philosophy · Politics

Gay Marriage is a Great Example of Liberalism at Work

We had a situation where marriage was restricted, in legal definition and benefits, to one man and one woman. This was incredibly unjust as it was government endorsement of one specific form of relationship as “better” than others, and it went so far as to offer financial rewards to people in that form of relationship.

Eventually people recognized the discrimination and a rapidly growing gay rights movement followed. And you know the story: liberalism prevailed and same-sex marriages were recognized as legitimate and deserving of benefits.

What’s wrong with this? 

I mean, how could anyone possibly find fault with this? It’s clearly ending a discriminatory practice! Wrong. It kept the same discriminatory system in place, it just allowed a new group to become a member of the oppressing class. Rather than affecting genuine change – as in a change in the underlying system – the same relationship of (1) government endorsement of heteronormative relationships and, therefore (2) the marginalization and discrimination against every relationship type that did not fit, be it long-term unmarried partners or polyamorous. The change reaffirmed that the married, single partner, “traditional” relationship was the ideal, was what should be strived for, and in doing so labeled everyone else as some form of deviant. And even worse: the oppressed minority is now small enough that I’m unsure it’s even feasible for the system to be removed at this point – it’s very hard to imagine the popular support being there.

This is an example of Liberalism in general

This is what Liberal human rights, equality, freedoms etc look like. Rather than recognizing that the issue is the underlying system (in a broader sense capitalism and the class differences created by material conditions) they simply aim to have more diversity as to who can join the oppressive group.

You can see a similar approach in police accountability as well. Some famous police shooting of a minority – usually a young, non-white male – will take the country by storm for, if it’s a big one, a couple months. But at least long enough for calls to end police violence; however, the approach taken is to blame the specific department and officers and create programs for diversity training or whatever they want to call it. Unsurprisingly, this has solved nothing. The problems are with the broader social institution, the militarization of police, and at the fundamental level our economic system. This sort of reform just allows people to feel good about having done something to fix the problem, pat themselves on the back, and ignore that a genuine fix requires radical adjustment to the institutions they are themselves members of.

So long as the Liberal attitude toward rights, diversity, and equality is the dominant one there will, funnily enough, never be rights, diversity, and equality.


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