I just read a really excellent piece on marriage by Melissa Harris-Lacewell over at The Nation. The entire blog entry is wonderful and if you’re interested in marriage, marriage equality, civil rights, and/or feminism, you should read the whole thing. What particularly stood out for me was this section:
Typically advocates of marriage equality try to reassure the voting public the same-sex marriage will not change the institution itself. “Don’t worry,” we say, “allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will not threaten the established norms; it will simply assimilate new groups into old practices.”
This is a pragmatic, political strategy, but I hope it is not true. I hope same-sex marriage changes marriage itself. I hope it changes marriage the way that no-fault divorce changed it. I hope it changes marriage the way that allowing women to own their own property and seek their own credit changed marriage. I hope it changes marriage the way laws against spousal abuse and child neglect changed marriage. I hope marriage equality results more equal marriages. I also hope it offers more opportunities for building meaningful adult lives outside of marriage.I know from personal experience that a bad marriage is enough to rid you of the fear of death. But this experience allows me suspect that a good marriage must be among the most powerful, life-affirming, emotionally fulfilling experiences available to human beings. I support marriage equality not only because it is unfair, in a legal sense, to deny people the privileges of marriage based on their identity; but also because it also seems immoral to forbid some human beings from opting into this emotional experience.
We must do more than simply integrate new groups into an old system. Let’s use this moment to re-imagine marriage and marriage-free options for building families, rearing children, crafting communities, and distributing public goods.
Here I must first confess that I have been one of those people who has said that gay marriage doesn’t change my straight one. That it doesn’t matter to me what my neighbors are doing in their homes, with their families. That two people in love committing to each other has no bearing on my love or my commitment.
But the truth is, it does. And it should. And I want it to. Continue reading “on marriage equality and equal marriages”