The one tactic left for conservative gay marriage opponents is a radical one: don’t let anyone get married. This strategy was employed by a probate judge in Alabama’s Pike County, who stopped issuing marriage licenses back in February, when the state legalised same-sex marriage.
The weird thing about this tactic is that it actually intersects with the more radical position in the LGBTQ* community — that marriage shouldn’t be an institution of the state at all. Conservative opposition to same-sex marriage, in this case, bends so far to the right that it actually meets the left.
In the LA Times, Ethan Leib pointed out this strange pairing. He says of the conservatives trying to deny marriage to everyone, “For all the wrong reasons — they could be at the vanguard of scrubbing top-down support for an institution that continues to affirm stale gender roles, that continues to keep the church too close to the state and that continues to encourage consumerism through costly wedding celebrations.”
This view that marriage itself is an antiquated and ultimately conservative societal institution is perhaps not the most popular one to arise from the LGBTQ* community over the last two decades, but it’s far from new.
Andrew Sullivan pushed against it back in 1989, in his essay in the New Republic which more or less kickstarted the gay marriage movement. At the time, gay marriage may have seemed radical, but Sullivan was arguing for his right to participate in traditional society. Because of this, Sullivan’s argument was framed as a conservative case:
The gay movement has ducked this issue primarily out of fear of division. Much of the gay leadership clings to notions of gay life as essentially outsider, anti-bourgeois, radical. Marriage, for them, is co-optation into straight society. For the Stonewall generation, it is hard to see how this vision of conflict will ever fundamentally change. But for many other gays — my guess, a majority — while they don’t deny the importance of rebellion 20 years ago and are grateful for what was done, there’s now the sense of a new opportunity. A need to rebel has quietly ceded to a desire to belong. To be gay and to be bourgeois no longer seems such an absurd proposition. Certainly since AIDS, to be gay and to be responsible has become a necessity.
Whatever side of the aisle you are on, it’s worth noting that Friday’s historic Court decision, like most policy in the US, upholds what amounts to a fundamentally moderate view.
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