Friday, May 27, 2011

Why Same-Sex Marriage Will Strengthen Marriage for Everyone

Marriage is about love, family and commitment -- for everyone. If we look at the specifics of how marriage strengthens and protects loving commitments and provides a more secure framework for home and family, we'll see how and why extending the social recognition and the legal protections of marriage to same-sex couples strengthens everyone's families.

1. Coercing same-sex oriented individuals into mixed orientation marriages is a formula for heart-break and marriage failure. One of the major reasons opponents of same-sex marriage offer for their position is that they believe it is God's will for everyone to be in heterosexual marriages. By denying same-sex couples the social approval that comes with marriage, they assume, opposite-sex marriage will be upheld as the social ideal and more individuals will feel drawn to enter into those kinds of arrangements.

While no one is forcing anyone to marry an opposite-sex spouse against his or her will, this is a subtle form of social coercion/pressure whose end goal is essentially to promote mixed-orientation marriages, the vast majority of which fail. This social policy is, in other words, almost calculated to increase the likelihood of divorce for large numbers of couples.

It is in the best interests of our society to promote stable, lasting pair-bondings. Allowing same-sex marriage as an option helps to remove the social stigma on homosexuality. It will encourage same-sex oriented individuals to come out of the closet and pair bond with (marry!) other same-sex oriented individuals. This is what opponents of same-sex marriage do not want. But, it is nevertheless in society's best interests, because it will reduce the likelihood that closeted individuals will enter into inherently unstable unions with persons of the opposite sex. It will correspondingly increase the likelihood that they will form lasting commitments with persons they are attracted to, and who are attracted to them.

Same-sex marriage will decrease divorce and increase family happiness and stability for everyone!

2) We are individually and collectively stronger when we are members of a family. Families are the oldest form of social insurance there is. Being married means you have someone to rely on if you get sick, if you lose your job or if you experience any other form of misfortune. That someone is there to take care of you not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Often when we experience tragedy, the thing that plays the biggest role in helping us get back on our feet again is the emotional support and encouragement we get from someone who has committed to be our yoke-mate for life. I know this has been true for both me and Göran. In our going on 18 years together, there have been times when one or the other of us has been down and out, and the other has been there as number one cheerleader and supporter.

Opponents of same-sex marriage would prefer that if gay people can't be married to a member of the opposite sex that they be single for life. But in whose best interest is that really? Certainly not in the state's interest. When a person who is alone falls, who is there to help pick him up?

Individuals live in families, families live in societies. If an individual falls, if he has no immediate family, extended family is expected to help. If extended family is non-existent or ineffective, then it falls to the larger society. Forcing gay people to be alone weakens the fabric of society. Because Göran and I have been able to help each other over the years, we are stronger, we've been able to become resources to others. In recent years we have become foster parents, able to provide a loving home to children who have fallen through the cracks of society. So, the fact that we exist as a family unit means we can provide resources to help care for others, to become part of the social safety net.

Any one of the personal crises that Göran and I have faced could have proven deadly. That fact that each of us was here for the other increased the likelihood that we are both here today. And we are here today as a family unit that is capable of contributing to our neighborhood, community and state. And so society is stronger.

Same-sex marriage makes all of us stronger.

3) Marriage promotes morality and makes us more spiritually sensitive. Refusing same-sex couples the right to marry essentially sends a message to gay folks that the normal rules and expectations of sexual morality don't apply to us the way they do to everybody else. It also sends another, subtler and more damaging message: that gay people are inferior to heterosexual people. That we don't deserve stability, love or family. That we are inherently morally inferior. This damaging message encourages just the kinds of reckless, immoral behavior that the opponents of same-sex marriage claim to oppose. By legalizing same-sex marriage, we send gay folks the message that they are expected to abide by the same social norms, the same morality that we expect of everyone else.

When Göran and I got married, it had a huge psychological impact on me. I became aware of a profound responsibility to my significant other. It changed the way I thought about myself and about my sexuality. Committing myself to my husband and being willing to bridle my sexuality in a way that honors my love for him and my commitment to him has changed my life in so many ways for the better. In many ways, those commitments paved the way for me to come back to the Church. I believe living in a way that honored my love for him made me more sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit.

It is those spiritual benefits of the kind of love and commitment that can be fostered in marriage that I personally consider one of the greatest benefits of marriage. Though, for obvious reasons -- such as social stability and the reduction of sexually transmitted diseases -- providing a social framework that discourages promiscuity and encourages sexual morality among gay men and lesbians is also a benefit that strengthens not just the individuals involved, but society as a whole.

Let's tell our stories. If you are straight, why is marriage valuable to you? How would same-sex couples marrying spoil marriage for you? How would it weaken your marriage? If you're gay, what have you gotten from your relationship with your same-sex spouse? How has it strengthened you, made you a better, happier, more complete person?

Come, let us reason together!


A Gay Mormon Boy said...

This reminds me of a beautiful piece by a retired Baptist minister I read earlier today that I think you'd enjoy:

There is a beauty in the diversity of the voices for this beautiful cause.

Rob said...

It all makes perfect sense. Except to someone who (like many, MANY Mormons, I suspect) believes homosexuality is a temporary and at least partly volitional aberration which, if allowed, will destroy societies and civilizations (because religious leaders they trust said so). Such people will ignore all evidence to the contrary though it be right in front of their eyes.

And it is difficult when one finds and loves people within one's own extended family who believe such stuff.

C. L. Hanson said...

Even if marriage takes effort, it can and should be a source of joy and emotional sustenance for both partners.

I agree with your characterization of marriage and its value. The one point that was perhaps not relevant to my marriage is the spiritual component. My husband and I are both atheists, and our lack of spirituality hasn't adversely affected our happy home life as far as I can tell. That said, I'm glad you're getting out there to show people that many people of faith honor loving same-sex unions as being no different than loving opposite-sex unions. I think it's terrible that the people of your state would decide to get together to vote on whether your family is really a family or not. I'm pulling for you.

Knight of Nothing said...

John - this is one of the best essays I've read on the subject. I've posted it to my FB page in hopes of changing the opinions of some people I know.