Gay marriage: Why Judge Walker got Proposition 8 ruling wrong
There's much to admire in Judge Walker's gay marriage opinion. But marriage doesn't exist to provide benefits for couples in love. Its purpose is to protect female sexuality and human liberty, and thus ensure the survival of the human race.
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Marriage is a necessary defense of a woman’s sexuality and her human liberty from determined assault by men who would turn her into a slave, a concubine – something less than fully human. Human communities need to give women some additional degree of protection – through law, custom, religious decree, or sacrament – generally some combination of all three, neatly summarized by the plaintiffs, who demanded the sacred and the eternal from the state of California.Skip to next paragraph
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Of course, marriage’s power to protect women is far from perfect, but no human institution is. Parents, too, sometimes do awful things to their children.
Unions of men and women are unique
That’s why it has never occurred before to lawmakers (or any human society of which I am aware) to offer marriage to pairs of lovers that happen not to include a woman, or that involve only women and not a man.
Relationships that involve a man and a woman are a matter of public concern in a way that other relationships are not. Of course, single people and gay people can be parents, and their equality with married couples as parents can and should be crafted by legislation.
Walker asserts that Prop 8 is motivated partly by “a belief that same-sex couples are simply not as good as opposite-sex couples,” and concludes that the law’s intention is to enact “a moral view that there is something ‘wrong’ with same-sex couples.”
The fact is very nearly the opposite. Heterosexual relationships need marriage because of inferiority: the physical inferiority of sexual defenders to sexual attackers and the moral inferiority of male sexual attackers
Marriage is not about couples or lovers – it’s about the physical and moral integrity of women. When a woman’s sexuality is involved, human communities must deal with a malign force that an individual woman and her family cannot control or protect.
Modern marriage is only the least worst version of marriage that has emerged from all this – but it is still necessary for women. What protects women, ultimately, is that marriage laws and customs confer upon her independence something extra – dignity, protection, sacredness – that others must respect. And if this quality can be bestowed upon anyone, even those not in intersexual relationships – it reduces, even dissolves its force.
Marriage can't be reduced to esteem
That’s why so many – even the most secular, gay-admiring, civil-rights-conscious among us – feel that something more is going on with the movement to turn marriage into a device to give couples self-esteeem – or, in Walker’s terms, status in society.
For Walker, the state of California has an overriding interest in ensuring that a same-sex couple should feel good about themselves. Walker and others are certainly right to want straight people to have a positive view of homosexuals – I want this, too.
But hard as it is for Walker to believe, most of us who prefer to leave marriage (with all its defects) as it is are not concerned with homosexuality at all.
We are merely voicing a sensible desire to preserve an institution that recognizes and protects the special status of women. If marriage becomes a legislative courtesy available to everyone, like a key to the city, it will be women who will lose.
Sam Schulman is a writer whose work appears in The Weekly Standard, Commentary, The Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London), and elsewhere. Formerly publishing director of The American, publisher of Wigwag, and assistant professor of English at Boston University, he lives near Charlottesville, Virginia.