Can someone who believes that same sex marriage is a threat to the institution of marriage and to family itself please explain their position. Just what are you afraid of? I’ve asked this question many times and have yet to receive an answer that makes sense. The response that I’m most likely to get goes something like this. “If we let gays get married that will just open the floodgates.” They’ll open right up and out will flood…what…what exactly is being held back by the flood gates that is so important that gay folks can’t participate in the same rituals and benefits enjoyed by people who desire the opposite sex? Apparently the answer is so self evident that no one has offered an explanation.
If we let gay folks get married will that, all of a sudden, convince otherwise perfectly straight individuals to marry people of the same sex? It’s as if these right wing zealots believe that homosexuality is contagious. Hello. Homosexuality is apreference, not a virus.
Then I was challenged. I asked this question and the answer was…well, if you let someone marry someone of the same sex then what’s to stop another person from marrying a sheep? Uh…PETA! How about the fact that sheep can’t give legal consent to sex? Then I realize that this argument borders on the absurd! Is there a huge demand from people for the right to marry barnyard animals? Is there a bovine marriage group that I don’t know about. Yes, I understand that the internet is a big place and one can almost certainly find examples of bovinaphiles, but I really don’t think this is much of an issue.
Our society emphasizes freedom. We should be able to say freedom for all. But dominant groups in society will often restrict freedom for others, especially otherwise marginalized groups. Why is gay marriage an issue? Because it challenges the powerful institution’s, the government and religion in this case, power to regulate the most intimate decisions ofour lives. The same argument can be made regarding the abortion issue, but that’s another post.
Marriage in our society is undergoing significant change. It is a truism that marriage in 2008 is a much different conceptualization than it was in 1908. Divorce, gender rolls, procreation, remarriage. The values regulating how these ideas are manifest in society have changed dramatically. Divorce is no longer stigmatizing. With women in the workplace, the gender rolls explored by Talcott Parsons are no longer relevant (though they seem to be holding on with a second shift for women who work for a living). Married couples now have less children, and have children later in their lives without their fertility being questioned. Sexual orientation is just one more paradigm that is challenging the already battered traditional values. And well it should.
And, ultimately, same sex marriage will become a reality. Despite the recent setbacks with state constitutional amendments in California and Florida, the trend is definitely looking good for same sex marriage advocates. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of people who oppose same sex marriage is declining at about the same rate that the number of people who approve is growing. And opposition of same sex marriage among all groups appears to be losing steam. This is even true among Evangelical Christians, the most vehement group opposing such unions. Opposition among white evangelicals is down 9% from 2004.
What will ultimately change this ridiculous and bigoted norm? Of course, the young folks. According to PEW, younger groups are less likely to be opposed to gay marriage than older. With a little luck and some hard work we can end this ban throughout the country.