A Critical Examination of Same-Sex Marriage
Wright, Jason Corbitt
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The debate over same-sex marriage has, for the most part, been between religious conservatives maintaining it is ''unnatural,'' and liberals claiming same-sex marriage as needed for equality. However, there is another perspective that is often overlooked in mainstream discussions-that of the lesbians and gay men who are against it. Prohibiting same-sex couples from marriage certainly calls into question the presumption of a liberal society, however same-sex marriage is not necessarily the best way to correct that inequality. At the same time that privileges associated with marriage may seem beneficial to the lesbian and gay community, a rush to embrace marriage overlooks the problems inherent within the institution. One is that marriage is based on exclusivity, because of this it will always be an institution that helps generate inequality. This problem is one that, privileged lesbians and gays need to recognize. That is, same-sex marriage will neither benefit the community in general nor will it bring equality or liberation. Still there are those who do recognize the inequality marriage perpetrates, and proceed to argue for same-sex marriage as a step toward positive incremental change. This liberal argument posits that same-sex marriage will transform the institution. This paper suggests that it is more likely that marriage will extract changes from gays and lesbians than it will be changed by those homosexuals that enter into it. Still, why should lesbians and gays want to enter into so problematic an institution? The assumption that marriage is a means to undo institutionalized oppression against lesbians and gay men needs to be critically examined. The idea that it will bring with it equality succumbs to the myth that a rights based politics is able to create liberation. Beyond the failures of same-sex marriage lies the need to create a diverse landscape of families and alternatives to marriage in order to create equality. The privileged focus on same-sex marriage itself fails to recognize that not everyone wishes for or is even likely to benefit from marriage. Throughout this paper arguments against same-sex marriage, and the institution of marriage generally, will be posed. The final section suggests alternative solutions to both the fight for same-sex marriage and marriage more generally. For the purposes of this paper, marriage will be defined in terms of the legal institution, which fundamentally regulates the interaction between two partners, a man and a woman. Thus same-sex marriage will be examined as the hypothetical legal institution that would fundamentally regulate two partners, who are of the same sex. Also, the institution of marriage and the hypothetical institution of same-sex marriage will be explained within a u.s. context, a country that allegedly based on equality with a strong gay and lesbian movement.