was raised?
Being gay and having had to wait 15 years before I could legally marry my partner even once in New York State, this story has made a rather profound impression on me. Conservatives fight nonstop to prevent gay people from enjoying the same rights and protections that they do under the law while people like Liana Barrientos treat marriage like a drive though mobile bank. It was no questions asked for her, and no question of you getting married for me.
Exactly how many more like Barrientos are out there, I find myself wondering. Do they ever reflect that what they treat so lightly is treated with enormous sincerity by the people to whom it is currently denied?
While it's unfair to judge the condition of heterosexual marriage from the perspective of love cheats like Barrientos, it's equally unfair to suggest that it is everywhere and always superior to same sex marriage.
In recent months it’s only been pizza joints and flower sellers and cake shops who bother to tell us how holy and superior heterosexual unions are now – to which I answer Liana Barrientos and a thousand like her.
Barrientos walked down the isle again and again and again. If she had taken the trouble to do the paperwork, she could have kept it up indefinitely.
There is no cap on heterosexual marriage. Just ask Elizabeth Taylor or Zsa Zsa Gabor.
As Ireland prepares to head to the polls for the marriage referendum on May 22, I'll be thinking about Liana Barrientos and many others like her and what she teaches us about social hypocrisy.
Even though she repeatedly broke the law, it took over a decade to discover it. The double standard that protected her is the same one that removes the rights of others.