Thoughts on Which I Have Lots of Authority to Speak: Marriage Equality in Jerz Edition

The NJ State Senate has passed the marriage equality bill by a vote of 24-10, a gain of TEN yea’s since the 2010 vote (TEN!). It’s going to the Assembly next where it’s likely to pass and then on to the Governor’s desk where it’s likely to be approved quickly because our governor is committed to freedom, equality, respect, and true conservatism.

Just kidding!

It’ll actually be vetoed with aplomb.  But, Governor, as a fan of yours, allow me to remind you why marriage equality is a mark of a real conservative and your approval will only help you in your next race.

  • Marriage is a core social institution with widespread acceptance.  The fact that the gays want in on the deal is evidence that even those who have been excluded strongly value the concept of marriage.
  • More and more people — in fact, more than half — support marriage equality, including 46% of Republican-leaning independents.  And that was in 2011.  I bet by 2016 a near majority will be in favor.  
  • While marriage has traditionally been defined as between a man and a woman, there are many exceptions (both religious and civil) to the rule.  And what’s been around as long, if not longer, as marriage? The gays.  Insofar as conservatism’s bedrock principle is to preserve stability by embracing what is widely accepted and constant, it makes sense to “marry” one ancient institution with another.  
  • Marriage statistically makes people more stable, wealthier, happier, and — the zinger — independent of the state, prominent conservative principles.
  • Preventing same-sex couples from marrying is unnecessary state intrusion into the most protected, personal, and private of institutions in our society.
  • Marriage, and nothing less (I’m looking at you, civil unions) is a commitment by the state to full equality for all its citizens.
  • Marriage promotes stable families and partnerships
  • Marriage forces people to think about more than themselves
  • The benefits of marriage aren’t just reserved for the couple or family — they help build stronger communities, neighborhoods, and societies
  • Marriage rates are in a long-term historical decline and heteros haven’t exactly done much to upgrade its image.  Why not extend the benefit to those who have fought tirelessly for the right to recognize their stable, loving, long-term partnerships? (interestingly, rates of teenage pregnancy, crime, and drug use are also in long-term historical declines relative to the 1960s.  And the juxtaposition of these two trends is another post entirely)
  • And here’s one from crazy-land: why allow persons on death row, child abusers, and wife beaters to marry, as many states do, while denying the same right to same-sex couples? How is that even possible?
  • When the state and society systematically discourage people from formalizing loving, stable relationships, we do long-term damage to their ability to have these relationships in the first place.  Because to say you’re not worthy of marriage is to say that your relationships — your selvesare less valuable, less permanent, and less worth protecting.  

Marriage has these effects because it’s a legal contract between two people to share their lives and build a social, economic, and emotional partnership.  It makes all the sense in the world to support couples who want to be part of something bigger and better than themselves.

As is my habit, I have some caveats.  I recognize that marriage isn’t for everyone — it hasn’t done much to elevate women’s rights since for centuries marriage was just another way to formalize women as chattel.   There’s an implicit marriage tax penalty if you and your spouse make about the same income.  Many women are quite happy, thankyouverymuch, being single because single men are increasingly living with their parents til they’re 35, unemployable, and undereducated.  And married women in opposite-sex couples STILL do 2/3 of the housework, which is just crazy.

But in general, marriage benefits a society and the individual.  There are important exceptions to the rule, but they are exceptions nevertheless.  Which is why it’s plain to me that any serious political candidate — conservative or liberal — will find it increasingly difficult to fight marriage equality as time goes on.

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