Posted by: HAT | June 14, 2010

About Those Fairy Tale Endings

married

one view of the subject of marital bliss

Liked Frank Rich’s Op-Ed piece on doing and un-doing marriage, straight and gay.

It is far from clear what kind of utopian thinking “they married and lived happily ever after” is — the kind that represents naïveté, the kind that aims at something perfectly possible and deeply desirable but all too rare, or the kind that’s purely ideological and purveyed to people for reasons that have to do with clinging to power and enjoying its poisoned privileges. It’s probably the latter, but not without some qualification. People who find lasting, satisfying partnership in life have much to celebrate. And no, finding lasting, satisfying partnership in life is not the same as “happily ever after,” either.

All of which argues that winning gay marriage isn’t nothing, but it’s also not the holy grail for LGBTs.

Gay marriage matters so much to so many people in large part because some important values (partner health insurance benefits; “next of kin” status for the purposes of hospital visits and guardianship of children; property issues) are regulated through the state monopoly on legitimating personal relationships. That monopoly, it ought to go without saying, is utterly ILlegitimate. Anti-anti-gay marriage is undoubtedly the realistic position, but not because marriage is so intrinsically desirable, gay or straight. Just because, as long as compulsory exclusion from marriage is being used as a tool of division and oppression, the compulsory exclusion needs to be opposed.

Other contexts – say, for instance, a particular family context or a particular religious context – may also make gay marriage important to some people. Maybe marriage is an emblem of recognition, or completion, or acceptance, or blessedness, or belonging. There again, anti-anti-gay marriage makes sense, as a realistic stance. Wherever recognition, completion, acceptance, blessedness, belonging is being withheld, whether to coerce or to torment, that withholding needs to be stopped. But the principled utopian position would still, it seems, be that the context that links recognition etc. that exclusively to marriage needs more fundamental change.

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