Here’s Maggie Gallagher, on the reason the LGBT community has made marriage equality a priority. It’s not really about marriage, after all:
“Gay marriage is primarily about establishing an equality right,” she said, “a moral narrative about equality in the law and the culture.”
I half-agree. For complex reasons, marriage has become the central cause of the public, legal battle for LGBT equality. Some have questioned this emphasis, noting — with some justification — that this focus diverts attention from other issues of more significance for the lives of many in the community (perhaps especially the trans-community). But that’s where we are, and we’re there for reasons that are echoes of the focus of women’s rights groups on voting, and of African-American activists’ emphasis on desegregation. All of these movements have targeted state-sponsored discrimination; actions that are uniquely indefensible, especially in a country that puffs itself up, relentlessly, about equality and liberty.
So to the extent I agree with Maggie I’d add: “Yeah, so what?” Equality: Good.
Her answer to the “so what,” of course, is that the focus on an abstract narrative of equality for some has real and negative consequences for the broader institution of marriage. Here, she’s wrong for two reasons.
First, she willfully ignores the other part of why we’re demanding the right to marry: As Maggie and conservative defenders of marriage never tire of reminding us, marriage itself has real and important consequences to those who enter into it. It creates and cements commitment, and has a personal meaning that’s not so much about equality (in the day-to-day of it), but about a deeper kind of equality — the kind that fuses with dignity and supports a shared life.
Second, even the defenders of Prop 8 admitted during the recent trial that same-sex marriages wouldn’t harm opposite-sex ones. Maggie disagrees, but try to find one negative consequence of marriage equality that she can point to with any confidence.
So who’s making the abstract argument here? Not us.