Not Yet a Breach, but an Expansion

Culture, Justice, War and Politics

Well, if you ask me, it’s fitting that the Supreme Court should begin hearing gay marriage arguments in the middle of Passover, since they are the institution of American life that most anachronistically apes the social organization of an ancient desert tribe: a bunch of old yahoos handing down inerrant judgments— inerrant, that is, until the next round of revelation. How many times can the same elders haul their asses up the same mountain in order to discover slight revisions to the covenant? Plenty! But seriously, guys, lemme ask you: aren’t you just a bit uncomfortable with your so-called rights hinging upon the good sense of a panel of retirement-age lawyers? Prophets have to produce plagues and miracles; Justices don’t even have to produce decent prose.

We all know that Changing Social Attitudes ® consign the Anti-Gays to the overtaxed metaphor indicating social obsolescence, and in the face of all that historical inevitability, the epochal question before the Court withers. In fact, the question is not: will the US Supreme Court legalize gay marriage? Rather, it’s: will the Justices temporize a rickety legal barricade to the unavoidable full-faith-and-credit Federalization of same-sex marriage rights? Either way, the answer is probably yes. The Court is historically over-credited with defining the American social compact, for good and for ill. In reality, the institution’s default position is legal proceduralism, and for all the sting of its occasional sharp decisions, it remains a jellyfish, fundamentally helpless, adrift in larger tides and currents.

By the way, I hate the idea of gay marriage. My boyfriend and I have gotten along just fine for many years without the approval of a Justice of the Peace, thank you, and I resent everything implied by the idea that we’d have to go through a sort of social swearing-in just so that I can put him on my health plan and give him the house if I get hit by a bus. I actually have a kind of cultural affinity with conservatives on the issue, albeit a partial one. They believe marriage is a sacrament, as do I. The difference is that they wish to retain the state’s interest in a sacral institution, whereas I want marriage to be wholly spiritual and the government to be out of it altogether. City Hall has no compelling interest in the joining of two souls.

Apparently, one of Scalia’s most offensive comments In Re: The Gays was that expanding civil marriage to same-sex couples was the equivalent of giving death benefits and suchlike to someone’s longtime roommate. But we should be giving death benefits to someone’s longtime roommate, or adult-child caregiver, or the surviving sister of your pair of kooky cat-lady spinster aunts or whomever. We should allow single, unattached people to designate inheritors and not punish their estates for the fact of their never having married. I am all for the expansion of rights, but same-sex marriage is actually about the unfair expansion of privileges for people who choose long-term pair-bonding. What about all the single ladies?