Why Fight Same-Sex Marriage?
Is There Really That Much at Stake?
by Douglas Farrow
Why fight same-sex marriage? Even in America, where the outcome is not yet decided, there appear to be good reasons not to. The optics are poor and the mandate seems uncertain. Prospects for victory appear slim. Resources that might be reserved for more important fronts—abortion, for example—are squandered in defense of an institution to which our modern urban society is no longer committed. Industrial economies, reprogenetic technologies, and new ideas of autonomy—not to speak of new moralities—have called into question many of the assumptions on which that institution has always been based.
Moreover, it is perfectly plain to anyone following the fight closely that same-sex marriage is merely a proximate goal—something to be abandoned as quickly as it was invented, when its work is done. Can it really be worth fighting then?
The answer is yes, for reasons that become clear when we have taken account of the work it is meant to do. And what is that work? Positively, to normalize homosexual relationships. Negatively, to de-normalize heterosexual monogamy. (Those who claim that they want homosexual relationships to be more like monogamous heterosexual relationships may or may not be sincere, but they represent no significant constituency.)
Now, some think that this larger project can be left to market forces. But others think that heterosexual monogamy, as the source of widespread discrimination against alternative sexualities and lifestyles, must be repudiated as a social standard. Same-sex marriage is the tool of choice for doing that. By redefining marriage as a union of two (or more) persons, rather than as the union of one man and one woman, the offending norm is removed from the body politic with a single incision. Afterwards, a wider assault on homophobia and heterosexism can follow.
More on marriage, from the Ruth Institute:
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