Will same-sex marriage change the institution of marriage? Melissa Harris-Lacewell writes in The Nation that maybe, hopefully, it will.
Typically advocates of marriage equality try to reassure the voting public the same-sex marriage will not change the institution itself. “Don’t worry,” we say, “allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will not threaten the established norms; it will simply assimilate new groups into old practices.”
This is a pragmatic, political strategy, but I hope it is not true. I hope same-sex marriage changes marriage itself. I hope it changes marriage the way that no-fault divorce changed it. I hope it changes marriage the way that allowing women to own their own property and seek their own credit changed marriage. I hope it changes marriage the way laws against spousal abuse and child neglect changed marriage. I hope marriage equality results more equal marriages. I also hope it offers more opportunities for building meaningful adult lives outside of marriage.
It’s a fascinating discussion, and refreshingly different from many of the retread arguments on both sides of the debate. Is change to marital norms always a bad thing? Should we affirmatively defend at least some changes in marriage practice? How can marriage as an institution become better?