Monday, January 26, 2004

Gay Marriage: What Are They Scared Of (Part 2)?

Continuing the previous entry, but taking a different angle.

Consider again the idea (promoted by opponents) that same-sex marriage does not merely extend marriage, making it accessible to more people and thus “larger”, but that instead it creates a separate institution.  (Something certainly not equal in the eyes of same-sex marriage foes, and probably not even equivalent to them.)

That is, same-sex marriage creates an alternative.  An option.

Options are the last thing that same-sex marriage opponents want there to be.  There is only one God-approved form of coupling.  Homosexuality bad.  Pre-marital sex bad.  Adultery bad.  Polygamy bad.  Divorce bad.  (Well, maybe they’ll let that one slide.)

They have a monopoly and by God (ahem), they want to keep it.

(What is the value of a monopoly?  In the real world, while it all seemingly boils down to money — and there’s probably a facet of that here — the real purpose of a monopoly is power.  In the marriage arena, due to the religious sacrament angle, that’s spiritual power, but power nonetheless.)

(As an exercise for the reader: comparison resistance to the “option” of other forms of marriage to the resistance to the “choice” of abortion.)

So where lies the real “threat” to marriage?  My boyfriend, Rusty, who was raised in semi-rural Kentucky (no jokes, please), gave me some insight into this.  With my own upbringing as a preacher’s kid in small town Washington, I could see the point.

Things can be vastly different when you live in an urban setting, with great access to variety in everything (food, technology, new, religion, etc.) than when you live in the country.  Consider more rural locations: small schools where everyone knows everyone in the class, where there may be only a handful of churches in town (all Christian and several likely Fundamentalist), where there are fewer bars than churches.  (Check out the song “My Town” from country duo Montgomery Gentry for a good picture of this.)

In a scenario such as this, the idea of alternate lifestyles of any sort is frowned upon.  You go to school, you go to church, you grow up, you go to church, maybe you go to college (if you’re a good student; as little as 10% of my graduating class went right on to college), you get married (probably to your high school sweetheart), you go to church, you have kids, you take the kids to church, and the cycle continues.  There are no “options” conceived of, and there certainly are none offered.  This is why many gay men and lesbians come out in their 30s and later, having to divorce an opposite-sex spouse and deal with kids: they only had one option to choose from in the beginning.  It’s not that they thought they were straight, it’s that they had never been taught to conceive of other options for their lives.

So when people who aren’t opponents of same-sex marriage laughingly say “What are they afraid of?  That suddenly men will leave their wives and get married to other guys?”, that is exactly what opponents are afraid of.  That, given government-approved options, people will opt out of the cycle, even in small-town America.  That existing married couples will “wake up and smell the coffee,” realize that their existing marriages are shams, divorce, and pursue same-sex relationships.  And more, that people will opt out of “traditional” marriage ahead of time, before they get sucked in, with the result that the cycle breaks early.  And thus not only is the monopoly of marriage imperiled, but the future population of church attendance is all at risk, with the spiritual and temporal power that accompanies that.

(Oh, and with the money that accompanies it, too.  Never forget the money.)

So in a very real way, same-sex marriage opponents do believe that their limited version of marriage is “threatened” by other options.  If other options are available, there may genuinely end up being fewer people who pursue “traditional” marriage, with all the changes which would result from that.

Updated on November 29, 2010

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