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When Brad Pitt Advises Us Legally, We All Suffer

David Bernstein provides what I think is appropriate humor at the latest PR flack-scripted relationship event in Hollywood: Brad Pitt’s very-public refusal to wed Angelina Jolie till all fifty states permit gay marriage. Here is the Associated Press’ lede:

Brad Pitt, ever the social activist, says he won’t be marrying Angelina Jolie until the restrictions on who can marry whom are dropped.

“Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able,” the 42-year-old actor reveals in Esquire magazine’s October issue, on newsstands Sept. 19.

Brad Pitt probably doesn’t mean what he says—that “everyone else in the country” (And does he not give a whit for people in other countries, most of which do not allow gay marriage?) ought to be able to get married to whomever they want. If he really thought that, he’d be an endorser of some barbaric schools of thought, such as those advocating the enslavement of multitudes of women under one man through their versions of the institution of marriage.

But let us suppose that Brad Pitt does mean what he says. That he believes it should be the case that “everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.” The thing of it is, that’s already true, isn’t it? That is why devotees of this issue shout and holler about not wanting “the definition of marriage” changed. They feel that marriage since its existence has meant one thing only, and that the major, necessary, liberalizing step has already been made: Opening that right of marriage to everyone. (Because the big problem in the world, for a long time, was that marriage was not thought to be a fundamental right, but rather a privilege for some to enjoy and, at their whims, to bestow on others.)

Advocates of gay marriage are very certainly not asking for equal rights—that much should be agreed upon by both sides of the debate. You just plain are not asking for equal rights when what you’re asking for is to reshape the very warp and woof of a right that is already equally-granted. It is legitimate to demand such a reshaping, but it is dishonest to claim that your request is in the name of equality. Marriage, by unwrit social contract, is restricted in lots of ways. And each of these restrictions is equally applied, and the resultant, restricted, right is also equally granted. Isn’t that fair common ground for this debate? And therefore, isn’t Brad Pitt a fool? Or didn’t that need to be proven?


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