I often hear pro-SSM folks argue that same-sex marriage doesn’t have any actual effect on traditional marriages. Well, I live in Massachusetts, and was married in 2003 – about 7 months before SSM was made legal here – and the state court decision has had a real, noticeable effect on my “traditional” marriage.
It’s made it better. No doubt about it.
It’s easy to understand why, if one looks at previous examples of discrimination. Imagine if you went to get a drink of water at your office water fountain, and discovered two fountains, one of which said “whites only.” By law, you were told, white people had to drink from the one so labeled. I imagine most (white) people here would feel distinctly uncomfortable drinking from the exclusive fountain, and the “experience of quenching one’s thirst” would be sullied by that discomfort. That feeling can be generalized: “It makes me uncomfortable, in a guilty sort of way, to enjoy some benefit that’s being unfairly denied to others.” I’ll bet that most of you would agree, to lesser or greater extents, with that sentiment. Not that we personally have done anything to assume guilt, but the feeling is there all the same. The undercurrent of injustice in our own favor is a psychic pollutant.
Before the spring of 2004, my marriage was that way. My wedding was a wonderful experience to share with my wife, friend and family – the happiest day of life, in fact – with only one thing marring its sheen: the knowledge that plenty of other people, some friends included, were being denied the opportunity for that same joy. Every happy day of my marriage brought with it a shadow of indignation on behalf of millions of others, knowing our society was denying them the simple recognition of marriage to the person they love.
When gay marriage was legalized here in Massachusetts, it didn’t just improve the lot of the gay community. It improved my own life as well.
I’m not talking about the niceties of the law here. I’m not even talking about the advantages of increasing the pool of adoptive parents or the number of cohesive family units. I’m talking about the absolutely real psychological effect of ambient social justice. So, when I hear arguments that allowing gay marriage will somehow have an effect on straight marriage, I agree wholeheartedly that there’s an effect. A wholly positive one.
Heck, I’m feeling it right now.