We are nearing the end of the road for marriage exclusivists. Pretty soon, very likely this year, the Supreme Court of the United States is going to rule that the states cannot require a legal marriage to include one person of each gender, and cannot prevent or prohibit two individuals of the same gender from being legally married to one another, and treating each as the other's spouse in the eyes of the law.
Compared to other civil rights struggles in American history, the dominoes have fallen rather fast on this one. In my view, they've fallen because the courts, and the American people, have gradually come to realize that there really is no good reason not to allow two people to be each other's lawfully-wedded spouse because they are both men, or both women. Just because everyone has always thought of marriage as being between a bride and groom, husband and wife, mother and father, &c., doesn't mean it must always be that way, or can only be that way, and is certainly not a good enough reason to tell a pair of men or a pair of women that they may not enjoy the rights, duties, privileges and immunities of being each other's spouse.
Most of us here at Daily Kos understand this, and I've written about it many times. A couple of years ago I encountered someone over at HuffPo whose justifications for marriage exclusivity chilled me to the bone; so much so that I wrote about it twice. I wrote about it again more recently, in a diary called A Common Thread Among Young-Earth Creationists, Gun Enthusiasts, Marriage Exclusivists, and the 1%:
The best, and worst, justification I ever heard or read for marriage exclusivity was grounded in the premise that straight couples' capacity to procreate offspring makes them "unique" and "special" and therefore worthy of special consideration, special reward, and special compensation from the state, in the form of exclusive access to marriage.As we get closer and closer to the endgame of marriage equality, exclusivists find themselves less and less able to justify exclusivity on its own merits; they've resorted to advocating for polygamy and incest because "equality" means, to them anyway, in a sort of passive-aggressive tantrum, "everyone gets what they want."
Ultimately, what he was saying was this: Marriage is a "special benefit" reserved for special people; if we extend that benefit to non-special people, the benefit itself will not change in any material way, but it will no longer be special. The law should make special people feel special. ... [E]quality threatens the pride of those who deem themselves "special" and "unique," and insufficiently "respected" for it.
But every now and then that passive-aggressive tantrum flows over the top and reveals the core of their thinking, and where I once found it chilling, I now find it deeply, deeply saddening. I thought, at the time, that this person I encountered on HuffPo was an outlier, one who perhaps did not understand what he was saying or implying. But ever since then I've heard more and more this idea that opposite-sex unions are "unique" and "special," so much so that the state should "affirm" how "unique" and "special" they are by reserving civil marriage exclusively for them.
I read this comment, a reply to someone else (apparently a married gay man), yesterday:
The word "marriage" is important to preserve for heterosexuals because it communicates that which is unique and special about their unions, and helps to presrve the natural family of husband and wife, mother and father -- not about getting government goodie bags and making homosexual couples feel accepted within society. Heterosexual marriage IS marriage, and is fundamental to society in ways your union never can be. Redefining it will only destroy that which needs to be strengthened.I have not edited this.
Even though I've heard this before, I still found it shocking to see it expressed so nakedly. Civil marriage is there to affirm that our unions are special, not to make those people feel accepted. I probably shouldn't have, but I jumped in with this brief reply:
How can over 90% of the population be "unique"?The person replied by claiming he was "not talking about 90% of the population," but rather the nature of their union. I made the point, as I did to lasnovios at HuffPo before, that people will not stop marrying or refuse to procreate if the state doesn't make them feel "special" by reserving marriage rights exclusively for them. "We don't oppress minorities," I said, "just to make ourselves feel 'special;' not in a free country, we don't." The rest of the conversation consisted essentially of this person denying that he made any such arguments, and repeating the standard exclusivist mantra of "gender matters," "every child needs a mother and father," "marriage is about procreation," etc. He truly could not grasp, understand, or recognize the legal or practical implications of anything he was saying.
You're saying the state should categorically deny civil rights to a minority, just to make the majority feel "special," and make sure the minority does not "feel" accepted"?
That is horrifying.
This is the key:
[W]here did I imply that anyone's civil rights should be denied?!!(emphasis added).
[T]he traditional understanding of marriage is rooted in the biological fact that it takes the bringing together of the two halves of humanity for the purpose of creating the next generation, something UNIQUE to this union, and attaching children to their MOTHER AND FATHER, then guess what: GENDER MATTERS! That is neither a form of discrimination nor a denial of liberty and justice toward any other union that falls outside of that purpose or capability.
This whole [same-sex marriage] movement is rooted in selfishness, denial, and intellectual dishonesty.
Exclusivists, like this one, accuse the rest of us of having a terrible blind spot, of "refusing to accept" that "gender matters" and that "marriage is about procreation" and and what have you. And perhaps that's true; we do refuse to accept that. And we refuse to accept it because we've yet to hear a good reason why we should accept it. "Accept it, because that's what marriage is, and that's the way it's always been." Not good enough. "Accept it, because their unions can never be equal to, or 'as fundamental to society,' as ours." Definitely not good enough. "Accept it, because our unions are unique and special, and that fact should be affirmed and reaffirmed by the state." Absolutely not good enough. Why should the state, through its laws, "affirm" the "unique" and "special" nature of your unions, when nothing about them will change and no one will be harmed if it doesn't? We don't accept that and will never accept that.
The comments above reveal what I think is the exclusivists' own terrible blind spot, which was also revealed in the Sixth Circuit's decision upholding that "definition of marriage" that exclusivists find so earth-shakingly important: The very real, concrete, actual harm that is visited on and suffered by same-sex couples and gay individuals because they cannot attain the legal status, rights, duties, benefits, privileges and immunities of being each other's "spouse." Exclusivists sincerely believe and vehemently insist that no one could be harmed in any way by exclusivity. In their minds, gay people want civil marriage because they are selfish, hypocritical and dishonest, not because they are being harmed in any way by not having it. It's not discrimination, it's not the denial of liberty without due process of law; it's society's just and proper refusal to give them a gift they don't deserve.
I'm not gay (not that there's anything wrong with that), and I'm not married, so I have no dog in this fight either way. But I can't read or write what i just wrote above this paragraph without feeling profoundly sad. Of course, if I formulated it this way to an exclusivist like my counterpart up there, he'd deny having made that argument, but read his own words for yourself. I just can't fathom how any human being who proclaims to be so deeply invested in the importance of things like love and family and posterity can care so little about the love, the families, the rights, and the pursuit of happiness, of his fellow man. Not only do these exclusivists reveal a startling lack of empathy and a disturbing vein of self-regard, but a deep, foul, ugly sickness of the soul, one that can't be explained or understood or reasoned with. It is, I'm sad to say, pure evil.
As blind spots go, I'll take the inability to accept some subjective, abstract, philosophical "truth" over the inability to accept that "special" treatment for a favored group inflicts harm on those who don't qualify.