Do the Right Thing
A Right to Marry? Same-sex Marriage and Constitutional Law by Martha Nussbaum in the summer issue of Dissent does an excellent job expressing my views on the subject. Or maybe I just regard it highly because I happen to agree with it. It’s perhaps a bit long by web drive-thru standards, but it is refreshing to see such a “nuanced, and sustained, analysis and critique of the various arguments against gay marriage“. I wish our politicians were required to read it and respond where they differed. As a friend said though, “Yeah, good luck with that“. The publication also provides online responses from Martha Ackelsberg, Stephanie Coontz, and Katha Pollitt also worth reading that address aspects of the essay.
The future of marriage looks, in one way, a lot like its past. People will continue to unite, form families, have children, and, sometimes, split up. What the Constitution dictates, however, is that whatever the state decides to do in this area will be done on a basis of equality. Government cannot exclude any group of citizens from the civil benefits or the expressive dignities of marriage without a compelling public interest. The full inclusion of same-sex couples is in one sense a large change, just as official recognition of interracial marriage was a large change, and just as the full inclusion of women and African Americans as voters and citizens was a large change. On the other hand, those changes are best seen as a true realization of the promise contained in our constitutional guarantees. We should view this change in the same way. The politics of humanity asks us to stop viewing same-sex marriage as a source of taint or defilement to traditional marriage but, instead, to understand the human purposes of those who seek marriage and the similarity of what they seek to that which straight people seek. When we think this way, the issue ought to look like the miscegenation issue: as an exclusion we can no longer tolerate in a society pursuing equal respect and justice for all.
The Hawaiʻi State legislature unexpectedly revived and passed a civil unions bill on the last day of this year’s session. Interestingly, this matches FiveThirtyEight’s prediction for this sort of event here. There don’t seem to be enough votes to override a veto, so here’s hoping that Governor Linda Lingle will Do the Right Thing and sign this bill into law.
Lingle vetoed the bill on July 6.
Opponents of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples say that marriage has always been between a man and a woman and must remain so. They argue from “tradition.” Counter to their claims is an argument from history—a history of change over time.
[…] Most Americans are legally allowed to marry as they see fit. But same-sex couples remain excluded in most jurisdictions. This exclusion stands at odds with the direction of historical change toward gender equality and neutrality in the legal treatment of marital roles.