Casaubon's Book

Ed Brayton has a post showing a series of polls that indicate that a majority of Americans now approve a gay marriage.This is good news for a whole host of reasons, among them that gay marriage is good for straight folk too – particularly in a society struggling with economic and environmental issues. I’ve written about this before, and about why I think gay marriage may be a gift to all marriages:

As long as we view the establishment of a marital household as the creation of something discrete and apart from the families from which they emerged, in both economic and social senses, we find ourselves in the predicament that each family is set afloat to establish itself more or less without help, and apart from parents and extended family. Thus, the established families exist mostly as a model of an economic standard to achieve. How often do older people lament that their children want it all now, that they aren’t prepared to save and struggle for years to get what their parents have? The way we conceive marriage pushes families down this path of debt and crisis and failure, because we have not prepared our kids to see themselves a part of a larger economic and social project.

I think all of us can think of people unprepared for the most basic economic realities of establishing a family and household, of marriages torn apart by economic strain that the participants were unprepared for. The erasing of marriage as a system of family ties that bind two families to one another means that every family is left to reinvent the wheel, to reform a family connection and reestablish what their relationship will mean in a larger family context from the beginning.

Enter gay marriage. Gay people may choose each other from love, from the same emotions that motivate heterosexual couples, may live together from love, may care deeply about the religious institution of their marriage (and any discussion of religion and gay marriage cannot ignore the fact that many gay people were married, as my parents were, in their churches and synagogues and covens before they could marry in their states) but they have not had the luxury of pretending that the economic, family and legal ties of marriage are not central to the institution. No gay person can ever rest content that they will be permitted at a hospital bedside for their spouse without a big shiny pile of paperwork. No gay person can ever be a parent without worrying about who counts, and how the schools will treat them and their partner. No gay person can write their will or establish guardianship for their children without a worry. No child of gay parents gets to grow up without hearing some idiot say “she’s not your real mother” or “he’s not your real Dad.” No gay family can count on getting social security if a partner dies or health care from every employer, or coverage for the kids from the non-biological parent.

Gay people, once in love, have done society a signal service by simply placing a renewed emphasis on the legal, social and financial benefits of marriage – they have forced us to stop talking *only* about love, and start talking about money and benefits and rights and legal protections – and what those things are for, about the compelling interest society has (if, indeed, it has one – I think it does) in creating stable families and households.

The institution of heterosexual marriage hasn’t been doing so hot – in part because as a society we’re so unwilling to talk about the legal and economic relationship that comes with marriage. The invisibility of the household economy has been overwhelmingly destructive in a whole host of ways that impact all of us. Gay marriage makes us face that marriage is about love – and money and property and family ties – and that being honest about that is to our benefit, all of our benefit. Nice to know the American people are getting one thing right, anyway!

Comments

  1. #1 Rob Jase
    April 25, 2011

    I support the right to same sex marriage but also support the right to same sex divorce – without the latter the former can become a source of torure for all involved.

  2. #2 Vicki
    April 25, 2011

    Is anyone suggesting that divorce should be mixed-sex only? I know Massachusetts law was amended to make clear that any married couple can divorce, regardless of gender. Spain also allows same-sex divorce (which I know because a friend of mine in Madrid and his now-ex-husband divorced last year).

  3. #3 Apple Jack Creek
    April 26, 2011

    Having been divorced once (heterosexual, for the record, though where I live I don’t think it makes much difference) when I contemplated remarriage the economic aspects of the whole thing were definitely uppermost in my mind. I had trusted my first husband to be there always – then he acquired a brain tumour, turned into a stranger, kicked me out of our home, and I had to start all over again with a pile of debt and not much else, not even a decent inheritance for our child. Not exactly what I’d have expected.
    My second husband and I wrote up a very carefully planned prenup agreement that specifies all kinds of details … the economics and practicalities really *do* matter! In a resource-rich world, we just assume that we can always set up a separate household and manage fine .. although having done it, I can say it’s nowhere near as simple as it sounds… but in a resource-poor world, we once again need to look at spouses in terms of “good provider” and “someone I can count on”. My spouse and I have worked out in advance ways in which we could continue to share the land/infrastructure we have built even if our relationship fails, and that makes me sleep better at night, though I hope we never need to call on those arrangements.
    I’ve always said that setting up a household ought to be one thing (the “Kate and Allie Rule”, for those who remember 80′s TV), and marriage as a religious thing ought to be something else. I happen to have both in one spot – but the legal ramifications of being married were carefully considered before I went into it the second time, that’s for sure!

  4. #4 Rob Jase
    April 26, 2011

    I think my sarcasmeter needs fixing.

  5. #5 kiesha h.
    April 27, 2011

    I support same sex marriage because i have a rother and lots of friends that are gay lesbian or bisexual so i totally support it and i definately think that the laws for different sex marriage and same sex marriage should be the same.

  6. #6 kiesha h.
    April 27, 2011

    I support same sex marriage because i have a rother and lots of friends that are gay lesbian or bisexual so i totally support it and i definately think that the laws for different sex marriage and same sex marriage should be the same.