|Posted by Kyle Baranko on July 9, 2015 at 2:10 PM|
Same-sex marriage is now legal in all fifty states. In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court decided that homosexual citizens have the right to marry under United States law. The ruling sparked nationwide celebration, with the most liberal cities erupting in joyful festivities and championing the movement’s battle cry of “Love Wins.” Both straights and gays alike lined the streets of San Francisco and other famously receptive metropolitan areas in order to express their support for marriage equality. But not everyone was pleased. Intellectual conservatives made some convincing slippery slope arguments that highlighted concerns regarding religious freedoms, in addition to legitimacy issues with polygamy and pedophilia. Many GOP presidential candidates expressed their displeasure with the ruling; Ted Cruz went as far as to call the day one of “The darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.” The weekend was definitely a crushing blow to conservatives, who also endured another losing ruling over Obamacare. After over a week to digest the news and the corresponding avalanche of discussion, it is now possible to both analyze the moment’s place in American history and consider the concerns of those in favor of traditional marriage.
The Supreme Court made the decision based on equality. Public opinion has progressed to the point that most Americans now accept gays in society and support same-sex marriage. Why should a citizen be denied the right to marry because of whom he or she loves? With that in mind, why should three people be denied the right to marry despite exhibiting the same sort of love? It took less than a week for three people in Montana to make this argument and take their case to court. These initial attempts to legitimize plural marriages are unlikely to have any immediate effect, but that’s what everyone thought about gay marriage in the 1970s. Conservatives are also worried about the future legitimacy of polygamy and even pedophilia. This reasoning, part of the cautionary slippery slope, is less convincing than plural marriage. Polygamy is based on a premise of inequality-- traditionally, with multiple women subservient to a man. Pedophilia is inherently based on dominance, as the adult has an uncommon attraction to a vulnerable younger partner. But pedophilia is classified as a mental disorder, just as homosexuality was as recently as fifty years ago. Both of these points have been brought up in post-ruling discussion, but they stand little chance of having a future impact; these issues are clearly on different social trajectories. Polygamy was widespread throughout human history, most recently in Mormon communities until the federal government made it illegal. Pedophilia was not only widespread throughout history, but often encouraged. It was completely normal for an old man to take young girls as brides as soon as they began showing sides of maturity. Now, most people of the developed world find these relationships odd and even repulsive, highlighting the inherent inequality and exploitation. But plural marriage is a different breed. There is no exploitation, just love divided among three consenting participants. Where do we draw the line?
In addition to the slippery slope argument, non-proponents of gay marriage also highlighted several legal factors. Our country was founded by a group of pilgrims escaping religious persecution. The founding fathers created a secular government with this idea in mind; everyone should have the right to practice in peace, without government interference. Gay marriage should be recognized in civil society, but does the state have the right to force it upon the churches that consider the relationship a sin? There are reasonable arguments for both sides. This could be a case of the state interfering with private beliefs and manipulating faith, but it could also be a classic case of discrimination. For example before desegregation, churches simply refused to marry interracial couples. But, as evident in the contemporary, more open-minded church, religious principles change, just as social values do. After all, the Spaniards referenced divine right and Biblical interpretation to justify the extermination of millions of Native American “nonbelievers” during the exploration of the New World. Today, everyone is welcome to join the church.
How will we view this ruling in thirty years? Will the culmination of persistent activism be held historically equivalent to the Civil Rights Movement? Will religious groups acquiesce? Many conservatives promise to fight this new law with all their heart, and will probably take these values to the grave. Yet this group’s determination is waning. Jeb Bush and other moderate GOP candidates seem to quietly accept the decision, and deem fighting the ruling a waste of time and energy. I believe that comparing the gay rights movement to desegregation is appropriate, but the job is not yet complete. Despite legal equality, racism remains prevalent, as shown in the Charleston shooting. I hope that in fifty years, we do not have to endure another violent attack on a peaceful church, this time for holding a gay wedding ceremony. But the ruling is the big step forward and a just reward for years of activism. Love wins.
Categories: Culture: Anthropology