This week, President Obama, our Non-Leader, came off the fence and indicated that he was in favor of marriage between two people of the same gender.
On one level, it seems eminently reasonable. Civil marriage gives a couple a passel of legal rights with respect to each other: inheritance, joint tax returns, access to medical data, etc. If two men or two women are in a committed relationship, and want to avail themselves of these rights, they should be able to.
But outside of the legal definition, and the couple themselves, is such a couple really married?
Marriage has existed for eons as a basis for family and children. It’s true that not every married couple has children, but if you have a man and a woman who presumably like each other’s company sleeping together, you have to at least admit the possibility.
Today, heterosexual marriage is not the ‘basis’ that it used to be: some 40% of the births in the United States are to unmarried women. Admitting marriage between two men or two women would further erode the status of marriage as a benchmark for families.
And this is what many people worry about: not so much the rights of gay couples, but the impact of redefining ‘marriage’ so that it is no longer exclusively heterosexual.
Unfortunately, railing against it won’t help. The societal forces that led us to consider gay marriage won’t go away if we pretend they don’t exist. The Rick Santorum solution–if we legislate the morality of the 1950s, we’ll all be happy and prosperous again–won’t work.
While I acknowledge that gay marriage is an idea whose time has come, I don’t have to like it.