Marriage

Gay Marriage Ruling Is Matrimaniacal, Shames Single People

It is not the best of social justice if others are slimed along the way

Posted Jun 26, 2015

I love civil rights and social justice. We all should be equal under the law. But I am appalled about how the SCOTUS legalization of same-sex marriage across the nation has devolved into a shameless and unapologetic carnival of matrimania and singlism. The participants include many people who think they are flaunting their open-mindedness by signing on to those sentiments.

Matrimaniacs are especially smitten by the closing paragraph of the ruling, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy:

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

Slate said it was "one of the most beautiful passages you’ll likely read in a court case." The Washington Post Wonkblog called it the "one Supreme Court paragraph on love that gay marriage supporters will never forget."

What all these people are swooning over is all-out matrimania (the over-the-top hyping of marriage and weddings and coupling). The message is that marriage is magical, transforming unremarkable unmarried people into "something greater." It is an unapologetic declaration of the superiority of the marital bond over every other bond and every other relationship that humans hold dear. And it is a crass degrading of single people as "condemned to live in loneliness."

There is so much to object to here, but I'll stick to just a few points:

#1

Does getting married really make people "something greater"? No, it doesn't. There is actually a trove of relevant scientific studies, though the findings are nearly always misrepresented. Check out Marriage vs. Single Life: How Science and the Media Got It So Wrong.

#2

Contrary to all the claims about all that married people contribute to society, it is single people who are more likely to maintain and sustain their relationships with their parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors. People who get married become more insular. (Also take a look at, "Escape from loneliness: Is marriage the answer?")

#3

Some people want to be single. They live their best and most meaningful lives that way. I call them "single at heart." No one (whether single-at-heart or single in some other way) should have to get married in order to have such fundamental benefits and protections as those granted solely to those who are legally married. Marriage should not be a ticket to privilege. (And for all the ways that it is, look at this.) Single people, too, "ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law." The Constitution should grant them that right, too.

Happily, not everyone signed on uncritically to the ideology that declares married people superior to everyone else. For example, Richard Kim of the Nation, referring to that same closing paragraph, tweeted, "Right decision, but wish it didn't come with this sentimental, barfy, single-shaming kicker." Thank-you, Richard Kim.

UPDATES: As Bustle pointed out, the ruling shamed single parents, too. Here's my compilation of other wise and skeptical voices -- thanks to all who pointed me to these contributions.

[Notes: (1) Readers, if you have found others who called out the matrimaniacs and the practitioners of singlism, please share links in the comments section. (2) Thanks to all the people on Facebook who provided links and ideas. (3) Singled Out is now available in Spanish. It is also being translated, in several parts, into Japanese and Part 1 of the Japanese translation is also available. Check out my website for other books and other translations.]