Friday, May 16, 2008

The marriage opinion

I'm just as happy as I could possibly be that the Supreme Court of California ruled in favor of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

I'm reading through the lengthy opinion and I may have more to say about it later, but for now, one big thing stands out: The Court consistently refers to marriage itself as establishing a family.

Too often, as a result of the social conservatives' influence on our discourse about family issues, we talk about "family" in terms of parents and children. Families are undoubtedly about parents and children, but they are not only about parents and children.

Talking as though they are has allowed the opponents of marriage equality to claim that their opposition has something to do with the inability of same sex couples to procreate. It's a clever argument, but it's wrong and it's a ruse. But the ruse is a clever one because it allows the debate to proceed on grounds that don't call into question the religious motivation of marriage equality opponents.

Being upfront about the fact that they are motivated by religious doctrines (even widely believed religious doctrines) would open social conservatives up to the legitimate counterargument that they are advocating theocracy. Of course they don't want to argue on those grounds because they will lose. I do recognize that some are quite up front about their theocratic preferences and that the old "America is a Christian nation" argument is just a thinly veiled argument for theocracy. But those that are up front about it are marginal figures and the "America is a Christian nation" crowd at least has to dress their theocracy pig in a historical prom dress before dragging its stinky ass into the living room. That shows, if not shame, at least some awareness of the fact that a blunt appeal for theocracy won't work.

But the California Supreme Court, by referring to married, childless couples as families has helped to shut that nonsense up. And I couldn't be happier. The same sex couples I know are no less worthy than my wife and I of the joys, obligations, protections, and pains in the ass a marriage brings. And for that matter, my wife and I are no more or less a family than anybody walking by with their kid in a stroller.

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