Query: The Same-Sex Marriage Debate
The debate over same-sex marriage, like the earlier debate over gays in the military, tests society’s progress toward equal rights for gays and non-discrimination based on choice of adult significant partner. This goal also implies equal responsibilities for gays. Equality is more than just an expansion of civil rights; it is also an expression of individualism in a wealthier society. But now, as freedom is tested, many social conservatives whine that rationalistic “laissez-faire” is too hard on families with children, while liberals claim that the “me generation” neglects the poor. A common concern, then, is socialization: the ability of someone to live through personal accountability to others. Gay marriage can provide socialization and help balance individualism with other-centeredness. Why, then, is it resisted? The biggest problem, besides religion, is the emotional investment that many people make in lineage and biological kinship.
I have led a separate “private” adult gay life, after my 1961 expulsion from college for admitting “latent homosexuality.” I was pressured into psychiatric treatment but then got drafted anyway, and eventually politicked the military gay ban myself thirty years later. I am struck by how others see my unearned freedom to disengage myself from procreative family as a threat. My essay will enlarge this discussion and connect many areas like health care, birth rate, eldercare, globalization, and even filial responsibility. I will refer to writers like Burkett, Morse, Rauch, Warner and The Nation’s own Pollitt and Dugan. Both gay marriage and socialization involve the ethics of self-promotion.
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