While the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state of New York is certainly a cause for joy, it contains at its root a cautionary tale about the power of politics over the private realm that Columbia professor Katherine M. Franke touches upon in this column:
What’s difficult to explain is that for some lesbians and gay men, having our relationships sanctioned and regulated by the state is hardly something to celebrate. It was only a few years ago that we were criminals in the eyes of the law simply because of whom we loved. As strangers to marriage for so long, we’ve created loving and committed forms of family, care and attachment that far exceed, and often improve on, the narrow legal definition of marriage. Many of us are not ready to abandon those nonmarital ways of loving once we can legally marry.
The swift transformation of the public perception of homosexuality from mental illness only a few decades ago to a recognized and respected sexual identity makes one wonder whether political decision-makers have not been obstructing rather than aiding happiness and freedom in the private sphere by assuming authority over questions of life that it should always be the sole prerogative of the individuals concerned to answer – in this case, what kinds of partnerships are of merit.