Monday, January 26, 2004

Gay Marriage: What Are They Scared Of (Part 1)?

One of the points that same-sex marriage foes have made is that such marriages “threaten” traditional marriage, without any explanation of the term.  In this era of high divorce rates, serial marriages, and celebrity stunts like Britney Spears’ recent 55-hour marriage, it’s hard to picture just what they mean.

(Do they drop that term in as a little distraction bomb, never intending there to be an answer?  Or is the meaning so self-evident to them that the need to explain it never occurs to them, much like we might say “click on the link” without saying what “click” and “link” are?)

The Advocate columnist Richard Goldstein points to what may be at the core of this “threat” in his February 3 [2004] column (not available online; archives only go back to 2008), “Civil unions: the radical choice”.  Here is the pertinent sentence:
Such [civil union] statutes point to a future in which couples will have many options, from “covenant marriage,” in which both parties sign a contract pledging not to divorce, to a number of less binding choices.
That is, same-sex marriage (and civil unions) “threaten” the idea that there is one and only one possible answer for becoming a couple: marriage (of the “traditional”, heterosexual bent).  Same sex marriage is thus, to them [same-sex marriage foes], not an expansion of existing marriage but an alternative, a way of selecting something that isn’t “regular” marriage.

There’s a concept I learned years ago to explain the opposition to gay rights: some people see “civil rights” as a bucket holding a limited amount of stuff, and thus the “creation” of new “rights” for one group causes a reduction in the amount of rights everyone else has.  (This is without any factual or statistical basis, of course.)  Extending this to the marriage question, then, you see that the addition of alternate marriage equivalents results in the belief that the amount of “real” marriage in the bucket left for everyone else is made less, and thus traditional marriage is “threatened”.

Updated on November 23, 2010

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