Melissa Harris-Perry: What Difference Will Same-Sex Marriage Make?

tags: The Nation, Supreme Court, DOMA, same-sex marriage, Melissa Harris-Perry



Melissa Harris-Perry is professor of political science at Tulane University, where she is founding director of the Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. She is author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. She is also a contributor to MSNBC.

In his essay “Message in the Stars,” the American Presbyterian writer and theologian Frederick Buechner conducts a thought experiment. What if God decided to prove—dramatically, irrefutably and publicly—that God does exist by writing across the night sky. Buechner imagines the heavenly author arranging the stars to read—GOD IS—and the subsequent hope, terror, regret, joy and utter astonishment that such a message would bring. He fantasizes that God would write the message in all the different languages of the world, so that on any given night one might go outside, look up and see, in French, Mandarin or Arabic: GOD IS.

He invites us to envision the sense of relief that would come with the utter certainty that God exists. Then he imagines this:

Then the way that I would have it end might be this. I would have a child look up at the sky some night, just a plain, garden-variety child with perhaps a wad of bubble gum in his cheek…. and then I would have the child turn to his father, or maybe, with the crazy courage of childhood, I would have him turn to God himself, and the words that I would have him speak would be words to make the angels gasp. “So what if God exists?” he would say. “What difference does that make?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question of “so what, what difference does that make?” in recent months, never more so than this week. As the Supreme Court prepared to hear challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and to Proposition 8, the substance of their eventual judgment seems less and less relevant. This Court may offer the watershed legal justification for marriage equality, or it may erect one final barrier to this bundle of civil rights for gay couples. But it no longer seems to matter much....



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