Monday, November 03, 2008

Alternate families and personal sovereignty: could same-sex marriage affect "singles" in unexpected ways?


On the night before California Proposition 8 votes – and I add that I don’t live or vote in CA – I just have one “devil’s advocate” thought.

Remember my book review blog (Sept 21, 2008) about a book on “Valuing all Families under the Law” by Nancy Polikoff. I was particularly shocked by her proposition of asking a gay man with no partner to be selected, among siblings, to move in with an aging parent or grandparent for caregiving. If someone does that, others may want to view the resulting arrangement as a “family.” The caregiver, however, wants to keep a degree of personal sovereignty not normally found in marriage (at least marriage as in the movie “Fireproof”).

A culture that tries to mimic “marriage” wherever a quasi-forced personal interdependence exists (however desirable socially) might deny the person his sovereignty, and make an essentially compulsory or coerced relationship his highest priority.

So it may be important to accept the idea that domestic arrangements exist that require some support in some areas but that are not “marriages”.

Furthermore, some gay couples want to keep more autonomy. They may not want “marriages.”

I thought I heard McCain articulate this point somehow on a TV interview. He tried to make it sound that gay marriage could be used to undermine personal freedom for people who expected to keep it. He tried to put it in “libertarian” terms.

But libertarians, in fact, generally want marriage to be a civil contract, with the psychological bonding left to churches or the culture of the couple’s choice. Remember that 1996 essay “License Expired” by Gene Cisewski in GLIL newsletter “The Quill”?

All of this might sound like a pail of red herrings from some Minnesota ice fishing hut. Don’t get me wrong. Same-sex couples and their children need the same benefits as straight couples. What we have here is a problem of “reflexivity” (George Soros's buzzword). Like it or not, we’re heading for a world where people may have to accept more interdependence and take care of one another more. Once we accept that, it seems we can’t accept the idea of separate classes of people. Because then someone will go to the back of the bus.

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