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What’s Your “Gender” Role?

thThe old stay-at-home wife and bread-winner husband model of society went out the window with black and white TV.  So how does any marriage gay or straight define household roles and rules?  What do you do in your family?

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained exactly why marriage was long understood to be incompatible with homosexuality in just five sentences:

[Same-sex couples] wouldn’t be asking for this relief if the law of marriage was what it was a millennium ago. I mean, it wasn’t possible. Same-sex unions would not have opted into the pattern of marriage, which was a relationship, a dominant and a subordinate relationship. Yes, it was marriage between a man and a woman, but the man decided where the couple would be domiciled; it was her obligation to follow him.

There was a change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian when it wasn’t egalitarian. And same-sex unions wouldn’t — wouldn’t fit into what marriage was once.

Justice Ginsburg’s point was that, until surprisingly recently, the legal institution of marriage was defined in terms of gender roles. According to Sir William Blackstone, an eighteenth century English jurist whose works are still frequently cited today to explain the common law principles we inherited from our former colonial rulers, “[t]he very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.” As late as 1887, fully one third of the states did not permit women to control their earnings. And married women could not even withhold consent to sex with their husband until shockingly recently.

Under the common law, “by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given herself up in this kind unto her husband,” and this consent was something “she cannot retract.” The first successful prosecution in the United States of a husband who raped his wife did not occur until the late 1970s.

So American marriage law, and the English law that it was derived from, presumed that the wife was both financially and sexual subservient to the husband. In a world where marriage is defined as a union between a dominant man and a submissive woman, each fulfilling unique gender roles, the case for marriage discrimination is clear. How can both the dominant male role and the submissive female role be carried out in a marital union if the union does not include one man and one woman? This, according to Justice Ginsburg, is why marriage was understood to exclude same-sex couples for so many centuries.

But marriage is no longer bound to antiquated gender roles. And when those gender roles are removed, the case for marriage discrimination breaks down.

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81% of Floridians are just fine with same-sex marriage

New poll comes two months after nuptials began statewide

March 26, 2015

Contact:
Jim Harper, Media/Communications, 727-388-3636, jim@eqfl.org

A new poll shows that a vast majority of Floridians are content that same-sex couples can now marry in their state.

“Gay marriage becoming legal in Florida doesn’t seem to be doing anyone much harm,” says Public Policy Polling, a widely respected research firm in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Eighty-one percent of voters in the state say it’s either had a positive impact on their lives or no impact at all, with just 20% claiming that it’s affected them negatively.”

Even among Republican voters, whose party has long argued against marriage equality, more than seven in 10 said marriage equality had affected them positively or not at all.

“Florida has embraced the freedom to marry. The hollow rhetoric of prejudice continues to fall away as people across the state celebrate the weddings of their friends and family,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, one of several groups that helped overturn Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage. “Thousands of couples have already taken advantage of this new freedom in Florida, and our communities are better and stronger because of it.”

The poll of registered voters was conducted between March 19 and 22, a little more than two months after a federal appeals court decided not to intervene in lower court rulings that had invalidated Florida’s ban.

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