More Perfect Unions

2011. július 4. 12:03

Ross Douthat
New York Times

In New York, as in five states before it, gay marriage’s future is in the hands of gay couples themselves.

„In 44 states, the future of gay marriage still depends on legislatures, governors and voters — and eventually, perhaps, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. But in New York, as in five states before it, gay marriage’s future is in the hands of gay couples themselves. Over the decades ahead, their choices will gradually transform gay marriage from an idea into a culture: they’ll determine the social expectations associated with gay wedlock, the gay marriage and divorce rates, the differences and similarities between gay and lesbian unions, the way marriage interacts with gay parenting, and much more besides.

They’ll also help determine gay marriage’s impact on the broader culture of matrimony in America.

One possibility is that gay marriage will end up being a force for marital conservatism, among gays and straights alike. In this vision, the norms of heterosexual marriage will be the template for homosexual wedlock. Once equipped with marriage’s »entitlements and entanglements«, Jonathan Rauch predicted in his book »Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America«, »same-sex relationships will continue to move toward both durability and exclusivity«. At the same time, the example of gay couples taking vows will strengthen »marriage’s status as the gold standard for committed relationships«.

At the other end of the spectrum from Rauch’s gay conservatism are the liberationists, who hope that gay marriage will help knock marriage off its cultural pedestal altogether. To liberationists, a gay rights movement that ends up reaffirming a »gold standard« for relationships will have failed in its deeper mission — which Columbia law professor Katherine M. Franke recently summarized in a Times Op-Ed article as the quest for »greater freedom than can be found in the one-size-fits-all rules of marriage«.”

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