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The social aftermath for the legalization of same-sex marriage

June 27, 2015

This week looks like it has been a really great week for progressives in terms of Supreme Court case decisions…with the two highest profile cases being the affirmation of the Affordable Care Act and the legalization of same-sex marriage across the entire United States. But another case that was decided this week that should also make progressive folks happy is the upholding of disparate impact in its Fair Housing Act decision — this wasn’t quite as certain since a lot of folks thought the court would gut the Fair Housing Act as it did the Voting Rights Act (…and in the aftermath of that, a lot of states just coincidentally decided to push through all manners of voter ID restrictions and what not).

But, back to same-sex marriage.

I was surprised to find early in the morning that my Facebook feed was entirely supportive. I live in Texas; I know I have conservative friends — I don’t unfriend anyone, and I don’t think people unfriend me all that often. I know I have conservative Christian friends both within and without Texas. So the silence gave me pause.

….it turns out that they had not all disappeared, since in the afternoon I saw more and more articles and posts challenging the decision, lamenting what will happen to America (or at least, the people in America who still oppose same-sex marriage). What will happen to religious freedom?

I was heartened by the comments of one marriage equality supporter who pointed out that the divide shouldn’t be seen as severe as it might look. This isn’t exactly a red vs. blue thing, because even 61% of younger Republicans support same-sex marriage. So, that suggests that a lot of the backlash may be age-related, and as time passes, backlash will die down.

…however…I don’t know if I’m totally satisfied with this. I still think that there is something to think about the social aftermath of the legalization of same-sex marriage.

I am not talking about the curtailing of anyone’s rights or any speculative slippery slope or anything like that. I just want to reflect on what will happen when a very controversial issues has been legalized while many people still vocally oppose it.

Here, I wanted to comment on something from John G-W at Young Stranger. He wrote:

I agree there is, indeed, a sense in which marriage cannot be legislated, though my understanding of that sense is likely different from my conservative brothers and sisters who still oppose my right to be “married” to the man I have shared my life with for almost 23 years.

Marriage has always been a kind of coming together of the entire community to publicly recognize (and hold accountable, and celebrate) a couple’s desire to create family. Marriage is like money. It is only good to the extent that people put their faith in it. Let’s imagine a town in the U.S. where the majority of residents and business owners believe that the American dollar is worthless. The U.S. dollar is legal tender whether they believe it has value or not — that’s the law. But nobody in town will accept U.S. dollars. Instead, they’ve set up some local system of barter. So anybody arriving from out of town will find it impossible to buy goods or services with the U.S. cash or credit they carry in their pockets. As a gay American, I still face the reality that while recognition of my marriage is now the law of the land, a significant minority of Americans — and in many locales, majorities! — do not recognize it.

This isn’t a new situation for Americans. Formal legal equality for black citizens in the U.S. has existed since 1870, when the 15th Amendment was passed. And of course, the U.S. has been a paradise of equality for blacks ever since, right? And the answer of course is not at all. Equality, in a very real sense, is not equality until it becomes tender that is not just legal, but that is accepted by our entire society.

Utopian pipe dreams, right? Have Americans ever achieved that kind of unanimity in their love and care for one another? Not really. But that doesn’t prevent that this kind of community is an ideal expressed in our highest religious yearnings.

As he later notes in the same post, although Mormons certainly have an ideal in their “highest religious yearnings” for a utopian society…such yearnings do not include same-sex relationships. So, John is still — spiritually — or at least, in some sort of religious administrative sense if not in a larger spiritual sense — is still in limbo. Still excommunicated. Still in a community where many members probably at the very least agree with his excommunication if they don’t actively revile his marriage.

It can be tempting to say, “Forget the haters!” I think that’s what goes on with a lot of people when they unfriend on Facebook or whatever…but I am sensitive to the fact that it is often not possible to live one’s life sheltered away from all the people who disagree with one (even on basic/fundamental issues.)

But even if one can choose one’s family and community — mostly through selectivity, cutting people off, etc., — what does this say about society as a whole. Like, are we really a society, or just collections of factions? (Then again, couldn’t we just say then that society never really existed…it’s just that we didn’t have as great of tools to find like-minded people and so many people suffered for that?)

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One Comment
  1. Agellius permalink

    “Like, are we really a society, or just collections of factions?”

    Societies are always collections of factions (IMHO). Our Constitution was designed specifically to check and balance out competing factions to avoid letting any of them attain a dominant power over the others, the point of which, in the end, was to attain stability by avoiding repeated violent overthrows of the government. Note that they didn’t try to *eliminate* factions, but only to limit how much damage they could do. In other words we were never intended to be a uniform, homogeneous society with everyone thinking the same things or even necessarly having the same values. People disagree, and dislike each other, and are rude to each other, and unfair sometimes. That’s just life.

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