Creation Stories: Stanley Hauerwas, Same-Sex Marriage, and Narrative in Law and Theology

By Copeland, Charlton C. | Law and Contemporary Problems, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Creation Stories: Stanley Hauerwas, Same-Sex Marriage, and Narrative in Law and Theology


Copeland, Charlton C., Law and Contemporary Problems


When I think about--members of my own staff who are incredibly committed, in 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're 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. (1)

President Barack Obama

I INTRODUCTION

On June 24, 2011 New York became the most recent, and largest, state in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage. (2) More recently, and perhaps importantly, President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, after a very public "evolution" on the subject. (3) Even more recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that the Defense of Marriage Act violated the Constitution. (4) Along with the recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denying a rehearing of its decision invalidating California's constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, a seismic shift has occurred in the gay marriage movement. (5) In some quarters, the successful push to legalize same-sex marriage is seen as the culmination of the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. (6) The success of the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage might be understood as the ratification of the LGBT equality movement's goal of making the lives of LGBT individuals less foreign to those within the larger political community. (7) The translation of LGBT lives to the larger public has been one of the most significant strategies of the mainstream LGBT equality movement. Advocates for LGBT equality have argued that eradicating prejudice against LGBT persons rests on the LGBT community's ability to undermine stereotypes of LGBT persons held by the straight community. (8) Narrative has been a central mechanism by which advocates of LGBT equality have sought to undermine stereotypes about LGBT people because of its capacity to draw others into participation in, and identification with, the LGBT community. (9)

The turn to narrative is not unique to the movement for LGBT equality. In the areas of gender and race, proponents of progressive social reform have turned toward narrative as a way of providing a framework through which the experiences of "outsiders" might be understood by "insiders." (10) Advocates who have sought to highlight issues of racial and gender inequity have enlisted narratives through which the experiences of racial and gender hierarchies might be understood. (11)

The commitment to narrative also represents an intellectual challenge to the capacity of abstract principles such as anti-discrimination, equality, or accommodation to embody the specificity of the experience of individuals who live without the presumptions that attend life as a male, as a white person, or as an able-bodied person. (12) Narrative challenges the capacity of legal or doctrinal categories to dislodge dominant, prejudicial perspectives and presumptions. (13) The recourse to narrative serves the twin goals of demonstrating the "outsider" status of certain identity categories and experiences, (14) and deploying the "outsider" perspective to undermine the dominant position of the "insider" perspective as it relates to the distribution of societal goods--including nonmaterial goods. (15)

Within the academic community, the use of narrative had special significance in the work of a subgroup of progressive legal scholars, who had grown disillusioned by the limits of even transformative legal and social change. These scholars, whose work ranges across gender, (16) race, (17) and sexuality, (18) deploy narratives to call into question the success of commitments to formal equality in the contexts of race and gender. …

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