Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hey, SCOTUS, make me work harder!

As you may have heard, the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing arguments this week about marriage equality. This topic is of interest to me as a writer of Male/Male romance, because romance novels generally tend to have a marriage in there somewhere.

Romance novels are also supposed to have conflict in there somewhere. When I’m writing a M/M romance, I can easily create conflict by tossing some random homophobia into the story. I can dash off a father who kicks his son out for being gay, or a mother who won’t speak to her son’s boyfriend. How about a landlord who refuses to rent an apartment to the couple, or a town that won’t allow a same-sex wedding in the park where other weddings take place? 

See? Instant conflict, pulled from today’s headlines, not even requiring me to make anything up using my imagination.

If the Supreme Court rules that the Defense of Marriage act is unconstitutional, every state in the US will have to recognize marriages from other states, even if both spouses are the same gender. It will effectively make same-sex marriage legal throughout the country. And it will remove a nice, big source of potential conflict for my characters.

Now they'll be like any other couple in any other romance novel, where their decision to marry will depend on more complicated things: family opposition based on class or culture, fear of commitment, whether or not they want kids, trust issues, or a million other things I’ll have to WORK to think of. I’ll have to come up with inner conflicts to keep them apart, instead of relying on state or Federal laws.

As people’s sexual orientation becomes less of an issue, more sources of potential conflict for my stories will slip away. I’m going to have to work harder and harder to come up with believable conflict if I can’t fall back on cardboard bigotry. If someday Congress passes an Employment Non-Discrimination Act, then my character won’t have to worry about losing his job for being gay, which means I’ll have to come up with an entirely new conflict for him. And that’s hard, thinking stuff up!

SCOTUS, if you dismantle DOMA, I’ll have to work harder to create conflict in my characters’ lives. But I’m willing to try, because that will mean that real same-sex couples will have less conflict in theirs.