Writer Rich Benjamin took to the New York Times opinion pages this past weekend to declare that he is "boycotting all heterosexual weddings," even though he is "not a gay-rights activist." (Why not?) In response to a suspiciously pat-sounding phone call from a newly engaged former college roommate, Benjamin wrote:
How utterly absurd to celebrate an institution that I am banned from in most of the country. It puzzles me, truth be told, that wedding invitations deluge me. Does a vegan frequent summer pig roasts? Do devout evangelicals crash couple-swapping parties? Do undocumented immigrants march in Minuteman rallies?
Maybe if Benjamin were a gay-rights activist, he'd recognize the problem with comparing homosexuality to a self-chosen ideological identity like veganism. It's an old problem, and sort of an important one, especially on the subject of same-sex marriage.
Even well-meaning heterosexuals often describe their own nuptials in deeply personal terms, above and beyond politics, but tend to dismiss same-sex marriage as a political cause, and gay people’s desire to marry as political maneuvering.
What many straight people consistently forget is that same-sex couples aren’t demanding marriage to make a political statement or to accrue "special rights." When I ask my gay friends why they wish to marry, they don’t mention tax benefits. They seek marriage for the same personal reasons that straight people do: to share life’s triumphs and trials with their beloved, to start a family, to have the ability to protect that family, and to celebrate their loving commitment with a wedding.
This is not even a straw man; it's some loose straw the writer is throwing in the air while yelling "Look at that man!" Who are these many straight people Benjamin claims to be describing? That same-sex couples want to marry for love, rather than as a political statement, is a commonplace among straight liberals. (Oddly enough, they, too, have gay friends they can talk to.)
This coming September will mark nine years since the Times itself—as good a proxy for well-meaning heterosexuals as anyone could hope to find—changed "Weddings" to "Weddings/Celebrations" and started printing same-sex couples' announcements. At the time, executive editor Howell Raines said that same-sex commitment ceremonies were "celebrations important to many of our readers, their families and their friends." The Times also wrote that same-sex couples' applications for published announcements would be judged the same way male-female couples were, by "the newsworthiness and accomplishments of the couples and their families."
Gay marriage is winning, in concept. Even Focus on the Family president CEO Jim Daly just said so, in an interview with Marvin Olasky:
We're losing on that one, especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same-sex marriage. I don't know if that's going to change with a little more age—demographers would say probably not. We've probably lost that.
So what is the point of this weird little time capsule of unfocused grievance? If you want to blame heterosexuals for something, don't blame them for not believing in homosexual love. Blame them for not doing enough to support it.
There's no sense in pretending that the arc of justice bends anywhere but toward two groom figurines on a wedding cake. The question is why the arc is still so long. The good opinion of well-meaning people has not yet repealed the Defense of Marriage Act, or gotten 41 states to drop their bans on gay marriage.
Instead of a blanket boycott, try asking your straight friend if he'll have the wedding in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Vermont, or Iowa. Some of those places are lovely in June. Go, bring a date, dance. See how many people assume you're doing it to lobby for a tax break. Why be more unreasonable than the law is?
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