Sisterhood Blog

Marriage, Evolved

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Pete Souza
In an interview Wednesday with ABC’s Robin Roberts, the president announced that he supports same-sex marriage.

The public acceptance of gay marriage by the President of the United States — a position that most Jews support — is hardly the end of the struggle for full equality for LGBTQ citizens, who continue to lack many of the same enshrined rights and protections as other minority groups. Similarly, Barack Obama’s historic announcement of what many of us long suspected lay in his heart already will have almost zero impact on policy, and likely little impact on the election, since the issue ranks far below economic ones with most voters at the moment.

Instead, it represents a benchmark. Because his choice of words does show that both feminism and the gay rights community have made inroads where it matters most: our definition of relationships. Obama’s evolution echoed ours.

After all when Obama spoke about the “committed, monogamous” relationships of his gay friends, he was positing marriage as a simple, straightforward commitment between two equal people, not as a patriarchal social construct with the man as the head of the household, literally receiving his wife from her father. That very different vision, after all, is what marriage used to be (after, of course, it evolved from Biblical-era polygamy). Marriage once was a transaction between a bread-earner and a child-bearer. And yet when Obama spoke of marriage, he said:

As I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.

His words reflect nothing of these old visions of marriage. Instead these images conjure up love, commitment, raising kids as partners (not one person raising kids), and even an unspoken freedom from “constraints.”

For this already-evolved concept of marriage, the president can thank social movements on the ground, and also the combination of millions of individual choices. Everyone who has envisioned their marriage as a true partnership, who has rejected marriage entirely and lived in committed but different units, everyone who has embraced gay marriage, has added to the changing of the status quo.

And of course, that simple redefinition of marriage explains why conservatives will resist it till the end (besides their squeamishness about gay sex, that is). They are filled with anxiety about eroding the hierarchy within the institution of marriage, changing the power balance that used to be part and parcel of its structure. But the erosion has already happened. We’ve evolved. The president is just proof of what’s to come.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Marriage, Gay Marriage, Gay, Civil Rights, Barack Obama

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.