During Tuesday’s marriage equality arguments in the Supreme Court, several of the Court’s conservative members suggested that same-sex couples should not be given equal marriage rights because these couples have not enjoyed those rights for most of the past. As Justice Antonin Scalia summed up this argument, “for millennia, not a single society” supported marriage equality, and that somehow exempted same-sex couples from the Constitution’s promise of equal protection of the law.
Not long after her conservative colleagues raised this argument, however, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained exactly why marriage was long understood to be incompatible with homosexuality in just five sentences:
[Same-sex couples] wouldn’t be asking for this relief if the law of marriage was what it was a millennium ago. I mean, it wasn’t possible. Same-sex unions would not have opted into the pattern of marriage, which was a relationship, a dominant and a subordinate relationship. Yes, it was marriage between a man and a woman, but the man decided where the couple would be domiciled; it was her obligation to follow him.
There was a change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian when it wasn’t egalitarian. And same-sex unions wouldn’t — wouldn’t fit into what marriage was once.
Marriage has changed dramatically in the world over the last thousand years and even during America's relatively short history. Gender in marriage was all about financial arrangements: the man was the chief breadwinner, and the woman subservient. That's complete changed in 2015. The notion that marriage is about financial subservience, gender roles, or procreation is ludicrous, but that's the argument against same-sex marriage: "We've always done it this way."
Sure, and slavery, and women not being allowed to vote, used to be traditional law in America too. We got past that. We'll get past this, as well.