Justice Ginsburg Shoots Down a Dumb Conservative Argument

Our era’s radical Republicans are willing to take a conservative position when it suits them. Thus, during the recent Supreme Court argument regarding same-sex marriage, the right-wingers on the Court pointed out that marriage has involved a man and a woman for thousands of years. From ThinkProgress:

The Court’s conservatives [sic] fixated upon their belief that same-sex marriages are a very new institution. “Every definition [of marriage] I looked up prior to about a dozen years ago,” Chief Justice John Roberts claimed, limited marriages to opposite-sex couples. Advocates for equality, Roberts continued, are “seeking to change what the institution is.” Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito argued that even “ancient Greece,” a society he perceived as welcoming to same-sex relationships, did not permit same-sex marriage. Justice Antonin Scalia insisted that “for millennia, not a single society” supported marriage equality.

A natural response would have been: “Of course, and now we’re changing that. Sometimes we make progress”. Justice Ginsburg, however, pointed out that for thousands of years marriage was legally defined as a relationship between a dominant man and a subordinate woman. A further ThinkProgress article on the subject quotes the 18th century legal authority Sir William Blackstone:

…the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.

Traditionally, wives were subservient to their husbands. Being married wasn’t a relationship that two men or two women would ordinarily enter into. Today, however, the law considers marriage to be a relationship between equals. Since marriage is now egalitarian from a legal perspective, it makes sense for anyone who wants an equal partner, whether that partner is of the opposite or same sex, to want to be married. Since there are benefits to being married, and since being able to procreate isn’t a requirement, justice dictates that any two adults who want to get married should be allowed to.

Monogamy and Its (Dis)Contents

Monogamy is a short book by the English psychotherapist Adam Phillips. It contains 121 extremely brief chapters on what Phillips calls “the only serious philosophical question” for some of us (the fortunate or affluent). Phillips is given to exaggeration and paradox, but that’s o.k. 

Below are some of his observations on being monogamous, with occasionally flippant responses:

(39)  “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nowhere to go. Which is one of the reasons why couples sometimes want to be totally honest with each other.”  Because they have nowhere else to go or don’t want anywhere else to go?

(62)  “It is no more possible to work at a relationship than it is to will an erection or arrange to have a dream.”  Yet doing something on purpose, like smiling, can sometimes make us happier.

(69)  “There is always someone else who would love me more, understand me better, make me feel more sexually alive. This is the best justification we have for monogamy — and infidelity.”  Since there will always be someone better, you might as well stop searching. Or not.

(75)  “From the child’s point of view, the mother is — as the father will soon be — a model of promiscuity. She has a thousand things to do. She knows other people.”  Yes, she was quite a disappointment that way!

(98)  “If we don’t choose monogamy, our fate will be isolation or the chaos of impersonality.”  Dying alone can be bad, even worse than the dying itself.

(111)  “Familiarity may increase our affection, our respect, even our time for other people, but it rarely increases our desire for them.” As the song says, how can I miss you if you won’t go away?

(115)  “One way of loving people is to acknowledge that they have desires which exclude us; that it is possible to love and desire more than one person at the same time. Everyone knows that this is true, and yet we don’t want the people we love to start believing it about themselves”.  It might be possible, but not everyone believes it is.