Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sex and Marriage

A friend of mine sent me a blog post that has been making the rounds on Facebook recently (5K shares and growing) that claims to be an “invincible” argument against same-sex marriage.

The basic argument is that “romance” is a modern invention, ergo, relationships based on sexual attraction are also a “modern invention.” Modern marriage has been perverted by the introduction of “romance” into something that’s all about couple love and that forgets all about children and that starts basing relationships on the whims of fluctuating personal attraction, spawning a host of social evils such as divorce and (gasp) same-sex marriage. This has become a popular argument among lots of conservative opponents of same-sex marriage. (The writer of the particular blog I’ve read seems pretty pleased with himself for somehow having discovered this “invincible” argument against same-sex marriage, but the argument itself is old and was discovered some time after the “Western culture has always opposed same-sex marriage” argument ran out of steam.) In Mormon circles, to this argument gets added the smarty pants addendum to the effect that all this proves the words of modern day prophets, so just listen to what they tell you without thinking about it too much because they are always right.

My first bit of advice to folks, coming from someone who has a testimony of modern day prophets, is to please not hitch the wagons of our faith to flawed arguments about sex and marriage. I have a lot more respect for someone who can just say they accept the current doctrines of the Church on this matter. I had a conversation earlier today with someone I very much respect and love who said as much to me. This individual also, for what it’s worth, is eager to listen to and understand the experience of LGBT people. In other words, they don’t use their doctrinal commitments to close off communication or to stop trying to understand better, and I have even more respect for that.

It is true that modern-day notions of romance are, well, modern. Romance is hardly a modern invention, though. There have been a variety of cultural celebrations of the beauty of sexual love between two people: in medieval Europe, ancient Greece, Rome and China, and even ancient Palestine. Think Sir Galahad, Tristan and Isolde, and the Song of Solomon.

Whatever arguments you want to make, however, about the relationship between romance and marriage, all this talk about the evils of romance sort of elide the fact that when discussing the fate of gay people in society, we’re actually concerned not about romance and marriage but about sex and marriage. For obvious reasons, nobody would buy an argument that sex has nothing to do with marriage; nor that the pleasures of sex play an important role as the glue that helps keep a married couple together. Of course sexual passion has ups and downs in any relationship that lasts long enough. And, yes, people addicted to sexual passion who don’t have sufficient commitment to the idea of family, will find the temptation to infidelity difficult to resist. That is likely to be true whether you are gay or straight. Infidelity, by the way, was not invented by the modern age either. But sex — properly bridled — abides as an important factor in family cohesion, and has done so as long as families in all their forms have existed.

So let’s talk about marriage, because a major function of marriage has always been about the proper bridling of sexual passion, about taming it for the useful purposes of homemaking and family cohesion. Sex without marriage (of the non homo variety) would produce babies aplenty. We don’t need marriage to make babies. The sex drive (with or without “romance”) would ensure that happens. What marriage does is it produces homes for babies to be raised in. And that, by the way, is true whether or not the parents are gay or straight. Gay families have been carefully studied and it turns out they provide excellent homes for babies to be raised in. Obviously, avoiding the problem of children born out of wedlock is not a concern when we’re talking about sex of the homo variety. But unbridled, untamed sex and sexual actors can pose a threat to societal peace and family cohesion. As can forcing gay people into heterosexual marriages.

Gay “open marriages” (there are straight open marriages too, and a fair number of “mixed orientation marriages” that survive by way of open marriages) are not an argument against same sex marriage. Monogamy can only commend itself to gay couples under circumstances that are conducive to it — namely, by incorporating us into the fabric of the family and civil society, and by engaging us in the same set of moral rights and responsibilities we engage everyone else in. Fully integrating us into the spiritual fabric of society — the Church — would be important for the same reason. I can testify to the value added to my 25+ years marriage to my husband that comes from seeing him as my one and only. I can testify to the profound moral and spiritual significance to us of being able to be married. Please find ways to encourage and support that! Don’t punish the gays for supposedly being promiscuous, and then deny us access to the primary vehicle our society has historically used to encourage monogamy and commitment.

The need for societal peace and family cohesion and stability is one of the major reasons why society, families and individuals benefit from same-sex marriage. A lovely family portrait in my parents’ living room tells the story. My husband Göran and I, smiles betraying deep happiness, pose in a group photo with siblings and their spouses, and a gaggle of nephews and nieces who adore their gay uncles. Similar portraits adorn the family homes of countless gay couples across America. Gay families happily integrated into THE family, integrated into the social norms that create a context for happiness, stability and family unity will strengthen families and it will reduce suicide risk.

Marriage has taught me a plethora lessons about sacrifice, service and commitment, beneficial not just to us, but to those who love us, and to those our lives have touched. My enduring commitment to my husband has invited (and helped me keep) the Spirit in my life. I personally know hundreds of gay families who can testify to God’s blessings on them and on their relationships. This is not about “romance.” It’s about love and family.

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