Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Back to basics with gay marriage

I've been allergic all my life, and for the last 15 years or so plagued by nasal polyps. A couple of months ago I started taking Nasonex and for the first time since I can remember I've been consistently breathing clear through my nose. I enjoy this immensely. I lie down in bed on my back, close my mouth and fill up my lungs. Breathing has become a thing.

I also enjoy being married -- happy to come home in the evening when my wife is home, happy to spend every weekend together, etc. And with gay marriage filling the headlines, I notice the pleasure and privilege of it a bit more.  Marriage has become a thing.

Gay activists, or simply the rising visibility of gay couples, have made marriage cool again. They've raised its value in my eyes, or rather made me a little more conscious of its value, which is pretty much the same thing.  And I think that the drive for gay marriage has raised the institution's value materially by making the whole society think hard about what it's really about.

The west has valorized marriage for true love, as the free choice of two people who decide they're right for each other, for more than a century. That ideal was getting a little worn around the edges, pecked at by perspectives from biology, and psychology, and probability, and economics, and political ideology -- and by postmodern skepticism generally. In real terms, too, the institution as we knew it has eroded, thanks first to divorce and then to the advancing tide of out-of-wedlock births.

Gay marriage is not going to change that, or arrest change in this ever-changing but indestructible human institution. But it has made the enduring reality of individual choice and the eternal viability of lifelong commitment and the value and utility of two-parent families a bit clearer.

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