Because, see, I spend a lot of time dealing with the fallout from a cultural belief that the marriage license is just a piece of paper. That the important thing is the Relationship, not the Structure--as if those two concepts could somehow be separated, as if some structures do not support love and others weaken it. That everybody should make up his or her own family model. That sex and marriage and childrearing and romantic love are four totally distinct, hermetically sealed concepts. (That's something that really kills me: You'll have sex, knowing full well that you could be making a baby [you know this because it's happened to a lot of your friends...], with a guy you wouldn't marry because you don't want to form a permanent bond with him. Um?) The results of this worldview: chaotic lives, fatherless children, shattered relationships, post-abortion grief, poverty, and fatalism. Welcome to the pursuit of happiness ca. 2003.
A while ago I commented on The Gutless Pacifist that the arguments people use in favor of sodomy laws actually make a much stronger case for making adultery illegal. In terms of the amount of pain and social disruption it causes, as well as the degree of condemnation it gets in the Bible, adultery is miles ahead of sodomy.
It's occurred to me since I wrote that that the whole "slippery slope" conservatives talk about actually started not with gay rights, Roe vs. Wade or Griswold vs. Connecticut, but the end of adultery laws. Once the state makes clear that adultery isn't its business, it's hard to see how any sexual morality is its business. The right of privacy that the Court found in Griswold, which it then extended in Roe and in Lawrence vs. Texas, is the logical extension of this. So is no-fault divorce: the state basically says it doesn't have to know why you're breaking up, it'll ratify it anyway.
By treating sex as a private thing and marriage as a public thing, the state is increasing the separation between them that Eve so dislikes. Civic marriage is a kind of empty shell that you can fill up with anything you want. It contains people who marry for immigration purposes or for health benefits, open marriages, marriages for money and for convenience, and the whole gamut. This is what makes the case for gay marriage so compelling -- if the state doesn't care if a marriage includes love, fidelity, children, permanence or even cohabitation, why does it give a flip what the genders of the parties are?
I think Eve is right to criticize Kinsley for his airy dismissal of the problems related to children and property rights. It's incumbent on anyone who's advocating the privatization of marriage to explain that. But I also think it's incumbent on those defending marriage laws to explain why, and to what extent, the state should legislate sexual norms. Why should one thing be legal and another not be? Where do we draw the line between setting social standards and allowing people their discretion?
Eve says she'll write about this more later, and maybe she will go into that question. Her essential argument in this post seems to be that we can't slide any farther down this slope. But if our current position on the slope leaves us confused and contradictory, it's natural that some people are going to point out the hypocrisies and wonder why we do it this way. And I have to wonder if the types of problems she sees in the pregancy center aren't really better dealt with in places like that, working from the ground up.Posted by Camassia at July 04, 2003 03:09 PM | TrackBack