How Gay Marriage Is Good for Straight Women

Will it help ensure that more of us can find "a marriage of equals?"

gay pride parade
(Image credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Gay marriage was (finally) legalized in New York over the weekend — and writing in Slate, author Linda Hirshman argues that any victory for gay marriage is also a victory for straight women who want to marry.


"Same-sex marriage represents the possibility that marriage can be an equal deal after all ... The people fighting same-sex marriage know this. They've been fighting some variation of the battle against marriage equality — for women — probably since the early Christians argued for the equality of women's souls. In the Anglo-American common law system, laws called 'coverture' eliminated women's civic personhood when they married men. Unequal marriage was portrayed as a bargain between naturally created opposites: Women did women's work at home, and men took care of their public role, making contracts for them and voting in their interests. Apparently unsatisfied with this 'bargain,' women pressed for equality, including marriage equality, ultimately giving rise to the suffrage movement in the 19th century and feminism in the 20th."

It's a good point she makes. All these people who are so rabidly insisting that marriage can only be defined as a contract between a man and a woman seem pretty invested in insisting upon the differences between men and women. They probably also have a lot of old-fashioned ideas about how men and women should be defined, and what roles they should play both in and out of the bedroom.

With the New York decision, the U.S. is primed to begin legally recognizing marriages between two people who are sexual and anatomical "equals" (more or less). That might be a good sign that we'll progress culturally — expanding our notions of what marital partners are. This is one more reason I'm happy that the gay marriage movement is gaining strength. Say what you will about marriage — complain about it as an institution all you want, but let's agree that given all the benefits, legal and financial and otherwise, gay people should be entitled to it as much as straight people should.

What are your thoughts about the issue?