Rights and Privileges

The night I got engaged, while celebrating with friends I started to mouth off about how it seems that a lot of straight people who marry have never recognized their straight privilege before they started wedding planning.1 And then they’re all “what charitable donation/ceremony reading/blog post will help alleviate me of the guilt of my privilege!?!?!” Hint: there isn’t one.

The more I think about it, the more I remember a blog post (which I now cannot find, to my dismay) arguing that “privilege” is an over-used word in conversations about social justice, because there are some things that are denied certain people which are fundamental rights, not privileges.

Marriage is a fundamental right.

Current caselaw has tortured out some sort of way to escape the pesky precedent of sentences like “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.”2 by arguing that while marriage is a fundamental right, but choosing your marriage partner is not. Which is obviously a load of crap.

Straight privilege still comes into play a lot with weddings: with family’s acceptance, with vendors’ cooperation, with friends and acquaintances considering it a ‘real’ wedding. But the actual legal union of marriage being limited to opposite-sex couples is just too egregious a denial to talk about in terms of “privilege.” It’s an injustice. It’s a cruelty. It’s a shame.

And I know a blog post can’t fix it. But for what it is worth, I support marriage equality.

1I don’t mean to sound obnoxious or mean. I realize not everybody took a bunch of women’s studies classes in college (that’s one of my class privileges!) Also, I think anything that gets people in the headspace where they start to recognize privilege is good. Even if it doesn’t start until you plan a wedding, it will probably persist afterward.
2Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967) (quoting Skinner v. Oklahoma ex. rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942)). [Yes, Kiely, I did just put a law review footnote in my blog.]

One response to “Rights and Privileges

  1. Awesome. I love your distinction because while we have privilege – marriage is a right.

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