June 30, 2015

"Isn’t it enough to be denied the 'constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage'?"

"A constellation my coupled queer sisters and brethren now can hold dearly if they just make it official? Once again, being single is the dreary, awful, mournful alternative to marriage. A condition to be pitied, and quickly corrected by a sprint to City Hall." Writes Michael Cobb, English prof and author of “Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled.”
In granting same-sex couples “equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” Justice Kennedy throws everyone under the “just married” limo....

I am usually a relatively happy single person who wrote a book advocating for the dignity of single people... But even I hear coupledom’s call: I sometimes crave a long-term relationship with that great guy; I watch Ang Lee’s take on “Sense and Sensibility” monthly; I’ve been in a number of relationships that broke my heart — all of which feels very undignified. But none of those longings, hauntings and hurts should pave the way for my constitutional dignity....

What Justice Kennedy, and everyone else too, needs to remember is that simply being yourself — your single self — is already the fundamental form of dignity. Founding your dignity on something as flimsy and volatile as a sexual connection insures dignity’s precariousness as it enshrines your inherent unworthiness as a single individual.
I agree. There is dignity in living solo. Justice Kennedy went too far in extolling marriage as the highest pinnacle of human life. But... even when you are single, part of your dignity lies in knowing that you could marry if you found someone to love, who loved you, and the 2 of you wanted to participate in the government-approved form of dignifying a 2-person relationship. Cobb seems to be a gay man, and even if he doesn't find the "great guy" he "sometimes crave[s]" for a "long-term relationship," he's put in a better place even now by knowing that if he did, they could marry.

I remember years ago, maybe a quarter century ago, a former student of mine, a gay man, told me that he hadn't made up his mind about same-sex marriage. Was it something he should support? That was back when many gay people (like many feminists) — I'm remembering this subjectively — wanted to challenge the traditional structures. Perhaps marriage was the patriarchy, the straight white males oppressing us. The idea I ventured, and he seemed to agree with was: If there's some club that excludes women, I don't like that, even if it's a club I don't want to join.

Another way to put that is: Seeing a "whites only" water fountain hurts a black person who is not currently thirsty.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ann writes:
But... even when you are single, part of your dignity lies in knowing that you could marry if you found someone to love, who loved you, and the 2 of you wanted to participate in the government-approved form of dignifying a 2-person relationship.

If, and only if, the two of you meet the government's requirements. Or is the next great fight for love the abolition of anti-incest laws, and the "age of consent"?

What you are attempting to do here is use the "moral authority" of 5 members of the Supreme Court to bully everyone else into pretending that same sex relationships are just as valuable, special, and worthwhile as heterosexual relationships.

They're not.

And getting a Supreme Court ruling won't change that. In fact, it just hardens the opinion. Because decent and worthwhile human beings would have gone through the legislative process, and democracy.

Unknown said...

If a tree falls in the forest, must the government force you to hear it?

m stone said...

I am normally unaffected by our host's selection of posts, but this is getting ridiculous. Cobb...coupledom...dignity in knowing! Give us a break. This is poppycock.

Talk about love. Love can only be expressed in sharing with another. If we need a supreme court ruling on marriage to realize love, we're in big trouble.

Yes, singleness is real. Two of my children live in that state. Unfullfilled and genuinely lonely.

Find someone to love, regardless of some government label and live your life.

tim in vermont said...

who loved you, and the 2 of you wanted to participate in the government-approved form of dignifying a 2-person relationship.

What sort of jiggery pokery is this?

A poem:
Jiggery Pokery

Higamous Hogomous, for now it's monogamous.
Hogomous higamous, tomorrow's polygamous.

Anyway. I feel bad for these guys, and it is great that they will be able to score all kinds of economic benefits if they choose to marry. It's just swell.

mccullough said...

Calling out and finding no one there is hell for Justice Kennedy.

ObeliskToucher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ObeliskToucher said...

And thus was the Loner Liberation Movement begun...

Terry said...

"Another way to put that is: Seeing a "whites only" water fountain hurts a black person who is not currently thirsty."
A better analogy would be a person with brown eyes knowing that they will never have blue eyes. No, not even if the government changes the definition of "blue" so it includes "brown."
It's a sad world.

tim in vermont said...

I think it would be great if everybody got veteran's benefits too.

tim in vermont said...

We could all salute each other and thank each other for our service to the country.

Amadeus 48 said...

I think this is going to turn out to be more complicated than Justice Kennedy thought. But he has a great future writing romantic novels when he retires from the bench.

The Drill SGT said...

Could be worse. He could live in Iran...

Terry said...

"I think it would be great if everybody got veteran's benefits too."
Of course, Time in Vermont, everybody already gets veterans benefits . . . wait! NO THEY DON'T! IT"S DISCRIMINATION! BUT WE'RE ALL AGAINST DISCRIMINATION IN THE BRAVE NEW WORLD!

George Grady said...

The next step is equal dignity for marriages with emotional support animals. Love is love, and all love is equally deserving of our societal approval.

Unknown said...

"part of your dignity lies in knowing that you could" is an incredibly stupid premise. I COULD kill my neighbor.

n.n said...

Following the inclusion of homosexuals, "equal" is scrambling to rationalize selectively excluding others. I wonder why they don't just apply the pro-choice doctrine. It normalized sacrificial rites as a right. Perhaps they don't want to associate indiscriminate killing and selective exclusion. The latter is bad enough without explaining the former.

Rick said...

and the 2 of you wanted to participate in the government-approved form of dignifying a 2-person relationship.

1. I'm so old I remember when Althouse said government isn't in the business of bestowing dignity.

Government has no positive obligation to boost egos or bestow dignity.


2. It's cute she keeps emphasizing the 2-person element of marriage as if it's inherent to the institution immediately after the SC ruled marriage is whatever they say it is. Is it a law school game: who can identify the unsupported element?

Rob said...

The only discernible downside to the legalization of same-sex marriage is that it increases the constituency for having the government allocate special benefits to married couples, even as the reason for such special benefits (that one spouse is the breadwinner and that the couple ought therefore to be regarded as a single economic unit) has greatly diminished over time.

Laslo Spatula said...

Another way to put that is: Seeing a "whites only" vagina hurts a black person who is not currently horny.

Just showing malleability.


I am Laslo.

Anonymous said...

Kennedy missed the boat, but this misses the boat too. Government doesn't grant dignity through the marriage process - if it did, divorce would have to be seen as a deprivation of dignity on the part of the government, which I'm sure is how nobody sees it.

From the government standpoint, love is irrelevant. It has no means of determining if people are in love, doesn't take much care in preparing people for marriage, and really doesn't care if people break marriage vows. Whatever value or dignity it may once have had at the state level, these days it's simply self-affirmation theatre. Once you say "I do" the next time the state really cares about the marriage or anything it produces is either at the divorce or the decease.

Hunter said...

tim in vermont said...
I think it would be great if everybody got veteran's benefits too.


I can tell you exactly what a veteran agreed to give up in exchange for veterans' benefits, recognition of service, etc.

What noble thing did you do to earn the right to marry?

(This analogy only gets more brilliant when you realize that until fairly recently, an additional barrier to some people getting veterans' benefits was not being permitted to serve in the military.)

66 said...

It is confusing, and probably dangerous, to promote the idea that a person's dignity comes from a man-made institution like government. A person's dignity is inherent in their humanity. It attaches at the moment of conception and adheres until the moment of natural death. It is inalienable. Nothing that any person or institution of persons can do will increase or diminish a person's dignity even one iota. It is, of course, possible to talk about whether the actions of a person or of an institution recognize, or are consistent with another person's human dignity. But natural law has never been the touchstone of Supreme Court decisions, which is why, for example, there is a constitutionally protected right to abortion.

Hunter said...

cyrus83 said...

Government doesn't grant dignity through the marriage process - if it did, divorce would have to be seen as a deprivation of dignity on the part of the government, which I'm sure is how nobody sees it.


Granting divorce is an affirmation of dignity, just as recognizing marriage is. In both cases the dignity is in the government recognizing you the individual's right to arrange your life as you see fit.

Back when our state governments first began officially recognizing marriage it was for the purpose of regulating divorce -- to make it difficult for individuals to end their own marriages, as divorce was then both easy and common. Binding couples who wish to divorce in a state-enforced marriage, or forcing them to commit adultery (or lie about it) to justify a divorce to the state, is indeed an affront to individual dignity.

Today the state recognition of marriage boils down to the ability to legally designate a person unrelated to you as your most immediate family member, which has numerous important implications. Thus it amounts to the ability to make certain decisions about your own affairs that cannot *effectively* be done in other ways (yes, you can grant powers of attorney and write wills, but these have been known to fold under challenges that a legal marriage would probably withstand).

It is an affront to dignity to deny some people the freedom to make important decisions about their own lives which is given to everyone else.

And I say that as someone who happens to think the Obergefell majority's reasoning is complete garbage and has nothing to do with the Constitution; that is a separate issue.

CStanley said...

Hunter,
That was a well reasoned comment, and one of the few I've seen which lends some support to the idea of a backstop against polygamy (the concept of appointing ONE other person as your legal next of kin would not allow for multiples.)

I would still argue that civil unions could provide the same function for homosexuals and could (and should) include people who want to form nonsexual partnerships. Isn't it true that nonmarried people might want and need to order their lives in such a way to have a particular person designated in this way too, without it defaulting to whichever biological relative the state would designate? Aren't they too being denied the dignity to arrange their lives, simoly because they haven't found a long term sexual partner?

And then there's the added advantage (if we were to use the term civil union for all of these other types of relationships) that we would preserve all of the other historical and religious aspects of marriage by retaining this word for the oarticular union of a man and woman.

Zeb Quinn said...

Founding your dignity on something as flimsy and volatile as a sexual connection insures dignity’s precariousness as it enshrines your inherent unworthiness as a single individual. I agree.

Yeah, losers at this with a track record of failed relationships (divorces) would look at it like that.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

In the past those in control of the State believed the stable family headed by two adults of different sex was a worthy institution. Since you do get more of what you subsidize, the State made allowances to acknowledge that value.

In retrospect, this may have been a bad idea.

Think Libertarian.

Unknown said...

There is an immense disconnect between the actual reason and purpose for the existence of marriage as it has existed for untold millennia and the modern conception of what the purpose of marriage should be.

The purpose and function of marriage was not to guarantee (or merely assert) that two people would be together for life. It was not a social structure that existed for the people getting married. It was a social structure that existed for their children, and their children's children.

It's sad when a long term romantic relationship ends, but it doesn't ultimately harm society in a meaningful way. However, children who do not have parents who are entrusted with and expected to jointly care for and raise them are at an immense disadvantage, and that is no less true now than it would have been when we were scattered, desperate peoples living a subsistence existence.

In this era, marriage as a popular notion has become simply a very selfish act of saying, "I want to be with this person, I want to affirm how much I love them."

If you can tell me that the gay community will actually make a real effort to encourage those married gays to start families, and to stick together not simply for their own sake but those of the children they will parent, and will honestly confront any potential developmental shortcomings that a lack of two separately gendered parents may inflict on their children, I would be willing to call it marriage.

Marriage is not a club. It may feel that way at times, because it creates a singularly different experience that people who are not or have not been married cannot relate to as well, but it is, quite frankly, a disgusting analogy.

The fiduciary benefits granted by the government to married couples are pointless in the absence of the intent to create families. Because society has decided that the family is secondary to the self, it is probably time to do away with those benefits altogether.

Laura said...

"Just showing malleability."

And why making a scapegoat of the Confederate flag doesn't solve safety concerns. Jilted young men are easy to militarize, and the battlefield amplifies bloodlust. Camp followers know this and can do brisk business with well-funded conflicts. Young Mr. Roof knew where to take his lonely army of hate and that churches don't invest in metal detectors.

If marriage is a right, and sexual intimacy is an expression of that right, please define marital rape and premarital sex.

Did you bring adequate proof of love to the courthouse today?

tim in vermont said...

What noble thing did you do to earn the right to marry?

I dedicated twenty odd years of my life, putting my children first in every major decision, in order to provide for another generation so that this nation could remain strong.

Was that hard for you to understand or did you just choose not to?



tim in vermont said...

Not to mention, calling something what it ain't and then demanding the same respect for the falsely named thing that the true thing has earned over millenia seems to be the rule, isn't it?

Larry J said...

Perhaps marriage was the patriarchy, the straight white males oppressing us. The idea I ventured, and he seemed to agree with was: If there's some club that excludes women, I don't like that, even if it's a club I don't want to join.

But organizations and businesses that only allow women are fine, right?

Anonymous said...

Granting divorce is an affirmation of dignity, just as recognizing marriage is. In both cases the dignity is in the government recognizing you the individual's right to arrange your life as you see fit.

Two opposite actions cannot have the same effect unless there is no effect in the first place. Besides, the government really isn't in the business of recognizing individual choice outside of the sexual arena. Most times it would rather you shut up and do what its bureaucrats advise as the flavor of the month.

Back when our state governments first began officially recognizing marriage it was for the purpose of regulating divorce -- to make it difficult for individuals to end their own marriages, as divorce was then both easy and common. Binding couples who wish to divorce in a state-enforced marriage, or forcing them to commit adultery (or lie about it) to justify a divorce to the state, is indeed an affront to individual dignity.

State recognition of marriage in the English tradition would date back at least to Henry VIII, who infamously founded a new national church when the existing one refused to declare his marriage null. It would have been recognized well before this as marriage has a long tradition stretching back to ancient times of determining the legitimate heirs in the absence of a will.

Traces of the ecclesiastic origin of marriage law are there if you look. The laws against marrying close relatives and the right to annul a marriage if your spouse is impotent would be 2 such features (at least in New York law when I looked them up years ago).