In an abrupt departure from the rulings denying marriage equality in California, New York and Washington, the Supreme Court of New Jersey unanimously held last Wednesday that homosexual couples are entitled to the same legal rights and financial benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.
The four-to-three decision reveals that the justices were split on what should happen next. The majority ruled that the legislature has 180 days to decide whether the unions will be called marriage or something else, while the minority who, interestingly enough, was completely appointed by Republicans, maintains that there is no reason to call it anything other than marriage.
In many ways the decision was a very wise one. The far right can hardly try to politicize this decision to mobilize its base because the court took a position that reflects the attitude of most Americans – that homosexual couples should have all the same rights, but that it should not be called marriage. Regardless, this is a great day in the Gay Rights Movement.
Or is it?
It seems that until the last few years, the Gay Rights Movement focused on unapologetically asserting that homosexuals were not only different, but that they had the right to be that way. After all, why shouldn’t someone be able to have sex with whomever he wants, as often as he wants and in whatever fashion he wants as long as both parties are consenting adults?
Recently, however, the focus seems to have shifted to being able to prove that homosexuals are indeed identical to their heterosexual counterparts, save that one little detail. This trend is not only evidenced by the “new” gay families and the push for marriage rights, but also within the gay community itself with the rise of descriptions such as “straight acting” or “relationship oriented.”
The push for marriage, thus, seems to be wholly antithetical to nearly everything that gays have long fought for. While I will not go as far as saying that gay marriage is a bad idea, it does not seem like many have actually stopped to ask what the ramifications may be for the gay community itself. As gay culture is already seeing a rupture in its community between the “good gays”- that is to say those who wish to get married and raise families – and the “bad gays” – those who wish to continue fighting for the right to not subscribe to the status quo – won’t this become even more pronounced as more homosexuals are actually given the right to get married? Once marriage rights are made fully available to homosexuals – and we all know that this will eventually happen – I do believe that day will mark the end of the gay community as we know it. One only needs to look to the African-American community to see how the desire to prove that we are like “them” can divide a people once wholly united. Ironically, the gay community, whose fight gave birth to an entire culture of dissidence in the United States, will have inadvertently reinforced the idea that the only acceptable way to live is with two parents in one house with their 2.4 children.
In the end, other alternative families -single parent homes, polyamourous couples or any other combinations one can come up with – will be viewed less validly and respected much less than they already are. Once again, Americans will have missed an opportunity to actually think outside of their Puritan boxes.
And strangely enough, perhaps finally placating conservatives once and for all, the unapologetic, radical homosexual will slowly fade into the distance, left behind by his friends who wanted to prove that they were just like everyone else.
Haynes is a member ofthe class of 2007.