America legalized gay marriage today, in a historic ruling. God bless them.
Why is gay marriage good for everyone? Just read this beautiful paragraph from Justice Anthony Kennedy:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. (via Slate)
This is a wonderful description of marriage at its best, and something that should make everyone proud of the institution, whether they’re gay or straight. As much as conservatives complain about ‘gay marriage destroying marriage’, I think that gay people have made marriage cool again. Nothing is better for marriage than defining it in terms of love.
Not Taking Marriage For Granted
In Sri Lanka, Yudhanjaya recently wrote something about how lame he thinks marriage is, coming from the perspective of the harried South Asian youth. While I can understand the annoyance of all the auntie questions, you can see a different perspective from people who haven’t had marriage, who couldn’t take it for granted.
Being married there’s so much stuff I take for granted – that my wife and I can live in the same country, that we can rent a house together, that we can share a bank account, basically that people generally won’t mess with us. We don’t have to prove or explain our relationship – we can just say we’re married and people understand.
What Marriage Means
For me, the gay rights movement has made me really evaluate what marriage is, and what it means. While straight marriage has been taken for granted, gays have had to fight to really define what marriage is and why they deserve it, as a right. This definition applies to all of us.
Marriage has evolved from being about polygamy to property to progeny to now – in it’s modern incarnation – to being about commitment and love. It’s not necessary for either, but like a Private Limited Company, it helps you do a lot more than the sum of your parts.
At the same time – and what’s often neglected in describing it as a civil right – marriage is just comforting and fun. You can spend all your time with someone and no one will tell you to go home. You’re less cold at night, you can share food, and you know that at least one person likes you.
I’m sure that marriage can also be hell, but then you can also get divorced and separate your stuff and deal with children and stuff in a structured way. Marriage, like any contract, also provides for a fair and reasonable exit, or at least one preferable to ad hoc chaos.
Ultimately, today is just a very happy day, even though in places like Sri Lanka being gay at all is technically illegal and equal rights for gay people seems far away. Today America has shown in a rapid but thorough process that gay marriage can be accepted by average people and made the law of the land by the Supreme Court.
More than the legal side, however, it has just shown a lot of marriages, which are fundamentally a happy thing. People are just asking to have a party, to live together, to eat together and to raise children if they choose. It’s all happy stuff, and Godspeed to having more of it.