Why does marriage matter? In part, according to Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, because it secures civil rights that unmarried people—more specifically, unmarried gays and lesbians—do not have.
That inequality, Wolfson argues, is fundamentally wrong and suspiciously un-American. Gays and lesbians, he urges, “speak the vocabulary of marriage, live the personal commitment of marriage, do the hard work of marriage, and share the responsibilities we associate with marriage.” He adds, “It’s time to allow them the same freedom every other American has—the freedom to marry.” As Wolfson well knows, there are powerful forces arrayed against any judge or legislature with a mind to grant such freedom, and discrimination abounds. He reckons that the country is about evenly divided in thirds on the issue of gay marriage: a third oppose it on any grounds, a third approve of it or at least disapprove denying it, and a third aren’t quite sure personally but are likely to reject that discrimination, meaning that, in theory, a majority of Americans are, in principle, in favor of allowing gay and lesbian marriage, providing for the portability thereof from state to state, and according married partners all rights attendant in marriage as it is civilly understood. All that will come soon, Wolfson predicts, and he imagines a happy time in the not-too-distant future when “gay people have won the freedom to marry and our society looks back and wonders what the big deal was.” Meanwhile, he examines some of the current fighting, along with a few of the villains and many heroes in the struggle, from gays and lesbians willing to bear the weight of fighting for civil rights to conflicted politicians such as the Massachusetts legislator who remarked, “The Constitution has always required us to reach beyond our moral and emotional grasp.”
Well taken. A thoughtful, reasonable, and eminently worthy companion to recent books such as David Moats’s Civil Wars (Feb. 2004).