Tom Keane’s Dec. 16 op-ed “Act on marriage” contrasts the nuptials of Britney Spears and Edith Windsor in terms of duration — 55 hours compared to over 40 years. He bemoans the fact that Spears’s shockingly brief wedding would garner full legal recognition while the decades-long relationship of Windsor would not.
However, these two couplings differ far more in kind than degree of duration. Spears’s relationship had the potential, even after only one night in Vegas, to bring children into this world. Marriage, and the state’s interest in it, revolves around providing children with both a mother and a father — an undisputed and critical public good. That’s why it gets favorable tax treatment.
Windsor’s 40-year relationship with another woman, regardless of how much comfort and pleasure they may have provided one another, was never capable of providing children with both a mother and a father, so it should be seen neither as surprising nor unfair that the federal government, through the Defense of Marriage Act, decided as a matter of policy not to subsidize it.