David Brooks thinks that he’s clever by saying that marriage equality is actually a loss of freedom for those who want it.
Recently, the balance between freedom and restraint has been thrown out of whack. People no longer even have a language to explain why freedom should sometimes be limited. The results are as predicted. A decaying social fabric, especially among the less fortunate. Decline in marriage. More children raised in unsteady homes. Higher debt levels as people spend to satisfy their cravings.
But last week saw a setback for the forces of maximum freedom. A representative of millions of gays and lesbians went to the Supreme Court and asked the court to help put limits on their own freedom of choice. They asked for marriage.
Marriage is one of those institutions — along with religion and military service — that restricts freedom. Marriage is about making a commitment that binds you for decades to come. It narrows your options on how you will spend your time, money and attention.
Whether they understood it or not, the gays and lesbians represented at the court committed themselves to a certain agenda. They committed themselves to an institution that involves surrendering autonomy. They committed themselves to the idea that these self-restrictions should be reinforced by the state. They committed themselves to the idea that lifestyle choices are not just private affairs but work better when they are embedded in law.
And far from being baffled by this attempt to use state power to restrict individual choice, most Americans seem to be applauding it.
Except that Mr. Brooks misses the larger point, which is that being denied the right to limit your own freedom is in itself a limitation on freedom. Straight couples have the right to choose to get married or not. They know going in that they may lose some of the freedoms that they had when they were single, but that’s a choice they get to make. Same-sex couples don’t have that choice.
It sounds as if Mr. Brooks is telling us in the LGBT community “be careful what you wish for.” Yeah, well, I think most people over the age of majority have pretty much figured out that, to quote Lawrence and Lee in Inherit the Wind, “progress is never a bargain. You have to pay for it.” In this case, however, I think a number of us would be willing to sacrifice something in order to be treated the same way as everybody else. At the very least, give us the choice.