Category: Supreme Court’s Lonely Heart’s Club

“The Supreme Court’s Lonely Heart’s Club” by Michael Cobb

The Triviality of Marriage

In his article, “The Supreme Court’s Lonely Hearts Club”, Michael Cobb criticizes the language used in the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges. Cobb takes issue with comments made by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” he says. That statement shows the flawed way in which he, and many others, decide the value of someone’s character. If someone has made the decision to live their lives in solitude, they are miserable and should be pitied. Everything else that person has accomplished in their life becomes invalidated simply because they don’t have a partner. This way of thought is harmful for people because it pushes people to strive for something that is trivial. It distracts people from  Behavior like this further proves that the institution of marriage means nothing but trouble for everyone involved and not involved.

All in all, I agree with the sentiment expressed in this article. There is no reason to valorize the relationship between spouses, it’s oftentimes short lived and sometimes lacks the stability that familial and platonic relationships have. Rather than being a testament to how great of a person you are, to me, marriage is also a testament to how well one can remain stationary in a unsatisfying situation for a long period of time. I think it shows that people are scared of change, and if their marriage doesn’t pose a threat to the way they live, they will stay in it. I also think that people apply what they’ve learned in their relationships to their everyday life as well. If people are okay with remaining static in relationships that aren’t necessarily the most satisfying for years just to protect the stability of their lives, they probably will be okay with not challenging the dominant parties that dictate other aspects of their lives and oppress them in ways that they don’t even realize.

Are you truly lonely if you aren’t married?

        In his piece, “The Supreme Court’s Lonely Hearts Club,” Michael Cobb responds to Justice Kennedy’s remarks on marriage following the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Much like in Laura Kipnis’ essay, “Against Love,” Cobb expresses his dissent towards the societal definition of love which must include marriage. Cobb comments on how it is unfair that the government has the power to determine whether a relationship is acceptable or not.

        Arguing that marriage is not an essential part of a person’s happiness, Cobb expresses that single people are also able to find relationships (not necessarily romantic) that give them the “general feeling of dignity, well-being, and justice” (4). In society, marriage is viewed as the embodiment of “the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” (4), and those who are unwed are deemed as undignified and are “den[ied]… adequate language, representation, and consideration” (3).

        I agree with Cobb that the government shouldn’t be able to decide what type of love or relationships are “legitimate.” Even in the “progressive” world that we are in, when we talk about love, it is almost always the passionate love of those in a romantic relationship. However, there are many other types of love —the love between friends, family members, and even business partners— that are just as important to an individual’s happiness and well-being as romantic love. Cobb demonstrates the importance of platonic love with the example of Senator Lindsey Graham. While single, Senator Graham has been able to lead a successful career, and when asked who would become his First Lady, he merely replied: “Well, I’ve got a sister, she could play that role if necessary” (2).

        However, while I agree that all forms of love should be given an equal amount of respect by both society and the government, I also disagree with how Cobb reduces marriage to little more than a contract between those who only want the benefits mentioned above. I recognize some’s hesitance in wanting to get married to avoid the commitment to becoming one’s lifelong partner. However, I believe that marriage should not only be viewed as an institution that presents couples with legal benefits and “orders the world and civilization” (2) but also as a tradition that couples can go through as a way to express their love and commitment to one another.

Is Marriage That Bad?

What I understood from the article was that Cobb is completely against the institution of marriage, and the Supreme Court’s decision for Obergefell v Hodges in 2015 was one that struck a chord in Cobb’s perception of what it means to be single, or rather, unmarried, in today’s society. What I didn’t understand, however, is the lack of consideration for homosexual people in fighting for their right to marry. I specifically choose to use the word ‘right’ when discussing marriage. I don’t agree with any of Cobb’s arguments about how marriage is when “emotions meet law” and how remaining unmarried leaves one with no “constitutional dignity”. Instead, I argue that marriage is just a tradition that people can choose to exercise. I understand wanting not to get married to avoid the legalities of being someone’s life partner, but wanting to get married and having to experience said legalities should not be frowned upon. I do not agree with the notion of marriage as a “form of governance”. In my opinion, Cobb gives too much credit to marriage, using the phrase “it orders the world and civilization” to describe the power that such an institution has over humanity. Instead, I think that you can give marriage as much power as you wish, and your response to that power is proportionate to how much you personally care about it. 

No More Profound

In the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex couples to be married across the United States, they stressed the importance of marriage. On the other side, opinion author Michael Cobb stressed the importance of non-romantic relationships in “The Supreme Court’s Lonely Hearts Club.” However, both documents focus on the centrality of romantic and sexual relationships, whether it be their importance or unimportance. In reality, marriage is only one type of love that is important for people.

“No union is more profound than marriage,” proclaimed Justice Kennedy in the decision of the case. However, that is not often the case. In recent years, studies have shown that about 50% of married couples get divorced, vastly undermining the sanctity of marriage as a superior relationship. While there is no other way to document other types of love, such as familial and friendship, those types of relationships are often of equal or sometimes greater importance to many people.

On the other hand, Cobb stresses how unimportant marriage is; to him, being single is an inevitability, so he implies that marriage is not as essential as some other relationships. That being said, marriage is not to be discounted. Marriage and the desire to be married shapes the lives of many people, and often results in creating a larger family, playing into other kinds of love.

In essence, while marriage is not the most important type of love to many on a persona level, it is equal to other types of love including friendship and familial love.

It’s Okay To Not Be Married

After reading “The Supreme Court’s Lonely Heart Club”, I agree with the annoyed stance Michael Cobb took on the government. The supreme court says marriage is needed to compensate for the loneliness and unhappiness when single. Justice Anthony Kennedy refers to all single people as worthless by saying, “Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there”. Immediately, the devil’s advocate plays in my head and Cobb’s as well. There are many people in the world who are just as happy as ones in marriages. Kennedy assumes all single people are lonely, but Cobb counters that by having many close loving relationships such as friendships and “close business partnerships”. The only difference is that they are not engaging in sex to make offspring. Why should sex and marriage dictate if we’re lonely? That seems very close-minded of a Supreme Court Justice to say.

Another idea that seemed very narrow-minded and unthoughtful was that since single people are lonely, they don’t have dignity as well. Their definition of dignity seems to exclude a copious amount of people, because not everyone is going to find their soulmate and be married. Cobb shows a statistic that states “you’ll be misunderstood as living a miserable, lonely life by the other 49.8 percent”. Dignity shouldn’t be defined as being in love, rather than doing something meaningful in the right way. There are many people who have accomplished something, without being married such as John Mayer. Who’s to say that he isn’t dignified in his own accomplishments?

What irks Cobb is that the government think they have the power to set a standard for relationships. I think that’s awful because how is one person going to dictate how another lives their life. There are many people who actively refuse to marry, and yet live a life that is happy to them.

Once Again, Romantic Love is Idealized

In his opinion piece “The Supreme Court’s Lonely Hearts Club,” Michael Cobb responds to Justice Kennedy’s statements about marriage following the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Kennedy’s comments that marriage “embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” (1) prompt an interesting response by Cobb, as he argues that love in all forms, not just in the form of marriage, should be given the same respect given to the institution of marriage.

Cobb argues that marital love is not essential for happiness, and that single people can still lead happy and fulfilled lives even though they are not in a romantic relationship that involves sex. Why is it that when we refer to love, we are usually talking about romantic or sexual love? There are other forms of intimate and loving relationships that do not involve sex, yet these are not recognized as legitimate in the same way that marriage is legitimate. Cobb’s example about Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina senator who is not married, is a very good example of this. When asked who his first lady would be if he were to run for president, Graham responded “well I’ve got a sister, she could play that role if necessary” (2). This is a very non conventional response on Graham’s part, but why? Cobb refutes the idea that sex must be involved in a relationship in order for it to be legitimized.

Furthermore, Cobb takes offense to Justice Kennedy’s comments about the “dignity” (3) of marriage. While it can’t really be denied that same-sex and opposite-sex couples are both equally dignified, Cobb points out that in saying this, it is implied that unmarried people lack this stated “dignity”. I think that this almost ties back to “Against Love,” where Laura Kipnis denounces our society’s unrealistic idealization of love. It’s a similar theme in Cobb’s piece, as once again the idealization of marriage becomes something that overtakes our lives and the way the world sees us.

Overstepping Bounds

Michael Cobb’s response to Justice Kennedy’s comments about the value of marriage made me realize how backwards it is that the government gets to define what a “legitimate” relationship is. At first, I was a little confused as to why Cobb was taking offense at the Obergefell v. Hodges case—after all, shouldn’t he be pleased that all couples have the constitutional right to marry?  However, after reading it again, I realized his issue with Kennedy’s remarks were deeper than the simple permission granted by the Supreme Court—he was really asking why government should assume the right to define marriage as the supreme goal and declare solitude as an undignified state.

I thought Cobb’s examples of single government officials was very interesting—clearly, Senator Graham’s deflection of questions about his potential lack of a First Lady reveal the government’s trivial obsession with marriage.  His examination of the statistics of unmarried vs. married people in the United States also makes it very clear that the US population does not consider marriage to be the be-all and end-all of life, and suggests that if Justice Kennedy defines marriage as the highest form of dignity, then 124.6 million Americans are therefore undignified.

It’s definitely difficult for the government to treat a topic this sensitive with entirely political correctness, but to me, I agree that Justice Kennedy overstepped in making so many sweeping remarks about the meaning of marriage that, supposedly, the government assumes is true for everyone.  Public statements like Justice Kennedy’s are assumed to reflect the sentiment of the entire Supreme Court, so Justices definitely have to be careful in order to not offend anyone.  Kennedy’s remark, however, certainly reveals how the government feels about marriage—it’s their job to define what marriage legally is, and it appears that Kennedy now believes that the government also has the power to define what it is socially as well.

The Club for Values Beyond Sexual Attraction

 

If you surveyed average adults and asked what they want most in life and what they fear the most, a large number of those results would be “love” and “loneliness”. Love is undoubtedly a centerpiece of society, and the distinguishment between platonic love and romantic love makes a difference. As Michael Cobb argues in “The Supreme Court’s Lonely Hearts Club”, the sexual attraction and lust ultimately plays a piece in this. It orders society, thus people’s aspirations, ultimately alienating even the happiest and loved single individual. With the Supreme Court’s distinction of marriage to equate lack of loneliness, one must ponder the implications of this argument. Although all good-hearted people would agree that same-sex marriage and marriage equality should protected, why must this be justified by designating people “equal dignity in the eyes of the the law? (page 3)

Every human spends at least some portion of their life as single, and this is an inescapable fact. Even if it is not their fault (due to death or betrayal by the partner), one eventually falls into the 50.2% of American adults. Yet, when one is included in this grouping, the rest of society seems to inflict a form of pity on them. Cobb mentions a time when his grandmother, on her deathbed, begged him to get married (page 4). The insecurity derived from this makes one insecure, despite how happy they might be. Even if the solidarity is by their own happy choosing (asexuality, focusing on other aspects, wanting to avoid heartbreak, happy with familial love), from Justice Kennedy to marriage benefits to deep down emotions, seem to pressure us to crave mutual attraction.

Marriage certainly comes with numerous material and emotional benefits. And with Justice Kennedy’s new designation that Cobb is critiquing and outlook on marriage, we are only more desperate and reliant on love. But Michael Cobb utilizes personal evidence and anecdotes to question this as a happy single person. It is trivial to depend your life and maximum happiness and fulfillment on one person. Cobb argues that “simply being yourself- your single self- is already the fundamental form of dignity”, and I agree that we should hold our own individuality and autonomy to a higher esteem. No one would argue that sexual attraction is not the most important aspect of a person, and thus, we should not act and govern ourselves and society as though it is.

No Shame in Being in The Lonely Hearts Club

Michael Cobb wrote this opinion piece, “The Supreme Court’s Lonely Hearts Club” in a response to the Obergefell vs. Hodges case where Justice Anthony Kennedy commented on the relationship between marriage and loneliness. Not only did he say that “Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there,” but also “no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” (1). Cobb takes deep offense to this statement for two reasons.

One, he doesn’t believe that in essence having sex (or not) should determine the benefits a relationship can gain in the eyes of the government. If two good friends wish to function as a unit and receive the tax benefits they should be able to. He believes that the difference between this and a marriage at its core is that they are not having sex. To him this line between friends and romantic partners seems arbitrary.

Two, if Justice Kennedy wants to deliver “same sex couples ‘equal dignity in the eyes of the law’” (3) then there is the implication that non-married people lack dignity. Cobb believes that his dignity, his respect for himself, should not be determined by whether he is in a committed relationship or not. These comments lacked consideration for people who don’t care to get married or who just haven’t gotten married yet. As Cobb questions, inevitably we will all be single as times in our lives so then are we inevitably undignified sometimes?

This made me think about why our government holds the power to legitimizing relationships. If they determine who gets the benefits of being in a certain relationship and who doesn’t then they show preferential treatment to some partnerships over others. This reminded me of Laura Kipnis’s article and how our love is deeply institutionalized in some aspects. The government perpetuates the notion that we must marry one other person and be in a relationship with till death do us apart.