It’s important to underscore that many
of the rights that would be accorded to married gays are those that
would be cherished by all citizens. Health care is an example. Who does
not desire this care and why is it that one might have better access to
health care if one is in a legally-recognized marriage? I might support
gay marriage if it gestured toward rights such as universal health
care. But gay marriage does not; thus, it strikes me as ill-conceived.
I detect a potential flaw in my
argument. What happens if two lesbians are in a relationship and one of
them is rushed to the hospital and her partner is not allowed to visit
her because the doctor does not recognize their relationship as valid?
Clearly, this would affect these two women in a way that others would
not be. Yet these two would not be the only people who might experience
this situation. While a marriage license might alleviate this
situation, it would only do so for two people. Therefore, it is not the
most proactive solution.
Recall Lawrence v. Texas (2003)
when the US Supreme Court ruled that gays had just as much right to
engage in sodomy as our heterosexual brothers and sisters. The
plaintiffs used the courts system in their efforts, overturning the
discriminatory Bowers v. Hardwick (1987). There was no need for
the legislature to involve itself in this matter nor was there a need
to enact a Constitutional Amendment extending sodomy rights to all
(although I would have loved to have seen how that one got worded). The
aforementioned lesbian who is denied the right to visit her partner is
no different from the lesbian who is in a relationship with her partner
and does not choose to get married. All of these individuals deserve
equal treatment, but under the rubric of gay marriage, only those who
exchange nuptials would get that treatment.
I wish that individuals advocating for
gay marriage would stop calling it “marriage equality” and revert to
the language that was previously used in describing what they are
seeking, same-sex marriage. “Marriage equality” is fiction because the
expression papers over the fact that those individuals who choose to
get married are provided with a series of rights that those individuals
who do not opt to get married do not have. There is nothing equal about
that; the civil rights playing field is still slanted.
Loving someone is not an argument for
marrying that person; loving someone is an argument for staying with
the individual. When I hear about gay couples who have been together
for years despite not being married, I recognize that their remaining
together is much more of a testament to their love than a piece of
paper. Indeed, the love signified in arguments about gay marriage is a
particular type of love. It doesn’t make sense to say that people
should be allowed to marry anyone they choose since not all forms of
love lend themselves to this type of commitment. I love my mother; I do
not wish to marry her.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Center on Human Policy, Law and Disability
Studies at Syracuse University