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It’s a New Day In America: The Aftermath

Here are three articles that provide insight into reactions to the SCOTUS decision on marriage.

Ross Douthat is one of the brightest Catholic columnists in America. He writes for the New York Times. Many people don’t realize that there was a “conservative” case for same sex marriage. It went like this: Marriage is in a crisis. Homosexual who want to marry are at heart conservative in that they love the foundational institution of marriage. By opening marriage up to them we don’t undermine marriage we expand it. No union is more profound than marriage. Let’s celebrate marriage. America needs such a celebration. This will encourage monogamy, fidelity, responsibility for unwanted adoptive children. Everybody wins.

Okay, that was the conservative case for marriage.

It was politically conjoined however with a “liberal” case that ultimately undermines the institution of marriage. The liberal case goes like this: Contraception, relaxed divorce laws, sexual liberation have diminished the social significance of marriage. There is, thus, no longer any cultural argument against gay marriage. Homosexuals love one another with the same intensity of romance that heterosexuals do. If they want to marry, let them marry. Marriage has very little definition to it anymore. It is just two people with intense romantic feelings. They want society to recognize that their feelings deserve as much public approval as the approval we give heterosexual couples. It is fundamental fairness.

Ross Douthat carries this discussion into areas many of us haven’t considered. Enjoy – Al Kresta


BEFORE there was a national debate about same-sex marriage, there was a debate within the gay community about whether it was a worthwhile goal to chase at all.

This debate was tactical (since the cause once seemed quixotic) but also philosophical.

One current of thought saw the institution of marriage as inherently oppressive, patriarchal or heteronormative, better rejected or radically transformed than simply joined.

This liberationist perspective endured in academia, but mostly lost the political argument. Gay couples wanted the chance for normalcy, straight Americans were surprisingly receptive, and so a conservative case for same-sex marriage — the argument that marriage is essential to human dignity and flourishing — became the public case for gay equality.

And now that case rings from every paragraph of Anthony Kennedy’s marriage ruling, from the first lines to the “no union is more profound than marriage” peroration.

But in one of the ironies in which the arc of history specializes, while the conservative case for same-sex marriage triumphed in politics, the liberationist case against marriage’s centrality to human flourishing was winning in the wider culture.

You would not know this from Kennedy’s opinion, which is relentlessly upbeat about how “new insights have strengthened, not weakened” marriage, bringing “new dimensions of freedom” to society.

But the central “new dimension of freedom” being claimed by straight America is a freedom from marriage — from the institution as traditionally understood, and from wedlock and family, period.

The traditional understanding, which rested on sex difference, procreation, and real permanence, went into crisis in the 1960s and 1970s. But in the 1990s, when The Atlantic informed readers that “Dan Quayle Was Right” about unwed motherhood and today’s Democratic front-runner fretted about the costs of no-fault divorce, there were reasons to think that a kind of neo-traditionalism might still have purchase in America.

Not so today. Since the ’90s, approval of divorce, premarital sex, and out-of-wedlock childbearing have climbed steadily, and the belief that children are “very important” to marriage has collapsed. Kennedy’s ruling argues that the right to marry is essential, in part, because the institution “safeguards children and families.” But the changing cultural attitudes that justify his jurisprudence increasingly treat this safeguard as inessential, a potentially nice but hardly necessary thing.

And the same is true of marriage itself. America is not quite so “advanced” as certain European societies, but our marriage rate is at historic lows, with the millennial generation, the vanguard of support for same-sex marriage, leading the retreat. Millennials may agree with Kennedy’s ruling, but they’re making his view of marriage as “a keystone of the nation’s social order” look antique. In their views and (lack of) vows, they’re taking a more relaxed perspective, in which wedlock is malleable and optional, one way among many to love, live, rear kids — or not.

In this sense, the gay rights movement has won twice over. Its conservative wing won the right to normalcy for gay couples, while rapid cultural change has made the definition of normalcy less binding than the gay left once feared.

In vain social conservatives have argued that this combination isn’t a coincidence, that support for same-sex marriage and the decline of straight marital norms exist in a kind of feedback loop, that an idea can have conservative consequences for one community and revolutionary implications overall.

This argument was ruled out, irrationally, as irrational, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered if the courts were willing to consider it. Too many Americans clearly just like the more relaxed view of marriage’s importance, and the fact that this relaxation makes room for our gay friends and neighbors is only part of its appeal. Straight America has its own reasons for seeking liberation from the old rules, its own hopes of joy and happiness to chase.

Unfortunately I see little evidence that people are actually happier in the emerging dispensation, or that their children are better off, or that the cause of social justice is well-served, or that declining marriage rates and thinning family trees (plus legal pressure on religious communities that are exceptions to this rule) promise anything save greater loneliness for the majority, and stagnation overall.

The case for same-sex marriage has been pressed in the name of the Future. But the vision of marriage and family that made its victory possible is deeply present-oriented, rejecting not only lessons of a long human past but also many of the moral claims that inspire adults to privilege the interests of their children, or indeed to bring children into existence at all.

Perhaps, with same-sex marriage an accomplished fact, there will be cultural space to consider these lessons and claims anew. Perhaps.

But seeing little such space, and little recognition that anything might have been lost along the road we’ve taken to this ruling, in the name of the past and the future I respectfully dissent.


Then we have the ludicrous question: “Will same-sex marriage make America healthier?” This is an example of disingenuous progagandizing masquerading as journalism. I wanted you to see it. Nowhere are we treated to health statistics about HIV infection or rectal cancer because it doesn’t fit the jubilant picture the writer wanted to convey. Read it and gag. – Al Kresta


A few weeks ago, Carlos Santos-Herrera was in a hospital bed, ill with a rare, severe form of strep throat. He was weak, but conscious — and worried. His family members’ religious beliefs differ from his own, and he didn’t want to leave decisions about his care in their hands.

His partner, David Herrera-Santos, was unable to make any decisions on his behalf because they weren’t legally married, and couldn’t be in their home state of Georgia, where same-sex marriage wasn’t legal.

“He was powerless. Completely powerless,” Santos-Herrera said. “The hospital would not recognize David as my partner — only as a ‘friend.’ “

He survived the medical scare, but it was on his mind last week when the pair embraced as newlyweds on the steps of an Atlanta courthouse. After a Supreme Court decision made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, David and Carlos married and are now able to enjoy legal benefits including decision-making power in health care and changes to their health insurance.

They believe these changes will help keep them healthier and less stressed, but what about the rest of the country? Will same-sex marriage make America healthier?

The short answer, experts said, is yes.

“Absolutely same-sex marriage will make America healthier — that’s what all the medical literature says,” said Dr. William C. Buffie, a physician at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, who researched public health implications of same-sex marriage.

Happy marriages can improve health

Little research exists specifically about same-sex marriages, and because it’s challenging to determine the number of people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, it’s not clear how many people will be affected by Friday’s Supreme Court ruling.

But numerous studies have shown that a happy heterosexual marriage gives individuals a health boost, including better access to health care, longer life spans, and lower rates of depression — and, Buffie said, that applies to same-sex marriage, as well.

“As it relates to health outcomes, same-sex couples benefit from marriage in the same way as opposite sex couples,” Buffie said.

Numerous scientific associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have acknowledged potential health benefits that same-sex marriage confers to individuals and families.

Some of the groups tweeted their support Friday:

Those health benefits are becoming clear in states where same-sex couples already had legal marriage status, researchers found. Same-sex couples who were married reported significantly better mental well-being, including less anxiety and depression.

People in same-sex marriages also benefit from improved access to employer-provided health care, according to a 2013 study from the University of Minnesota.

Although the tax and economic benefits could be substantial, the Supreme Court’s ruling will do more than provide couples with an official piece of paper, said Richard Wight, a researcher in the community health sciences department at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health.

“In one fell swoop we can now see the same mental health benefits of marriage for same sex couples as heterosexual couples,” Wight said.

“The main reason there is a benefit to being in a legally recognized marriage is that it introduces a level of stability into a relationship. This is going to help change the social climate. Hearing the Supreme Court say this is OK will help couples feel like they’re part of regular society.”

Not all marriages are perfect, and relationship problems such as domestic abuse and divorce are harmful to mental health for all people. Same-sex couples divorce at a lower rate than their heterosexual counterparts, according to a 2014 analysis by the Williams Institute. This particular study looked at marriage data in the year following the Supreme Court’s strike down of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the study’s authors said this wasn’t surprising, as many couples had waited years to marry.

Facing unique health challenges

The legalization of same-sex marriage might reduce other stressors more common in the lives of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, as well.

Those who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual generally experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide than heterosexual people. But marriage actually reduces these health disparities: Heterosexual people and those in same-sex marriages had nearly equal levels of psychological distress, according to a California study.

“Same-sex marriage has the potential to offset the health differences between heterosexual and sexual minority persons,” said Wight, who led the study.

People who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual experience what is referred to as “minority stress,” according to Buffie’s paper about the public health implications of same-sex marriage. Minority stress results in a struggle for validation and acceptance, which “reinforces the chronic, everyday stress that interferes with optimal human development and well-being.”

Legalized same-sex marriage will reduce this particular type of stress, according to Buffie’s research.

Making same-sex marriage the law of the land could even provide a health boost to gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who aren’t getting married. Mood elevation, an increase in self-esteem, and a confidence boost are just a few of the positive health effects sexual minorities could experience after the Supreme Court’s decision, according to psychologist Wendy Walsh.

“When you get the legal and political stamp of approval on your identity, this endorses your very sense of self,” Walsh said.

Newlyweds Carlos Santos-Herrera and David Herrera-Santos were actually packing for a trip to Florida to get married on Friday when they heard the news about the Supreme Court decision.

“When we heard the news, I jumped up, and I started screaming,” Santos-Herrera said. “I called (my fiancé) up and said: ‘We need to get married now. Forget about Florida.’ “

The couple, joined by a family member and a friend, jumped into their car and drove to an Atlanta court to make their commitment official in the eyes of the law.

“I’ve been waiting many, many years for this,” Santos-Herrera said, “and now I have the same rights as everybody else.”


Then an interesting question is raised by the NYT piece: “Historic Day for Gays, but Twinge of Loss for an Outsider Culture”. What do homosexuals have in common once society embraces them. Nothing except the plumbing argument. They despised the argument that homosexual sex was unnatural. Now that the society has accepted it as natural for the homosexual, what differentiates the homosexual from the rest of the culture. Nothing but the way they use their plumbing according to an Episcopal priest who championed gay marriage.

All my life I have been acquainted with dozens of homosexuals. I’ve never had the creepy feeling some straight people have about homosexuality simply because from my teen years I knew people who practiced sexual behaviors I didn’t. I knew them , however, as fellow musicians or party animals or co-workers. I was always aware that they understood themselves as outsiders. When I was growing up in Connecticut, if you were homosexual it meant wishing you could go live in Provincetown or the lower East Side of New York. San Francisco was too far away. That will change if homosexuals take to marriage. It’s not clear that they will. But if they do take to marriage and break out of their “ghettos” and become members of suburbia what will they share with other homosexuals? Nothing. No common enemy, no common identity, no sense of specialness. Coming out of the closet was the baptism experience for homosexuals. Marriage is not. Marriage is reintegration into straight culture. What this means for the future is unclear but worth thinking about. – Al Kresta

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 17:  Same-sex couple Ariel Owens (R) and his spouse Joseph Barham walk arm in arm after they were married at San Francisco City Hall June 17, 2008 in San Francisco, California. Same-sex couples throughout California are rushing to get married as counties begin issuing marriage license after a State Supreme Court ruling to allow same-sex marriage.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“Gay is not enough anymore,” said John Waters in his commencement address at the Rhode Island School of Design in May. “Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers.”

From Capitol Hill in Seattle to Dupont Circle in Washington, gay bars and nightclubs have turned into vitamin stores, frozen yogurt shops and memories. Some of those that remain are filled increasingly with straight patrons, while many former customers say their social lives now revolve around preschools and playgrounds.

Rainbow-hued “Just Be You” messages have been flashing across Chase A.T.M. screens in honor of Pride month, conveying acceptance but also corporate blandness. Directors, filmmakers and artists are talking about moving past themes of sexual orientation, which they say no longer generate as much dramatic energy.

The Supreme Court on Friday expanded same-sex marriage rights across the country, a crowning achievement but also a confounding challenge to a group that has often prided itself on being different. The more victories that accumulate for gay rights, the faster some gay institutions, rituals and markers are fading out. And so just as the gay marriage movement peaks, so does a debate about whether gay identity is dimming, overtaken by its own success.

“What do gay men have in common when they don’t have oppression?” asked Andrew Sullivan, one of the intellectual architects of the marriage movement. “I don’t know the answer to that yet.”

John Waters, the film director and patron saint of the American marginal, warned graduates to heed the shift in a recent commencement speech at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers,” he said, adding, “Gay is not enough anymore.”

No one is arguing that prejudice has come close to disappearing, especially outside major American cities, as waves of hate crimes, suicides by gay teenagers and workplace discrimination attest. Far from everyone agrees that marriage rights are the apotheosis of liberation. But even many who raced to the altar say they feel loss amid the celebrations, a bittersweet sense that there was something valuable about the creativity and grit with which gay people responded to stigma and persecution.

For decades, they built sanctuaries of their own: neighborhoods and vacation retreats where they could escape after workdays in the closet; bookstores where young people could find their true selves and one another. Symbols like the rainbow flag expressed joy and collective defiance, a response to disapproving families, laws that could lead to arrests for having sex and the presumption that to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender was shameful.

Lisa Kron, who wrote the book and lyrics for “Fun Home,” which features a young lesbian girl. “The thing I miss is the specialness of being gay,” Ms. Kron said.

“The thing I miss is the specialness of being gay,” said Lisa Kron, who wrote the book and lyrics for “Fun Home,” a Broadway musical with a showstopping number sung by a young girl captivated by her first glimpse of a butch woman. “Because the traditional paths were closed, there was a consciousness to our lives, a necessary invention to the way we were going to celebrate and mark family and mark connection. That felt magical and beautiful.”

Ms. Kron is 54, and her sentiments seem to resonate among gay people of her generation and older. “People are missing a sense of community, a sense of sharing,” said Eric Marcus, 56, the author of “Making Gay History.”

“There is something wonderful about being part of an oppressed community,” Mr. Marcus said. But he warned against too much nostalgia. The most vocal gay rights activists may have celebrated being outsiders, but the vast majority of gay people just wanted “what everyone else had,” he said — the ability to fall in love, have families, pursue their careers and “just live their lives.”

Mainstream acceptance does not necessarily cause minority cultures to wither. Other groups have been both buffered and buoyed by greater inclusion. But being gay is different from being a member of an ethnic or religious minority. Many gay children are born into heterosexual families, and same-sex couples often have offspring who are straight. There is less continuity, several gay sociologists said, and there are fewer traditions or holidays that reinforce identity and unite the generations.

Blaine Edens, a Montana native, said that she had no trouble coming out to her parents at age 22 and that they each had said, “Yeah, we know. We’re sad it took you this long.”

The unifying experience for many gay people is not marriage but coming out of the closet. In 1997, as Ellen DeGeneres rehearsed the sitcom scene in which her character came out, she broke into tears every time she rehearsed saying, “I’m gay.” She was welling up because of “shame, you know, self-hatred, and all of these feelings that society feeds you to tell you that you’re wrong,” she said in a later interview.

But many gay people in their teens, 20s and 30s today say the phrase “coming out of the closet” does not apply to them because they were never in one. For Ariel Boone of Oakland, Calif., who began to describe herself as queer in 2008, when she was 18, the time between when she realized her attraction to women and when she started telling others was “maybe 12 hours.”

For too many artists and writers to count, being gay infused their work with an outsider sensibility, even when they were not explicitly addressing those themes. Their private lives and identity gave them “a cunning and sophisticated way of looking at the world and questioning its normative notions,” said Todd Haynes, the director of “Far From Heaven” and the coming film “Carol,” based on the lesbian romance novel “The Price of Salt,” by Patricia Highsmith.

Many gay artists, politicians and celebrities say they prefer life with fewer labels, that they enjoy the freedom of not being put into an identity-politics box or expected to behave a certain way. They “don’t feel the responsibility to speak for a community,” Dean Daderko, curator of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, said in a telephone interview.

When Pete Buttegieg, 33, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., told constituents that he was gay in an op-ed article this month, he emphasized that sexual orientation was “just a part of who I am,” along with being a naval reservist and a businessman. His article echoed the one in which Tim Cook, 54, the chief executive of Apple, came out last year. “I’m an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic and many other things,” Mr. Cook said.

For decades, the cartoonist Alison Bechdel thrived on the edges of the publishing world, turning her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” into a sociology of lesbian life, its title a joke about supposed menace. Now “Fun Home,” which is based on her memoir, is a Broadway hit and winner of the Best Musical Tony. Theatergoers identify with its themes “without any mediating feeling of ‘now I’m watching this lesbian character,’ ” Ms. Kron said. “Sometimes I look at the audience and think, ‘Are there any gay people here?’ ”

There are. Beth Malone, who plays the adult Alison, said in an interview that young women sometimes waited for her at the stage door and whispered their plans for coming out, even with an unknowing parent standing a few feet away. This is why gay culture is unlikely to disappear: because there will always be young people discovering they are different from their families, several historians and sociologists said.

They also said that gay culture had a natural successor to which it is bequeathing its boundary-breaking qualities: queer culture, which questions rigid categories like male and female and gay and straight. Over the years, the relationship between the more established gay world and those who consider themselves transgender or queer has been strained at times. Some lesbians accuse transgender men of abandoning feminism, and some people who identify themselves as transgender or queer see gay men and women as too conformist.

Now one may be enabling the other, the societal discussion moving from “Is it O.K. for a man to marry a man?” to “Is gender as fixed as we assume?” In Northampton, Mass., a landmark lesbian community, the shift is visible on the streets. A generation ago, it was bracing to see lesbians with short haircuts strolling around, said Rachel Simmons, a writer and educator who came out in college. Recently, she recalled, she was jogging on the town bike path when a transgender man whipped by, shirt off, mastectomy scars revealed for all to see.

Meanwhile, in Provincetown, Mass., a longtime gay male summer capital, Mr. Sullivan continues to track what he has dubbed “the end of gay culture,” which he says erodes a little more each year. Lately, he said in an interview, he has noticed that the old gay bars have become popular sites for heterosexual bachelorette parties, the women showing up in sashes and white veils.

When they do, friends tease him about the consequences of the gay marriage fight he helped ignite. “See what you asked for?” they say.



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