…And apparently, David Brooks isn’t a suitable candidate since he seems to think it is somehow an ironic thing for gays and lesbians to request:
But last week saw a setback for the forces of maximum freedom. A representative of millions of gays and lesbians went to the Supreme Court and asked the court to help put limits on their own freedom of choice. They asked for marriage.
Marriage is one of those institutions — along with religion and military service — that restricts freedom. Marriage is about making a commitment that binds you for decades to come. It narrows your options on how you will spend your time, money and attention.
Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi calls Brooks “an asshole” for this, but I say Brooks is guilty of something more damning for a pundit: incoherence. I seriously don’t know what the hell Brooks is writing about. He’s in favor of same-sex marriage because it legally restricts same-sex couples to a particular standard of conduct?
Dude must not get out much.
Now, it’s true that we have a lot of default assumptions about marriage that prevail in our culture. We assume that when people wish to marry, they love one another. Not necessarily so.
We assume that they are friends and enjoy each others’ company and respect one another. Not necessarily so.
We assume that when people marry, they have sex with one another. Not necessarily so. We assume that they will not engage in sexual relations with any person other than their spouse nor tolerate their spouse having sexual relations with such a third party. Not necessarily so.
We assume that they want to live together in the same house. Not necessarily so. We assume that they wish to create a family and raise children. Not necessarily so.
We assume that they are pooling their financial and economic resources. Not necessarily so.
We assume that they wish to grow old together and care for one another as their bodies become frail. Not necessarily so.
We assume they share moral values and objectives to pursue while making major life decisions. Not necessarily so.
While these assumptions are roughly true about most married couples I know, I also know married couples for whom each one of these statements is untrue. You probably do too. And so does Brooks, although he may not realize it. Many such couples divorce, because these are the kinds of things that tend to make marriages work. But it’s not necessarily the case for all people in all situations.
And nearly all of these assumptions, to the extent that they interact with the law, can be or are sculptable to individual preferences.
You want an open marriage, with each spouse able to date and interact romantically and sexually with others? You can have that. It turns out adultery is not a crime.
You want to keep your property and not share it? That’s what prenups are for. Not uncommon these days.
Do you want to have kids? Have them. Do you not? No one’s forcing you to.
Do you want to stay married forever? You can, but you don’t have to; you can get out of the marriage when you like, for whatever reason you like and don’t even have to articulate, because the phrase “irreconcilable differences” can be as simple as “I don’t want to be married to you anymore” and then a couple hundred dollars of filing fees later, you’re divorced.
If what you want is the sort of libertine, sybaritic “freedom” Brooks mocks, marriage needs not impede its pursuit. Your spouse may join you in it.
“Freedom” is one thing; “liberty” may well be something just a bit different as it reflects one’s relationship to the government. What Brooks criticizes is better called “license,” as the intellectual giants he quotes within his article would all surely have taken care to remind him. Such “license,” of course, is not what same-sex couples seek in the legal and cultural and political efforts to advance marriage equality, and Brooks’ definition of “freedom” is as coherent as calling “equality” a ban on excellence.
“Equality,” of course, is a different kettle of fish entirely than “freedom,” and same-sex couples certainly want, and deserve, to have it. What they want is what we all should want: to hold the government accountable to articulate a damn good reason before it treats similarly-situated people differently from one another.
Marriage isn’t easy for everyone. Apparently, neither is churning out approximately eight hundred words to sputter protest to the realization that the American people seem to have thought this through and the center of gravity on this issue is shifting out from underneath Brooks’ feet. Some conservatives have come to recognize this, if only as a tactical matter. Maybe this column is Brooks’ way of coming to terms with that himself.