3 Reasons It Won't Be the End Of the World If the Supreme Court Doesn't Choose in Favor Of Gay Marriage


Obviously, I do not oppose gay marriage. I say it's obvious because it pretty much follows from being a college-educated person who does not attend religious services. Having said that, I'd like to offer three words of caution about the "marriage equality" movement and its talking points.                                                 

1. It will be OK if the Supreme Court does not strike down Proposition 8: While I think the Supreme Court will strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor, things are less sure with Hollingsworth vs. Perry. It's distinctly possible that it will decide to uphold Prop 8 on its own ground, on democratic grounds, or whatever. This wouldn't be the apocalypse, because:

a. Almost all states will probably approve gay marriage in our lifetimes: Nate Silver predicts that all but 6 states will have majority support for gay marriage by 2020. While this would be a bad outcome for same sex couples that wanted to get married between now and then, there will also be costs to having a judicial overrule here, and frankly:

b. We don't want another Roe. v. Wade: Justice Ginsberg, in a 1992 lecture about the decision, said, "the court went too far, too quickly in ordering every state of the union, and she thought it set off a political backlash that actually wound up hurting the cause of women's rights." North Dakota stepped up this week as if to prove the point. So if the Supreme Court opts not to overturn Proposition 8, take comfort: maybe we can put this issue to rest through direct democracy, and have it stay there.

2. Gay marriage creates new winners and losers: Here I am thinking of Michael Warner’s Normal and Normaller, whose basic argument is, "the indisputable privileges of marriage — social, economic, legal — are always secured at the expense" of people who do not want to get married: poly folks, those who wish to remain single, what have you. Further opening the marriage tent is going to marginalize those who choose to remain without, and that strikes me as a real, material cost to individuals and a serious challenge to the "equality" rhetoric.

I don't think that individuals who seek marriage are in the wrong; as Feminist Hulk says, we can support challenges to marriage as an institution and simultaneously want marriage to be an option for everyone. And I get that singledom and having kids out of wedlock are associated with a host of negative outcomes, so society has an interest in promoting marriage. But gay marriage is no panacea. It may further exacerbate class and social divides in America; and if we don't get it now but ten years from now, and through democracy rather than a court-mandate, the world will not burn. It may even be better in the long run. Time will tell.

3. Be wary of the Human Rights Campaign: Generally, HRC should be regarded more as a political lobbying group than as gay rights advocates. They care much more about the rights of gay people than trans people; they've historically been ineffective and slow to change tactics; and they reflect a pretty white and wealthy set of priorities. So if you change your profile picture to their logo, beware that you might be inadvertently lending symbolic support to positions you don't really hold.