Marriage Equality: A Right is Not for Sale

HRC Equal Sign

My former student: On Gay Marriage. I don’t mind it because it isn’t a bother. I see it from a business perspective. More couples (MM MF FF) will be getting married, so that means more businesses will make money. Like DJs, florists, caterers, limo companies, wedding planners. Look at it at that angle! Even places like Walmart and Target, Safeway/Vons, Fry’s/Alberston’s/Lucky’s will be in business for parties and events like these. Look at it like that!

Me: While I appreciate your support for marriage equality, I’m not sure I agree that civil rights issues should be dissected in purely capitalist terms. There’s a reason countries need governance: It is dangerous to leave civil rights to the discretion of markets (which may distort what society ought to value).

It sounds to me like you’re saying if gay marriage weren’t profitable, it would cease to be a right. And that seems incorrect to me. Because rights should stand on normative (ethical) premises – that is, claims to what people naturally DESERVE rather than whether these rights will lead to material commodities. For instance, surely you wouldn’t claim that it’s okay for people to beat you up against your will if America paid big bucks to see you assaulted on television. Why? Because regardless of whether it leads to profit, ASSAULT IS WRONG. (Boxing and wrestling are different, since they involve willing participants.)

By the same token, I believe marriage equality is a right. I believe it is fundamentally unjust to deny the goose what is good for the gander. If florists and caterers and Walmartson’s find a way to milk it clean, good for them. But that’s not the point. Because a right is a right even if Safeway and Target can’t put their hands in the pile.

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4 thoughts on “Marriage Equality: A Right is Not for Sale

  1. When I first read your former student’s part, I started thinking “well, that’s a new standpoint” in a positive way. and as I read on, I see your point and realize that people are still finding ways to somehow debate that gay marriage is something else other than human rights. And you’re absolutely correct. a right is a right. no matter what. thanks for the post!

    • Thanks for your comment, Sheany! I agree that it’s a tricky terrain – on the one hand, we want to be glad for the support. On the other, the quality of support matters.

  2. I’ve had qualms about people looking at the issue this way. In order for anything to be valid or validated, there has to be money signs around it. We’re all growing up with this movement and developing the way we look at human rights.

  3. I once agreed with you that marriage equality should be a basic right. However, after speaking with a mentor on this topic, I’m not quite so sure. As a society, we are also responsibile for protecting morality. Most would say our morality comes from our religious beliefs, others believe it’s innate. Irregardless, if we grant same sex partners the right to marry, doesn’t that mean marriage equality would also have to be granted for incestuous relationships? Polygamy? Hell, even pets? I may be going off bounds here, but see my point? Where do we draw the line without unfairly marginalizing others?

    Btw, I love reading your posts!

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