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Same-sex marriage is not sexual liberation


#1

In the Boston Review, Judith Levine lauds the recent US Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, while also reminding us that there are still many laws on the books that penalize “abnormal” sexuality. These laws disproportionately impact LGBT people:

The Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage is a civil rights victory. The justices shifted one of Rubin’s sexual categories—“long-term, stable lesbian and gay male couples”—from the contested middle to the shelter of the good, normal and holy.

But civil rights are not the same as sexual liberation. In fact, the opinion might be considered the opposite. Marriage is about health care proxies, death benefits, taxes, child custody, Kennedy writes. Marriage is “intimate to the degree of being sacred”; its purpose is “noble.” Marriage “embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.” The opinion legitimating same-sex unions is virtually redacted of sex.

Meanwhile, the same court has upheld every cruel and unusual punishment of sex offenders, including lifelong public registration and indefinite confinement in “civil commitment” for crimes yet to be committed.

We should celebrate the expansion of civil legal equality in America. But without sexual liberation, the founding impulse of what was once called the Gay Liberation Movement, there will be sexual oppression and sexual violence. Without sexual liberation—the antithesis of a court’s imprimatur—the wedding registries will proliferate on one side of the wall, and the sex offender registries on the other.