Marriage and therapeutic politics

Chris Kenny, Same-sex marriage: Yes, but spare the virtue-signalling, The Australian (19 Sept 2017):

It seems to be about more than marriage. Clearly the marriage reform has become a proxy cause for acceptance. As a society we are being asked to legalise gay marriage as an ever-so-slightly practical act but also as a hugely symbolic act to demonstrate the acceptance of gay and lesbian people by the mainstream.

To my mind, this is a very good reason to support the change. It is a powerful argument to share the traditional institution of marriage with same-sex couples. It surprises me that Yes advocates haven’t made the case in this broader term.

When my postal survey arrives, I know that despite the divisive debate whatever box I tick will make no practical difference to the way gay couples are treated when it comes to children, adoption and family law arrangements. It will make no difference to how many gay couples commit to long term relationships and how many do not. It will make no difference to the hard-won legal constraints that already exist against discrimination based on sexuality.

But my vote can make a difference as a statement of acceptance. It can help make a stand against the overt and subtle forms of discrimination that have been perpetrated against a significant cohort of humanity for millennia. In this way, the gay marriage postal survey and the reform it might deliver is practically insignificant but symbolically beneficial.

This is so absurd it is mind-boggling. The institution of marriage is being used to simply convey nothing more than ‘acceptance’. But if that is all the proposal to redefine marriage is grounded upon, why restrict it to only two persons? Why even restrict it only to persons? Why continue to prohibit consanguineous marriages? If redefining marriage is grounded in nothing more than manifesting public approval for relationships that were once disapproved of, barely tolerated, or even still disapproved of, then there is no end to the coming abuse of marriage for symbolic purposes. This is nothing more than a continuation of the politics of the felt need. Of therapeutic politics.

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