The Pursuit Of Happiness


I think David Brooks gets this totally right this morning:

Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled.

As he notes, this isn't just sermonizing; we have reams of data to back this up. And that is why the right to marry has long been understood as integral to the promise embedded in the Declaration of Independence that all of us have the right to the pursuit of happiness.

One question: how many heterosexuals would believe they had the right to the pursuit of happiness, as guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence, if that right did not include the freedom to marry the person you love?

Now imagine the government actively prevents you from marrying the one you love, and having the stability and support and love and friendship that make life worth living? David gets this, which is why he supports marriage equality. But I'm not sure everyone else does. I remain with Hannah Arendt:

"The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right compared to which ‘the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one’s skin or color or race’ are minor indeed. Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs."

(Photo: David McNew/Getty.)