Thaddeus Russell: Gay Marriage, Like All Marriage, Not Worth CelebratingRoundup: Historians' Take
Thaddeus Russell is the author of A Renegade History of the United States (Free Press).
Back in the days when there was an identifiable counter-cultural movement in the United States, feminists, gay activists, and much of the left identified the institution of marriage as the foundation of conservative American culture and therefore something to oppose, not seek. But now, with more and more gays gaining official permission to marry, the left is celebrating a right that it used to compare with the right to be imprisoned.
Those who consider themselves to be the descendants of the counter-cultural left are hailing President Barack Obama’s sudden embrace of gay marriage as a great victory not just for equality and civil rights but also for freedom. Yet historically, those who invented and promoted legal marriage did so with the explicit purpose of restraining the liberty of all of us. Were Emma Goldman, Allen Ginsberg, and the drag queens who threw bricks at the cops at the Stonewall Inn alive today, they might well say that Americans have all become “the Man.”
The idea that the state should promote, sanction, and regulate monogamous relationships gained currency in the 16th century as a reaction to Europe’s first sexual revolution. Public, group, and what we now call homosexual sex were commonplace, prostitution was rampant and generally unpunished, pornographic books and pamphlets were widely popular, and laws against adultery and divorce went unenforced. Martin Luther and other leaders of the Protestant Reformation seized upon marriage as a means though which to curb unchristian freedoms and bring about social order....
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