An Anti-marriage Rebel’s View of 50-state Same-sex Marriage

June 29, 2015

First, I join in the general jubilation that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. It's a great step forward for same-sex couples who want to marry. But not all do. Come to think of it, not all opposite-sex couples want to marry. Civil-rights landmark that it undeniably is, the same-sex marriage victory has left some of us behind.

Consider writer Brian Moylan, who wryly observes in a blog post that with same-sex marriage now legal nationwide, he's already getting tired of friends and family members asking when he and his male partner are gtoing to tie the knot. "I’m going to have to start fielding this question all the time and, well, it’s a little bit annoying," Moylan writes. Long critical of the institution of matrimony, he has no interest in hopping on the nuptial bandwagon. "If the two people in the partnership decide how it should run, isn’t that enough? And why is the government even bothering with organizing us into pairs? Let’s just abolish the federally recognized institution altogether and let churches bless unions and have every individual file her own taxes."

Hear, hear. As longtime readers know, I've long been opposed to traditional matrimony, with its heritage of a father transferring property rights in his daughter to the groom and its weird entanglement of church law with civil law. I'm crazy about my wife, but I was crazy about her during decades of cohabitation; when we finally married, a big part of our motive was qualifying for joint health insurance. And until, oh, eight years ago or so, I was looking forward to the day when, thanks to pressure from the LGBT movement, a serious -- and secular -- alternative to traditional matrimony would be hammered out. You know, civil unions with real teeth: community property, unquestioned hospital visitation rights, firm entitlement to all tax and insurance benefits attached to matrimony, and so on. I couldn't wait till real gay civil unions had been forced into being, so that Sue and I could be one of the first to demand the same privilege for straight couples. (FREE INQUIRY subscribers can sample my thinking on this issue from the Aug/Sep 2009 issue.)

Even by 2009, it was clear that my dream that the nation's most powerful social-change movement would force the creation of an alternative to matrimony was doomed. The LGBT movement had committed itself to securing real marriage, and triumphed in doing so last Friday. As I noted in FI's Aug/Sep 2012 issue, social conservatives should exult, because what the LGBT movement actually achieved was that it saved traditional matrimony. Straights had been losing interest in marriage for years; if the LGBT lobby had succeeded in creating robust civil unions, the rise of an alternative institution without matrimony's considerable baggage might have doomed tired old matrimony. But no, rising activism for same-sex nuptials made matrimony sexy again.

Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, formal-wear renters, banquet facility owners, wedding planners, and DJs in all fifty states can start cashing in on the most ironic social-justice development of the last half-century. Without meaning to, LGBT activists have tugged traditional matrimony back from the grave's edge and positioned it for the most amazing second life imaginable.

Those of us who were really eager for an alternative to matrimony -- Brian Moylan, myself, and (I'm sure) a great many others--  will simply have to wait for the next swing of the social pendulum.


#1 Randy on Monday June 29, 2015 at 7:58pm

Conservative issues have dominated the queer agenda for the last two decades, while liberal issues (except the federal hate crimes act) have largely been left on the back burner.

Now that conservative queer politics has largely won what it set out to achieve (military, marriage, and sports) perhaps now it’s time for queer organizations to start doing something for their liberal membership—single or polygamous as they may be.

All people, straight, gay, married, and unmarried, should be able to come together to reform marriage in Canada and the USA.  For single people, there’s the obvious disadvantages to being single, being barred from many government benefits.  Pick anyone at all, marry them, and get the gravy.  But married people discover that it can be a problem too, because as we heard at court, the government’s interest in marriage is in offloading duties to spouses, and in particular offloading childcare duties to people who never wanted kids in the first place, and who may not even be genetically related to the kids.  In some parts in Canada, even if you aren’t married, the government will declare you married if you just live with someone long enough, such is the benefit to the government from doing so.

#2 Jim Costich (Guest) on Monday June 29, 2015 at 8:12pm

When the gay community began discussing whether we wanted the right to marry the first question was; “What do we have to gain?” After all, straight couples claimed it was “only a piece of paper” and our parents couldn’t wait to divorce each other the minute no fault divorce became legal. We discovered the answer that most straights never knew or had forgotten. With marriage come over 1,000 state and over 1,200 federal rights and benefits. That’s why what we fought to get. My husband just died. Being married to him means no one can show up and dispute my right to our home and possessions. It means I can inherit his social security rate if it’s more than mine. If he had chosen to take the lesser retirement rate that would allow his spouce to continue to collect his retirement I would have been able to do so. Unfortunately when he retired he never dreamed he’d be able to get married so I’m SOL there but these are very important things that only marriage grants us and the list goes on forever. If you raise children together and aren’t married the children loose big time. Marriage provides us with a way to continue to protect and care for our spouce beyond our own lives. It is no benefit to be a legal stranger to your spouce.

#3 Tom Flynn (Guest) on Tuesday June 30, 2015 at 6:13am

Jim Costich wrote, “Marriage provides us with a way to continue to protect and care for our spouce beyond our own lives. It is no benefit to be a legal stranger to your spouce.”

You’re exactly right, Jim. The LGBT lobby could have gone in either of two ways; it probably had the power to achieve either objective. It could have fought to create civil unions with teeth, it which case there would be a way other than marriage to secure all the benefits that marriage alone now confers. Or it could have embraced matrimony with all its flaws and focused solely on expanding the scope of traditional matrimony to include same-sex couples. The latter way was chosen. I’m just pointing out that its triumph comes with costs as well, including the very real cost of forgoing the opportunity to break matrimony’s monopoly.—Tom Flynn

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