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FAN 99.5 (First Amendment News) Execution secrecy bill passed by Mississippi Senate

Attorney General Jim Hood applauded the Mississippi Senate today for approving a measure intended to protect the safety of the individuals responsible for carrying out executions. Senate Bill No. 2237 would protect the identities of the state executioner and members of the execution team, and would also keep confidential the names of the local supplier or suppliers of lethal injection drugs located in the State of Mississippi. The bill was drafted by the Attorney General’s Office, and it is part of the Attorney General’s legislative agenda. — Office of Attorney General Tim Hood, March 1, 2016

Mississippi Senator Sean Tindell introduced Senate Bill No. 2237, which in relevant part provides

“The identities of all members of the execution team, a supplier of lethal injection chemicals, and the identities of those witnesses listed in Section 99-19-55(2) who attend as members of the victim’s or the condemned person’s immediate family shall at all times remain confidential, and the information is exempt from disclosure under the provisions of the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983.”

Senator Sean Tindell

Senator Sean Tindell

“Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, any portion of any record of any kind that could identify a person as being a current or former member of an execution team or a current or former supplier of lethal injection chemicals, or those witnesses listed in Section 99-19-55(2), shall be privileged and shall only be subject to discovery, subpoena, or other means of legal compulsion for disclosure by order of a court of competent jurisdiction, and the remainder of the record shall not be privileged or closed unless protected from disclosure by law.”

“A person may not knowingly disclose the identity of a current or former member of an execution team, a current or former supplier of lethal injection chemicals, or witness who wishes to remain confidential, or disclose any record of any kind knowing that it could identify a person as being a current or former member of an execution team, current or former supplier of lethal injection chemicals or confidential witness.  Any person whose identity is disclosed in violation of this section shall:

(a)  Have a civil cause of action against a person who violates this section;

(b)  Be entitled to recover from any such person:

(i)  Actual damages; and

(ii)  Punitive damages on a showing of a willful violation of this section. . . .”

The bill passed 32-18 and is currently being held in the Senate on a motion to reconsider.

Press Opposition

  • “‘If we’re going to be in the business of putting people to death, there needs to be as much openness as possible,’ said Layne Bruce, executive director of the Mississippi Press Association.”
  • “[G]overnment secrecy coupled with prior restraint — the gag of state censorship — is unacceptable. — Geoff Pender, Clarion Ledger
  • “If there is anything that should be completely transparent, it is everything related to the state’s taking the life of one of its citizens. [This bill] rightfully should send chills down the spine of every Mississippian who values the civil liberties guaranteed by a free and unfettered press. This is Mississippi, not the old Soviet Union, not some banana republic, and this cannot be allowed to stand.” — Ray Mosby, Deer Creek Pilot
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A Practitioner’s Reflections on Wedlocked

A Practitioner’s Reflections on Wedlocked

Reading Katherine Franke’s book really got me thinking about marriage and what it has meant and means to the LGBT community.  It was very helpful to contrast the experience of our community today to what took place 150 years ago in the community that obtained freedom from slavery.  Franke uses the hope of “freedom” to discuss the drive for marriage in both communities.  But in reviewing her work, and my experiences as a lesbian activist attorney representing individuals in the LGBT community for the last 35 years, I would characterize this notion of freedom instead as the freedom to “belong.”

When I came out in 1971, the possibility of marriage equality was not even a concept that was discussed in my political circles of lesbian feminists.  If marriage was a topic of political discourse, it was only to name it as the “great Satan,” a scheme to force women to be part of the patriarchy, with no real benefits to wives and mothers.  However, my friends and I talked endlessly of our families, how to come out, how to be authentic, how to be recognized as ourselves, and whether any of this was really possible.

Later, I went to law school, and eventually went into private practice, working mostly in the LGBT community in the Washington DC metropolitan area.  I also taught as an adjunct professor in the graduate program of Women’s Studies at George Washington University and at the Washington College of Law at American University, teaching courses on Women and the Law, AIDS and the Law and Sexual Orientation and the Law.  Currently I teach Legal Ethics as an adjunct at WCL, and am a founding partner at Zavos Juncker Law Group, PLLC , which practices family law in the Washington DC metropolitan area.

I look back at the AIDS crisis in the late 80’s and the early 90’s and the clients I represented then – going into hospitals, trying to get partners in to be with dying men, keeping families of origin from taking bodies back to places my clients had fled long ago.  I wrote estate planning documents that tried to insure that partners and friends could make medical decisions instead of parents, that possessions, whatever they might be, would go to someone’s chosen survivors.  Survivors questioned why they were not recognized for who they were to the men who died.

Then came the Sharon Kowalski case.  Her partner, Karen Thompson, was prevented by Sharon’s family of origin from seeing and caring for Sharon after a horrible accident that left Sharon totally incapacitated.  A book was published – Why Can’t Sharon Come Home – that turned Sharon’s case into a rallying cry in the lesbian activist community for “family” rights for Karen, and by extension, all of us in the LGBT community.  We began to understand that our families were important, that we had a right to legal protections for them, and most crucial, that we had a right to have them.

At the 1987 March on Washington political activism in the LGBT community exploded.  Legal organizations focused on establishing rights for lesbians and gay men.  Around the same time lesbians began having children as lesbians, and looked for ways to protect their familial relationships, most of which centered on creating legal relationships between a non-biological mother and the couple’s children, and preventing a donor of semen from exerting parental rights.

The issue of creating marriage equality began to be discussed, with lesbian activists declining to support the “great Satan,” and gay men enthusiastically embracing the idea.  (Obviously I am talking in broad sweeps here.)  See the discussion between  Paula Ettelbrick and Tom Stoppard while they were both at Lambda Legal.  Eventually this new way of looking at our families morphed into Evan Wolfson’s focus on establishing marriage equality, even with little initial support from many LGBT groups.  Soon, there was great enthusiasm for marriage equality in most parts of the LGBT community in the United States.

Before Windsor and Obergefell, my clients were interested in doing their estate planning, their second-parent adoptions, and anything else I could recommend that would protect their families.  Those families consisted almost always of a couple and sometimes children at first, and now almost always children.  Many of those couples had had a “commitment ceremony” that mimicked a wedding.  Then they often entered into a civil union in Vermont.  Once marriage became available in Massachusetts, many went there to be married even though their marriages were not recognized in their home jurisdictions or on the federal level.  They just wanted to be married.

Why?  I don’t think it’s about freedom exactly.  I think it’s the freedom to be like everyone else  I think it is about belonging.  Most of my clients, and many of my friends, wanted to have weddings.  I still don’t completely understand it, but there it is.  Hundreds of guests, bridal gowns and/or tuxes, in a church or synagogue, the imprimatur of acceptance by society.  Even very close friends of mine, long-time activists, had a religious ceremony after marriage equality came to the District of Columbia.  My partner and I got married in a three person wedding (think benefits) – us and the judge I clerked for – and after my mother heard about it she was incensed that she wasn’t there.  This after Ellen and I had been together for 17 years!

What is all of this about?  To some extent I liken this to my clients who had children together, then went through a second-parent adoption.  After the adoption was finalized, many of them would say “now I am a real parent.”  Not a legal parent, but a real parent.  There was something about that legal process that made them feel that they belonged.  A chosen family was not enough.  Love was not enough.  Intention was not enough. They needed a court, part of our social structure, to say they were real parents.

I think it is the same with marriage.  No matter what structures we create, nothing is the same as marriage.  Marriage is in the fabric of our society – our laws, our distribution of benefits, our legitimacy as families.  I am not saying that I agree with this structure, but that is what I see.  For most people, that is fine.  They want to be part of it.  They want their families to be legitimate.  They want to belong.

Franke’s comparison of marriage equality now to people coming out of slavery is interesting.  I think she is absolutely right about race being a fault line.  Leaders in the fight for marriage equality were mostly white gay men.  Most activist lesbians were not interested in that fight because, as women, there were many other issues they wanted to address.  After sodomy was decriminalized in Lawrence v. Texas, white gay men turned to inclusion in the military and then to marriage equality as the next big issues.  The military?  Marriage?  More belonging.

The advantages of marriage equality were seen as far greater for them than women.  Franke shows that the same was true for newly freed Black people.  There were so many issues for that community to struggle with, why would obtaining marriage really change its position after slavery?  Particularly for lesbians and Black people after the Civil War, marriage was not the answer to most of the discrimination those communities faced.

And yet, people get married when they have the opportunity.  Perhaps it’s the distinction between public and private, or between micro and macro.  From what I hear from my clients, it’s not about the benefits, or legal protections, although those are nice, it’s about the ring, it’s about the wedding, it’s about the pictures, it’s about the family.  So couples marry when they can, and most people long to get married, now, even LGBT couples, and before, people coming out of slavery.  Franke says we should be careful what we ask for.  I think most LGBT couples got just what they asked for – they want to belong.  Marriage equality has given them that opportunity.

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Our Precious Perversions

It’s a strange time to be a pervert in America. Donald Trump may well be elected the 45th president, running on a platform of protecting the traditional family by rolling back newly-won, sweeping marriage rights for gays and expanding the first amendment to protect outright anti-gay discrimination. At the same time, the New York Times ran a human-interest story last week about an interracial, sadomasochistic relationship involving a well-known musician and Columbia University professor, calling it, blandly, “A Composer and His Wife.”. Just a few years ago, both would have seemed equally improbable, perhaps even farcical. There’s something vertiginous about both the speed of the progress made by gay marriage advocates and the severity and far-reach of the backlash. How do we understand the simultaneous expansion of marriage regimes and the increasing public articulation of “alternative sexualities”? Are they, as many queer thinkers lament, impossible bedfellows? While public discourse about polyamory and kink is all but ubiquitous, we are still unbearably, insufferably held hostage to the marriage discourse. As Katherine Franke has so beautifully elaborated in her new book Wedlocked, marriage, particularly reproductive marriage, is increasingly the sole vehicle through which we can make space in public to talk about sex. That is one of the many unanticipated and vexing consequences of the push to legalize same-sex marriage. It used to be that marriage was “the place where sex goes to die,” but now I think marriage is just, somewhat disappointingly, where sex goes, period. But is that the end of the story?

As a “recovering” lawyer-turned-sociologist, I’ll focus here on some of the more general socio-legal claims in Franke’s book, which press us to approach the current moment with sobriety rather than celebration. As marriage expands its umbrella to shelter the dyadic, reproductive (“homonormative”) gay family, rights to marriage risk ossifying into obligations. Intermediate forms of relationship recognition, like domestic partnerships, begin to fall by the wayside, and a crag separating the legitimacy of the legal marital form for all other forms of kinship widens to a chasm.

Freedom has rules, Franke tells us, and they are not always the ones we might choose if we were in charge of our won freedom (3). History is instructive here. Attempts to force the plurality of kinship ties forged by newly freed slaves into legal, marital families required a series of arbitrary distinctions (for example, which of a succession of female partners would qualify for an emancipation or pension tied to one man’s military service). Coincident with the transfer of African American families from the “private control of owners to the public control of law” (5) was the political sentiment that any kinship tie outside of those marriages was either unimportant or the sign of social pathology. While we may think of marriage as a means of escaping the burden of social abjection (60), marriage regimes themselves produce that abjection. They are self-reinforcing. Communities with weblike, inventive kinship networks, which often serve protective functions for disadvantaged groups like racial minorities or sexual dissidents, are simultaneously invited into the dominant family form and told their existing affiliations are signposts of their unfitness.

I felt a familiar sense of hopelessness reading Wedlocked. As I’ve watched the gay movement rebrand itself from one focused on sexual and gender liberation to a “focus on the family,” I’ve wondered how we might recuperate some of the radical potential of queer kinship. And now, I’m left wondering how we might use marriage, since clearly it isn’t going anywhere, to assist in this project. In that spirit, I’d like to add a point to Franke’s “Progressive Call to Action for Married Queers,” for which I think we might take inspiration from Mollena Williams and Georg Friedrich Haas, the subjects of the Times story I described above.

It’s a rich story with a banal headline: world-famous composer and college professor finds love after three failed marriages—but this is not just any kind of love. Haas, a white Austrian, meets Williams, a black American, on a typical, bland dating site, and they commence a deep, negotiated power exchange, in which Williams submits to serving Haas, to making his life “as comfortable as possible.” Though the text of the Times story is less direct, this is a configuration familiar to those schooled in sexual diversity. Haas is a dominant; Williams is a submissive. He likely controls much of their joint life, and Williams derives satisfaction from being controlled. (This is not conjecture; Williams, a well-known sex educator, writes openly about her submission on her blog, The Perverted Negress.)

http://www.mollena.com

http://www.mollena.com

The rich layers of complexity in such a dynamic are, I’m sure, not lost on this readership: the juxtaposition of a feminist consciousness with female submission, the racialized power dynamics inherent in the configuration, the likely illegality of some of the sexual practices they admit to engaging in (when was the last time we saw the word “caning” in the New York Times?), the fact that such a relationship can also be, and indeed is, a marriage. Yet, while each of the dynamic concerns appears in a single sentence, the word marriage weaves its way through the narrative, the most dynamic portrayal being his failed previous marriages and his journey into this one.

But BDSM, a “compound acronym that connotes sexual interactions involving bondage/discipline, domination/submission, and sadism/masochism” often leans into and not away from the law. It is likely that Haas and Williams have both a marriage contract and an extra-legal bdsm contract detailing the terms of their Dominant/submissive dynamic. And perverts are not the only ones making such creative use of law. Martha Ertman’s new book, Love’s Promises, profiled in an earlier symposium on this blog, describes those used by a range of what she terms “Plan B” families to negotiate the terms of cohabitation and parenting in ways formal law fails to address.

If marriage “cleaves the sex out of homosexuality” (6), we certainly shouldn’t see marriages like this one in the popular press. But, increasingly, we do. And while gays have struggled mightily to distance ourselves from this type of depiction to preserve our standing as viable legal and political subjects, now that we have attained it, perhaps it’s time to let some of that abjection back in. In a context of legal and social exclusion, both racial minorities and non-heterosexual people form a variety of kinship structures that mediate relations of intimacy and of care and dependence. Think, for example, of the “army of ex-lovers” responsible for caring for the first sufferers of hiv/aids. What happens to forms of non-marital intimacy under a marriage regime? They risk disappearing. Perhaps one thing we might do is take a lesson from Haas and Williams and make sure we don’t lose our precious perversions to the marriage discourse.

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FAN 99.4 (First Amendment News) Reporters Committee, “The Justice & the First Amendment: Justice Scalia’s role in press freedom cases”

2016-winter-coverThe Winter 2016 issue of the The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press journal has just been posted. The contents of the issue are set out below.

Editors: Bruce D. Brown, Gregg P. Leslie & Debra Gersh Hernandez

Cover

— Ronald Collins, “When five became four: Justice Scalia’s contribution to the law of free speech

— Reporters Committee letter, “Six degrees of Antonin Scalia

Reporter’s Privilege

— Michael Lambert, “Stopping an end-run around the reporter’s privilege

Freedom of Information 

— Caitlin Vogus, “Private email, government business

Prior Restraints 

— Kevin Delaney, “Near at 85: A look back at the landmark decision

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Committee Chairs in Congress

Longtime readers of CoOp know that I think one of the reasons why Congress functions so poorly these days is that too much power is centralized in the party leadership on both sides.  The discussion over the next Supreme Court nominee is a good example.

In the past, it would have been unthinkable for a Senate Majority Leader to instruct a Judiciary Committee Chair not to hold a hearing on a nominee.  The Chair would have told the Majority Leader to take a hike and insisted on his prerogative to hold hearings when and if he felt like it.  In this case, though, Senator Grassley rolled over like a cocker spaniel when Senator McConnell announced (probably without consulting him) that no hearing would be held.  The White House might nominate an Iowan for the Court as a way of putting pressure on Grassley, but I’m not sure that will work.

While committee chairs of the past were sometimes formidable obstacles to legislation that most of Congress wanted, the decentralized structure that was in place for much of our history was probably better because it created many more negotiating partners and opportunities for compromise.  But how do the chairs claw back their power?

 

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FAC 6 (First Amendment Conversations) The Law & Politics of Money: A Q & A with Professor Richard Hasen – Part II

This is Part II of my interview with Professor Richard Hasen concerning his new book Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections (Yale University Press, 2016) (cloth: $32.50, 256 pp.). Part I of my first interview appears here.

 A hyperlinked list of previous FAC interviews can be found at the end of this Q&A.

First Amendment News (FAN 100) will return next Wednesday.

____________________

Is Compromise Possible?

{99A7FD02-1A3C-40A1-888E-748696B03D3B}Img400Collins: “Any set of limits and rules” on campaign funding, you have written, “must be careful not to squelch too much political speech and competition.” To that end, in your book you propose a compromise:

“An individual or entity may contribute, spend from one’s own personal or general treasury, or both, no more $25,000 in each federal election on election-related express advocacy or electioneering communications supporting or opposing candidates for that election. Such limits shall not apply to the press, to political committees that solely spend contributions received from others, or to money contributed or spent in a voluntary government-created public finance program. An individual also cannot contribute and/or spend more than $500,000 total on all federal election activity in a two-year election cycle.”

In light of your “brief formula,” permit me to make a comment and then ask but three questions, the kind that would be raised time-and-again by election-law lawyers who make it their business to circumvent such rules:

Comment: Since you equate the spending of electoral monies with speech, your formula seems like another way of saying that the Government may dictate when a citizen may or may not speak during an election. Is that a fair statement? If so, how does it square with the command that “Congress shall make no law”?

  1. Would your proposed law apply to an “entity” that created 20 other entities, say non-profit corporations, and then gave them each $500,000 to be spent during a two-year federal election period? Presumably, the $500,000 cap would not bar this since it applies to an “individual.”
  1. Do “electioneering communications” as you understand those terms include books, including e-books?
  1. Would your proposed rule bar a Rupert Murdoch or George Soros from starting a “Save America” TV cable station, the purpose of which was to advance certain political candidates and causes? Presumably it would not bar this since your limits do “not apply to the ” True?

Hasen: I find the entire question whether “money is speech” to be an unhelpful way to think about the question. Money facilitates political speech, and we all agree that a law which would completely bar anyone from spending any money to support or oppose a candidate for office implicates the First Amendment.

Similarly, I find the use of the “Congress shall make no law” formulation also very unhelpful. Of course, it is no law abridging the freedom of speech, and we all agree that some laws which limit speech may be constitutional.

Consider, for example, a federal law that barred Canadian lawyer Benjamin Bluman from spending 50 cents at Kinkos to make flyers saying “Vote Obama” to distribute in Central Park. That’s a law some might say limits freedom of speech. Yet, as I quote in Plutocrats United, Floyd Abrams, Bradley Smith, and James Bopp (three leading First Amendment deregulationists) believe the federal ban on someone like Bluman spending a penny on election-related advertising is consistent with the First Amendment. I urge you to read the quotes on this point in the book, which show that, contrary to Citizens United, sometimes the identity of the speaker does matter for First Amendment purposes even to ardent opponents of regulation.

So let’s move beyond clichés about “no law” and “censorship” and “money is speech” and recognize that all of us believe that in certain circumstances the government has a compelling interest in limiting campaign spending. The question then is when and how.

  1. I should have stated this aspect of my proposal more clearly. We would need anti-circumvention rules that prevent the creation of shell corporations and other artificial entities for the purpose of getting around campaign limits.
  1. The term “electioneering communications” originates in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (more commonly known as McCain-Feingold), and it applies only to certain television and radio ads broadcast close to an election featuring a candidate for office. My proposal would extend to those, as well as to Internet based advertising which is like television and radio ads, not e-books. This question, for the uninitiated, echoes a question Justice Alito asked at the oral argument the first time the Court heard Citizens United v. FEC. Justice Alito asked if Congress had the power to “ban” books. I discuss this question (and the right answers) in detail in my book.
  1. Of course they could set up a TV station. Think of Rupert Murdoch owning FOX News or Sheldon Adelson recently buying the Las Vegas Review Journal. And these entities get the press exemption, so long as they are bona fide press. I offer tests for how to figure out what the press is, especially in the social media age, in my book. One example I give is NRA News, which started out as a way of pushing the boundary on what counts as press. In the end, NRA News became a bona fide press entity.

The Power of PACs? Read More

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Is Marriage Equality A Zero-Sum Game?

Katherine Franke’s Wedlocked offers a provocative and cautionary tale about marriage.  Drawing on the decidedly mixed experiences of African-Americans who gained the right to marry following the Civil War, Franke argues that, for gays and lesbians, pursuing freedom and equality through marriage is risky business. Access to marriage, Franke suggests, is likely to be a zero sum game, and achieving it may do more harm than good — both for the lesbians and gay men who embrace it and for those it leaves behind.

The historical chapters of Franke’s book are original and compelling. She shows how the intertwining of marriage and emancipation unleashed a racist backlash during and after the Civil War – a backlash that increased the vulnerability of African American women and children, and conscripted many women into gendered roles that they had little interest in inhabiting.  Franke also shows how the right to marry facilitated coercive state intervention in the intimate lives of the newly emancipated citizens  through aggressive enforcement of bigamy, fornication and adultery laws.  As Franke explains: “Once married, many freed people learned the hard way that marriage and rules and that breaking those rules could be very costly, if not deadly.”  That these interventions were often initiated by other members of the African-American community only exacerbated their negative impact.  Franke’s rich historical analysis demonstrates convincingly that, for African-Americans after the Civil War, the right to marry was a Faustian bargain.

Franke’s efforts to apply this history to the contemporary marriage equality movement are somewhat less convincing. To begin with, those efforts are complicated by the significant and rapid developments that took place during the time it took to write the book. To her credit, Franke acknowledges that the lesson she initially intended to draw – that the success of the marriage equality movement would unleash a backlash of homophobia similar to the post-Civil War backlash against African-Americans — has not come to pass.  Instead, the views of the public on same-sex marriage — like the views of President Obama – have evolved.  The Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision (handed down after the publication of Franke’s book) both reflects and is likely to accelerate this evolution.

So Franke focuses on several other lessons. First, she argues that marriage may have negative consequences for the gay and lesbian couples who opt into it. Second, she claims that marriage may have negative consequences for those members of the gay and lesbian community who choose not to marry and, more generally, for gay identity as a whole.  Third, Franke suggests that the success of the marriage equality movement may have come at the expense of other subordinated groups, particularly African-Americans.  Although Franke has interesting things to say about all three claims, I find her second and third lessons more compelling than her first.

Franke’s first claim is that marriage harbors disadvantages for the same sex couples who succumb to its lure. She argues that marriage provides a gendered script that fits poorly with the realities of same-sex relationships. In particular, she claims that the financial sharing rules that govern the formation and, more importantly, the dissolution of marital relationships are at odds with the expectations of many gay couples, and that efforts by gay spouses to “opt out” of these sharing rules may have negative consequences for women in more traditional, heterosexual marriages.

As a family law professor, I find these concerns unconvincing for several reasons. For one thing, they appear to be based on an outdated understanding of the laws that govern marriage and divorce.  Under the current no-fault divorce regime, the sharing obligations that accompany the dissolution of a marriage are quite thin.  Post-divorce financial sharing (via alimony or spousal support) is the exception, rather than the rule, and long-term support is extremely rare.  And while divorce statutes in almost all states provide for the equitable (but not necessarily equal) distribution of marital property, this generally applies only to property acquired during the marriage and it does not include professional degrees or other human capital assets.  As a result, most divorcing couples have little property to divide.  The most robust family sharing rules today are those that require parents to support their children financially, and those obligations are no longer tied to marriage in any meaningful way.

Perhaps more important, the sharing obligations that are tied to marriage operate as default rules, and couples are generally free to contract around them, either at the time they enter into marriage or at the time a marriage ends. Franke is correct to point out that some states require such opt-out agreements to be in writing (as is true for other types of important contracts), but Franke mischaracterizes the current legal regime when she suggests that gaining marriage rights entails “surrendering the breakup of your relationship to the governance of rules set by the state rather than the ad hoc improvisation that same-sex couples used before they were able to marry.”  Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples are free to negotiate and to improvise, whether or not they decide to marry. To be sure, these negotiations take place in the “shadow” of the law’s default rules.  And what marriage does is switch the default position – from the absence of any financial sharing unless a couple specifically opts to share, to some time-limited sharing, unless a couple expressly agrees otherwise.  To this extent, marriage may improve the bargaining position of a financially dependent spouse at the time a relationships ends, but that is not the same thing as being tied to a gendered script or surrendering the terms of your break-up to the state.

I am similarly unconvinced by Franke’s suggestion that allowing gay men and lesbians to contract out of the default rules of equitable distribution and support “would threaten to undo decades of feminist reform of the law of marriage.” While some feminists have pushed for greater sharing of the financial gains and losses associated with marriage, these efforts have not fundamentally altered the “clean break” philosophy of modern divorce law, and they have generally been accompanied by a healthy respect for the role of voluntary agreements.  Moreover, this argument sounds disturbing similar to claims made by opponents of same-sex marriage that allowing gay couples to marry would somehow undermine their own, heterosexual unions.  In both contexts, the argument seems misplaced.

More convincing is Franke’s second argument that the availability of marriage will disadvantage gay men and lesbians who choose other forms of intimate relationships. As she puts it:  “Gaining the right to marry risks bringing with it the expectation that all in the community conform to traditional notions of coupling, and can have the unintended consequence of making the lives of lesbian and gay people who aren’t in traditional relationships more precarious, not less.”  This is an important concern, and while Franke is not the first to raise it, her historical analysis adds a powerful dimension to the argument.  For example, she shows how, in the aftermath of the Civil War, the newly-won right to marry morphed into a duty to do so, and African Americans who remained in less formal, or more fluid intimate relationships often paid a steep price. Franke suggests a disturbing parallel in recent, post-marriage equality efforts by some jurisdictions to automatically convert existing domestic partnerships into marriages and by some employers to eliminate or limit to married couples benefits they previously extended to non-marital partners.

Franke also suggests that gaining marriage rights may threaten the gay community’s own history and identity. In particular, she claims that marriage threatens “to pull the sex out of homosexuality” and to drive a wedge between acceptable and unacceptable gay lifestyles.  Marriage, she fears, risks shifting “a badge of inferiority from decent same-sex couples – many of whom are portrayed in the media and in legal papers as wanting dignity for themselves and their children that only marriage can confer – to indecent others whose intimate attachments don’t or won’t march politely down the aisle.”  Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Obergefell — which contrasts the “dignity” and “integrity” of marriage with the “loneliness” of other family forms — certainly validates these concerns.

Even more provocatively, Franke suggests that the success of the marriage equality movement may have come at the expense of other stigmatized groups, particularly African Americans. She claims that homosexuality in general and the marriage equality movement in particular “enjoy a kind of racial privilege” that has contributed to its success.  “For better or for worse, in some circumstances winning marriage equality has been a zero sum game that has entailed shifting the stigma same-sex couples have endured to other already stigmatized groups, particularly poor African American women and their families.”  These claims are troubling and worth taking seriously. To some extent, they parallel the critique leveled by feminists of color who pointed out that efforts by privileged (white) women to achieve equality in the professional and corporate sphere often depended on the less visible and poorly compensated domestic work of poor women of color.

But access to marriage need not be a zero sum game, and Justice Kennedy does not speak for all supporters of marriage equality. Indeed, as Franke suggests in the Appendix that she captions  “A Progressive Call To Action for Married Queers,” there is much that both gay and straight supporters of marriage equality can do to ensure that marriage remains a right, rather than a duty, and that it augments, rather than displaces, other forms of intimate relationships.  Supporters can resist the repeal of domestic partner benefits programs; they can avoid arguments that disparage non-marital families and non-reproductive sexual activity; and they can link strategies to fight homophobia to other causes such as anti-racist organizing or defending reproductive rights.  Such efforts are made easier by constitutional and family law doctrines that limit the state’s ability to regulate intimate conduct and that protect a far broader range of family and relationship choices than was the case a century (or even a generation) ago. These developments suggest that opening marriage to same-sex couples may have positive, as well as negative externalities, and that both gay and straight progressives have the opportunity (and perhaps the obligation) to help bring about those positive externalities.  In this respect Wedlocked may be as much a call to action as it is a cautionary tale.

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“What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into?”: Reflections on Katherine Franke’s Wedlocked

In 1989, Paula Ettelbrick, then legal director of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and her boss, Tom Stoddard, debated the importance of same-sex marriage for the struggle for lesbian and gay rights. Whereas Stoddard argued “the gay rights movement should aggressively seek full legal recognition for same-sex marriages,” (Thomas Stoddard, “Why Gay People Should Seek the Right to Marry,” Out/Look, Fall 1989, pp. 9-13), Ettelbrick, in contrast, argued that “marriage is not a path to … liberation” and that a more desirable and promising project was “providing true alternatives to marriage and … radically reordering society’s views of family.” (Paula Ettelbrick, “Since When Is Marriage a Path to Liberation?,” Out/Look, Fall 1989, pp. 14-17).

Katherine Franke’s powerful and engaging new book, Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality, is in the Ettlebrickian tradition of skepticism about the centrality of marriage to LGBT rights. But Franke’s project is different in at least two significant ways. First, Franke provides dramatic historical evidence on how gaining the right to marriage affected freed African-American slaves in the 1860s and thereafter. Franke argues that this historical evidence is deeply relevant to our thinking about same-sex marriage today. Second, unlike Ettelbrick, Franke writes after the stunning success of the quest for marriage equality for LGBT people. As readers of these words surely know, in Obergefell v. Hodges 135 S. Ct. 2584 [2015]), the Supreme Court, ruled that the U.S. Constitution requires states allow same-sex couples to marry. Franke’s project was conceived and mostly carried out before Obergefell, but the book has been recast as a cautionary tale about the risks of same-sex marriage both for individual LGBT people and for the LGBT rights movement. Or, as she nicely puts it, part of Franke’s project is to ask the LGBT community post-Obergefell “[w]hat [we have] gotten ourselves into” (209).

Some of Franke’s continued antipathy towards same-sex marriage stems from her concern that marriage will change LGBT people more than LGBT people will change marriage, in part, because marriage is designed for heterosexuals not for LGBT people. The thought is that when LGBT people marry, we are joining an institution that will constrain us, not empower us. No doubt there is some truth to this concern, but I think Franke overestimates the assimilationist impact marriage will have on LGBT people. There are other social forces besides marriage that have shaped and will continue to shape LGBT people (and heterosexuals, for that matter). Further, marriage is a much more supple and much less static institution than we assume it is. Even setting aside the speedy expansion of access to marriage for same-sex couples since the turn of the century, marriage has radically changed in the past fifty years. For example, it has gotten much easier to get divorced, most (although not all) gender asymmetries in family law have disappeared, cohabitation is now recognized for some legal purposes, procreation is no longer seen as a crucial aspect of marriage, and prenuptial (and postnuptial) agreements are now more common and courts are much more willing to enforce them.

Franke knows this but she remains concerned about marriage for LGBT people in particular because, she says, “as a legal matter, gaining marriage rights really boils down to surrendering the breakup of your relationship to governance by rules set by the state, rather than the ad hoc improvisations that same-sex couples used before they were able to marry” (209). She offers an example of two women in a serious but on-again/off-again relationship for over a decade or so. At one point, in an attempt to repair their relationship, the couple reached an agreement that they would not commingle their finances but that they would live together and contribute to their joint expenses in proportion to their abilities (specifically, the more-moneyed spouse would pay 80% of their household expenses). Subsequently, the couple married and, later, divorced. When the less-moneyed spouse sought equitable distribution of all the marital assets, the trial judge not only awarded her half of all of the couple’s assets, the judge also looked “backward,” past the date of marriage to when the couple started dating (because the couple had functioned as a married couple since that earlier time), and treated the assets over that long time period as subject to equal distribution (209-212).

For Franke, this is a disturbing story that exemplifies how “the pre-scripted roles of marriage—husband and wife—[are] mapped onto gay men and lesbians in ways that reproduce hetero-gendered subject positions” (20). I am much less troubled by this story than Franke is. The judge ignored the parties’ pre-marital oral agreement to keep their finances separate apparently, in part, because they subsequently married and, when they did, they didn’t memorialize their agreement in writing in the form of a prenuptial agreement. It seems reasonable, given this context, to apply the default rules of equitable distribution, that is, unless the parties explicitly contracted around these rules when the relationship was formalized. The same approach would be taken in the case of a similarly-situated heterosexual couple: the default rules of equitable distribution would be applied unless the parties contracted around them in the manner prescribed by the relevant state law. I think this is justified even though, as Franke points out, “[w]hen couples say ‘I do’ they are oblivious to the many legal rules that now govern their marriages…” (9) (This quote continues by saying that couples “can’t just pick and choose” (9) which rules to follow; to a great extent, however, couples can pick and choose, by opting for a pre- or post-nuptial agreement—although relatively few couples do this, especially if this is their first marriage.)

I am a bit more equivocal about the judge’s decision to “back date” the couple’s marriage. Note, however, in many instances, this sort of retroactivity is justifiably applauded by advocates of LGBT rights. Consider a state that didn’t recognize marriage between people of the same sex until Obergefell required it. Now imagine two women in that state who were a couple for decades and who would have gotten married there if they could have. Further, imagine that one of them tragically died the day before Obergefell was decided and that there was some important benefit that the surviving partner would have gotten had they married before the late partner’s death. Here, “back dating” this couple’s marriage seems quite appropriate if there is a plausible way to do so under the law. But doing so in this situations like this seems similar to doing so in the case Franke describes. For various reasons, I favor “back dating” in both cases over not doing so in either.

Returning to the broader themes, in contrast to Franke, I think that it is just as likely that marriage, rather than “heterosexualizing” same-sex couples, is “supple enough to accommodate a new cast of characters” even though they might “bust open marriage’s essentially heterosexual form” (20). Consider two differences between same-sex couples and different-sex couples. First, same-sex couples’ relationships are, on average, more egalitarian than those of different-sex couples in various respects including, most notably, the sharing of household duties and parenting responsibilities. Second, same-sex couples consisting of two men are significantly more likely to have “consensual non-monogamous” relationships, that is, relationships in which they agree on circumstances when it is permissible to have “extramarital” sex. For all we know, same-sex marriages might push the institution of marriage towards being more egalitarian and increase the likelihood that couples will discuss issues of sexual fidelity before either spouse has extramarital sex. Just as many of us of were surprised by the speed that the United States went from 0 to 50 in terms of the number of states that allowed same-sex marriage, so too we might be surprised by the impact this development has on the institution of marriage.

* * *

The most vocal advocates for LGBT rights in the 1970s wanted more than equal treatment for LGBT people; gay liberationists wanted to change the very structure of society, to “liberate the homosexual in everyone.” With respect to marriage, gay liberationists saw it as a sexist and oppressive institution. As Ettelbrick put it, gay liberationists aimed to “transform our society from one that makes narrow, but dramatic, distinctions between those who are married and those who are not married to one that respects and encourages choice of relationships and family diversity.” Franke clearly regrets the loss of the liberationist aspect of the gay rights movement.

I share Franke and Ettelbrick’s view that the gay movement’s foundational liberationist tendencies are important, but I don’t believe the movement gave up on other forms of relationship recognition by seeking marriage through litigation, legislation and a campaign to change public opinion. In fact, recent scholarly work has shown that the quest for marriage equality and the quest for alternative modes of relationship recognition were synergistically intertwined. (See Michael Boucai, “Glorious Precedents: When Gay Marriage Was Radical,” Yale Journal of Law and Humanities, vol. 27, p. 1 [demonstrating the “liberationist” motivation behind early gay marriage litigation in the United States], and Douglas NeJaime, “Before Marriage: The Unexplored History of Nonmarital Recognition and Its Relationship to Marriage,” California Law Review, vol. 102, p. 87 [showing the “dialogical” relationship between LGBT rights advocacy for marriage, on the one hand, and advocacy for alternative modes of relationship recognition, on the other].) This complicated history makes me less worried that “[g]aining the right to marry [will create] the expectation that all in the community conform to traditional notions of coupling, and can have the unintended consequence of making the lives of lesbian and gay people who aren’t in traditional relationships more precarious, not less” (13).

That said, I share Franke’s concern that the alternative modes of relationship recognition developed over the past few decades are at risk of disappearing after Obergefell. To use the terminology used by William Eskridge, there is a question whether the non-marital modes of recognition will be “sedimentary,” namely, whether, when a new relationship form is opened up or created (e.g., marriage for same-sex couples) and more benefits are given to certain couples, the old relationship form that gave fewer benefits (e.g., domestic partnerships) will continue to exist. (The question, in other words, is whether the old relationship for will remains as “sediment.”) (See, William N. Eskridge, Jr., Equality Practice: Civil Unions and the Future of Gay Rights, p. 121 (2002].) According to Eskridge, sedimentation engenders pluralism about relationship recognition, and this should please advocates of alternative modes of relation recognition. However, Franke is concerned that sedimentation is not a robust phenomenon in the United States and her discussion in the latter part of Chapter 3 provides reasons to think she is right. That said, some jurisdictions have retained alternative forms of relationship recognition even after they have embraced civil unions or same-sex marriage. Colorado, for example, has retained its unique designated beneficiary law (which allows two unmarried people to give each other some or all of a limited set of legal rights, benefits, and protections to make certain decisions about each other’s health care and estate administration as well as treatment in medical emergencies, during incapacity, and at death) even after it passed civil unions and its still retains them after Obergefell. But now that same-sex couples can marry, there is a risk that many alternative forms of relationship recognition that have been created in the past three decades will disappear. And that would be a loss for all of us, not just LGBT people.

* * *

My comments thus far have mostly ignored the original historical research Franke did about the Civil War and Reconstructionist-era marriages of freed slaves. That history is both fascinating and deeply troubling, but I remain mostly unconvinced of its relevance to LGBT rights post-Obergefell. African-American slaves did not have the right to marry anyone. In contrast, lesbians and gay men in the United States, even before Massachusetts became the first state to solemnize same-sex marriages, did have the right to marry: importantly, though, we didn’t have the right to marry the people we wanted to (namely, people of the same sex). Perhaps bisexuals best illustrate the point I am making here. A bisexual could marry some of the people he or she wanted to marry (those of a different sex) but not others (those of the same sex). The contrast between the absolute prohibition on marriage for African-American slaves and the partial—albeit dramatic, immoral and unconstitutional—prohibition on marriage for LGBT people undercuts the analogy at the heart of Franke’s book. Instead, a better (although far from perfect) analogy is to antimiscegenation laws that were common throughout the United States for much of its history.

That said, I learned a great deal from Franke’s book, especially from her discussion of the archival research. Her attempts to connect this history to LGBT rights and explain the different receptions of the marriages of freedpeople in the 1860s and thereafter and the marriages of LGBT people in the 2000s and thereafter are insightful and provocative. I encourage you to read this fine book and to engage with it as I have tried to do here.

Edward Stein
Maurice Greenberg Visiting Professor of Law, Yale Law School
Professor of Law & Director, Gertrud Mainzer Program in Family Law, Policy, & Bioethics, Cardozo School of Law
email: Edward.Stein@yale.edu OR ed.stein@yu.edu

3

Queering the Family in an Age of Marriage Equality

It was a pleasure to read Katherine Professor Franke’s provocative book, Wedlocked, and an even greater pleasure to be able to engage in this on-line discussion about Professor Professor Franke’s long simmering work. As a lesbian of African descent raising bi-racial children with a Latina co-parent, I came to this book with personal and professional relationships to many of the topics about which Professor Franke writes so eloquently. I left the experience of reading her book with numerous thoughts and questions to which I cannot do justice in a blog post. So, recognizing that I cannot do it all, I’ll use my space to reflect on one piece of Professor Franke’s narrative that resonated strongly with me, which is contemplating how families with children created by lgbt people do or do not radically, or even modestly in some cases, actually queer the idea of family. By this I mean, as I’ll explain in more detail below, just as is true in the context of marriage, being queer and creating a family does not always mean that you have queered the family. In that case, then, I wonder what it means to queer the family in our modern context and, perhaps more importantly, what we gain or lose by couching the narrative of change in the idea of queerness rather than using other language to describe and understand the end of the hegemony of the nuclear family.

My scholarly work exists at the intersection of family law, bioethics, and reproductive justice, with a particular focus on assisted reproduction and how non-coital forms of baby creation can, but don’t always, challenge traditional notions of family and belonging. Consequently, one piece of Professor Franke’s book that deeply resonated with me was her discussion of the ways in which same sex couples engage in a process of queering the family by virtue of how they create families with children. Professor Franke gives 3 such examples, one involving a very open open adoption of an infant by two African-American lesbians who, it appears, have been significantly integrated into the birth family of their child; one involving two white gay men who hired a gestational surrogate with whom they continue to have contact long after their child’s birth (In the interest of full disclosure, like Professor Franke, I am friends with the two men about whom she writes and am thrilled about the family that they were able to create); and another involving a male couple and a female couple who created biological children together and raised those children with the lesbians as primary parents and the men as loved family figures who are not social parents.

Professor Franke offers up these stories to illustrate how gay people, like African Americans (and, of course, these groups are not mutually exclusive), have played with, rejected, and, in some cases, transformed the traditional/nuclear family. She explains, “These three stories are typical of the ‘queerness’ of many families being formed by lesbians and gay men who want children in their lives.” I’m unsure what to make of the quotation marks that she uses around the word queerness, but it is the use of that word that is especially striking to me. I am happy to praise and celebrate the ways in which these families got created with care and deliberation. I also think, though, that it’s critical to recognize the ways in which they might not be all that queer depending on how that word is being deployed. If queer simply means not the nuclear family model of one man, one woman, and their biological children living in a single household, then a huge number of families are queer in this country, which starts to make them seem more mainstream even if not traditional. If we mean something more specific by using the term queer, perhaps requiring parents who identify as lgbt, then all of the families that Professor Franke describes surely qualify, but at that point the designation of queer sweeps in huge numbers of families that are almost identical to traditional family structures save for sex or gender identity. So, what makes two white gay men with financial privilege hiring a surrogate to carry a child for them and maintaining a relationship with that surrogate radically different from a white man and white woman (married or in a serious long-term relationship) making the same decisions? And when I think of the lesbians who are clearly committed to creating a family structure for their daughter that allows her to maintain close ties to her birth mother and her extended family of origin, I read that story not as a queer story per se, or certainly not only a queer story, but as an example of the kinds of extended networks of kin, caring, and community that have so long been a deep part of African American familial traditions extending to those families created by same-sex couples. The story, then, is best told as an intersectional one about how multiple identities shape the families that we create.

That I’ve opted to focus on what perhaps appears to be such a small part of Professor Franke’s broad and exciting narrative may seem out of place or out of touch, but I am fascinated by this question of how we understand what it means to dismantle dominant family structures and conquer familial hierarchies. I share Professor Franke’s concerns about how some of the legal strategies used in marriage equality litigation may actually have damaged those who create what I tend to describe in my work as outsider or marginalized families, rather than queer families. For me, the important dividing line in how families exist in our world is the distinction between families that can be formed by law and protected by law versus those that are treated as anomalous, or inferior, or even thought to be dangerous by some conservative politicians and policymakers. These outsider families are not necessarily radically upending notions of family and thus may not fall neatly into how some think about what it means to queer family. In fact, they may be much more closely aligned with traditional notions of family in many ways, but they are not granted legal legitimacy because they do not wholly track what has long been deemed the norm.

I am deeply mindful of the critical ways in which outsider families can create impacts beyond the circumstances of the individual family members such as in Moore v. City of East Cleveland in which the Supreme Court struck down a statute that excluded certain non-nuclear family units from living together in the City of East Cleveland (in that case, the offending family consisted of a grandmother, her son, and two grandsons) or consider how same sex couples are pushing some family courts and state legislatures to acknowledge more than a two parent dyad for any one child either through legislation or through case law. These are changes that matter and that make it harder to claim that there is one family structure that rules above all others. But, as we push the boundaries of family, as Professor Franke warns in the context of her history of marriage for freed slaves and for lgbt people in our present world, we should be careful what we wish for. We do not want to reinforce familial hierarchies by forcing people into specific family arrangements in order to warrant recognition (2 parents only), nor do we want to fetishize outsider families such that those who do not fit that model are denigrated for their choices (i.e., the adoptive parents who choose a closed adoption or the birth mother who opts for such an adoption thus perhaps not being queer enough in their choices). In thinking about the ways in which reproductive justice calls for us to respect the right to have a child, not have a child, or parent that child in a safe and healthy environment, the upshot for me is that the reproductive justice paradigm does not demand that outsider families conform to some particular form in order to help dismantle hierarchy. The end goal, or at least one end goal, is to recognize that most orthodoxy about how people choose to wrap themselves in the webs of dependence and intertwinement that family connotes are deeply personal (though not necessarily private) and the job of our laws and policies is to facilitate these personal choices without unjustifiable bias or prejudice. And as the demand for equitable law and policy continues, as Professor Franke makes clear, those demands for protection and acknowledgment can help to de-center marriage in family life, which is almost certainly a good thing for many people.

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Commentary on Wedlocked: the Perils of Marriage Equality

Commentary on Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality

By Katherine Franke

 

Wedlocked is undeniably illuminating, thoughtful and provocative. Katherine Franke recovers the post-bellum history of freed slaves’ experience of marriage, a little explored story that stands as a counterpoint to more typical, celebratory accounts of marriage.  The book leverages the 19th century experience of African Americans to raise questions about the 21st century experience of marriage by gays and lesbians and, by extension, everyone else.

While sympathetic to people’s desire to marry, this book is a critique of marriage. It usefully cautions against expecting too much of marriage. Marriage is neither the single key to happiness, nor the means of alleviating economic inequalities or addressing other social problems.  Franke shows how  access marriage and the granting of entry to the institution functions as a clandestine means of social control. The relationship that seems, or promises, to set us free might instead subject us to yet new forms of social control.

In the history that Franke recounts, the freed slaves’ supposed freedom to marry was a mixed blessing.  As Franke notes, “the freedom to marry can quickly collapse into the compulsion to marry.” And so it did for the freed slaves.  Marriage may have undermined freedom as much as it enabled it.  Once freed slaves married, the men became liable for economic support of their women partners; the women became subject to the will of the men.  Far from freedom, marriage in the 19th century meant obligation; marriage subjected husbands to the power of the state, and wives to the power of their husbands.  This history is one of which we should remain mindful.

Of the many issues that this rich book implicates, I raise two. First, the link between past and present .  While Franke repeatedly  (and understandably) disclaims any desire to draw a strong analogy between the 19th century experiences of freed slaves and the 21st century  experiences of gays and lesbians, the book is unavoidably premised on a connection between past and present.  Its very structure poses the question: what can we learn about the present based on what happened in the past? The clear import of the history, in Franke’s view, is to “be careful what you wish for.”

In formulating a stance toward marriage today though, the history is less instructive than one might hope.  What’s most striking is how much marriage has changed between the 19th century and now.  The name, of course, remains the same.  But the legal regulation and cultural understandings of marriage have shifted dramatically. Marriage now entails fewer legal entitlements than ever.  In the 19th century, marriage was the central means of structuring sexual and familial relationships. Sex outside of marriage was criminal. Paternal relationships outside of marriage were unrecognized. And when people did marry, as Franke notes, the law rigidly structured their relationship, with husbands accorded one set of rights and obligations and wives another. The ability to leave a marriage was difficult as both a practical and legal matter.

Now, that 19th century architecture of marriage has fallen away.  The law recognizes and allows that sexual relations will occur outside of marriage.  Prohibitions of adultery and fornication are still on the books yet they are either typically not enforced or are likely unconstitutional. Throughout the nation, couples lives together and have sex without any fear of prosecution. Marriage also is no longer the sole means of establishing a parent-child relationship. One no longer has to be married to be recognized as a father.

Even within marriage, the partners are more treated as autonomous individuals that ever. Premarital agreements are no longer anathema.  Negotiation of the terms of a divorce is commonplace, and indeed is promoted in most jurisdictions.  Too, the legal structure of marriage is less gendered than ever.  Nearly all of the overtly gender based allocations of rights and responsibilities have been wiped away, a casualty of the constitutional prohibition of state sponsored sex discrimination.

Given the demise of the legal rules that channeled people into marriage, being married today is a more a choice and less an obligation.  The significance of marriage now is more cultural than legal. Marriage is more a cultural ideal than a legal institution.  People value marriage even as it’s legal benefits have diminished.

This brings me to my second issue:  What are we to make of the continuing appeal of marriage to most people? Notwithstanding frequent references  to the supposed economic benefits of marriage (including in Franke’s book), the reality is that for the highly educated two earner couples who are most likely to marry, those supposed economic benefits are either slight or non-existent.  Affluent, married two earner couples almost certainly pay more in federal and state income taxes than if they were unmarried. I suspect that for most highly educated, two earner couples that marriage penalty is not offset by other economic benefits.

The paradox of the quest for marriage then is that people desire marriage even as it, quite literally, costs them money, and offers comparatively few of the non-monetary legal rights that it did a century ago. Marriage functions now as a cultural ideal.  What people get from marriage is not legal entitlements so much as cultural cachet, social approval, recognition as having achieved the most admired of family forms.

I wonder then:  is the desire for marriage a form of false consciousness?  One might ask this question of everyone; is the fact that most Americans want to marry (and that some do so repeatedly) a misguided effort , a giving over of oneself to an ideology that is more constraining than liberating, that undermines rather than enables human flourishing?  More pointedly, has the movement for gay and lesbian liberation wrongly succumbed to a domesticated vision of life? Are the gains of the supposed stability of marriage outweighed by the loss of sexual freedom and by the eclipse of alternative forms of family?

When I raise these question with students when I teach Family Law, I am often struck not simply by their rejection of the gay liberation ethos, but instead by how utterly foreign and incomprehensible the questions seem to them.  My students can see a benefit of being young and unmarried but nearly all of them imagine themselves, at some point, as married.  They so take marriage for granted that the idea that a social movement would actively oppose or reject marriage seems to them nonsensical.  As it would to many people outside of law schools. And so, the question: Should  the message to these people, most Americans in fact, be that they are laboring under a form of false consciousness that they would do better to shed?

As fundamental as this question is, Franke seems equivocal about it.  As many of us are.

 

By Ralph Richard Banks

Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law

Stanford Law School

rbanks@stanford.edu