Despite the Democratic victory in the mid-term elections (which some would have you call a "Democrat victory" instead), it would appear that some anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives passed. (Did they really pass, or were they just on the ballot?)
Every time I hear of such laws, I can't stop asking: Why? Why? Why???
Why do some people care what other consenting adults are doing in the privacy of their own bedrooms? Why do people have to waste their time picturing other people's sex lives if they find it yucky? Why can't they mind their own business?
Well -- as with many random subjects -- it turns out that I have a wacky theory about this!!! And I'm going to share it with you right now!!!
Now if you're groaning "Oh no, not another one of those 'Chanson's wacky theory' posts..." you can go ahead and skip this one. And skip my next post too, as this is a two-part theory.
Part 1 of my theory answers the question: "Why deny gay people marriage? Of all things?"
(Part 2 will address: "Why worry about gay people's love lives? As opposed to, say, minding one's own business about what goes on in other people's bedrooms?")
A charge commonly leveled against gay people is that they're promiscuous. That's why religious moralists are doing everything in their power to try to encourage gay people to settle down in loving, committed, monogamous relationships, and trying to persuade gay couples to take on the civic responsibility of protecting their families through legal marriage.
Oh, no wait, they aren't. Indeed just the opposite -- committed long-term monogamous gay couples who seek to get married are being denied marriage licenses in many places. WTF?
I'm sorry if none of the following is new and/or if I'm preaching to the choir, but I'm going to say it anyway -- for the record -- because there are places (notably France and much of the U.S.) where gay people still don't have the right to legal marriage.
Marriage has changed. I don't think anyone denies it. Like all aspects of human culture, the expectations surrounding the marriage-type relationship have evolved over time. And I don't think I'm going out on a limb to say that some changes within the past fifty-to-a-hundred years have been fairly dramatic.
Now, I don't think that even the staunchest opponents of gay marriage claim that gay people or gay relationships caused this change. They merely see gay marriage as a part of a family of changes that they don't like.
Let's talk about a portrait of traditional marriage vs. a portrait of modern marriage. I'm doing this off the top of my head, so please feel free to correct me if I get any points wrong.
* A woman could not typically expect the right or opportunity to command enough resources to support herself and her children. A husband was an economic necessity for a woman, especially a woman with children. Staying with one's husband -- even an abusive husband -- was a matter of survival.
* Since any act of heterosexual intercourse might lead to a child (requiring a father's economic support), marriage was the price a man was expected to pay for sex, on something of a "you broke it, you've bought it" basis. (see Deuteronomy 22:28-29: "If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.")
* Rape within marriage was not legally recognized as such because a part of the marriage contract was the husband's right to have sex with his wife regardless of her opinion on the matter.
* If a husband wanted to have sex with someone other than his wife (because he's gay or for whatever other reason), he could more or less get away with it as long as he had the financial means. If a woman was not sexually satisfied with her husband (because she's gay or for whatever other reason) then tough sh*t for her. (Punishments for female cheaters have traditionally been much harsher than for males.)
* With effective and available contraceptives, straight people can have romantic/sexual relationships without the worry that a moment of passion will result in an unwanted child requiring the long-term efforts of two parents. Thus people typically don't marry someone unless they actually want to be married to that person -- not just as a relief for horniness or the result of an "accident."
* Even though divorce generally spells dramatically reduced economic status for a woman, a single mother can still expect to command enough resources to successfully raise her children to adulthood. Thus it is no longer a virtue to tolerate an abusive husband just because he provides for the family. Abusive and otherwise dysfunctional marriages end in divorce.
* Love isn't just a nice plus in a marriage -- people expect to love and be in love with their spouses.
* Marriage is an equal legal partnership, not an owner/property relationship.
Many traditionalists would like to dump the modern model in favor of the traditional model. The modern model, however, is very attractive, so it's hard to persuade people to stick with the traditional model as long as the modern option exists.
Gay marriage obviously fits right into the modern marriage model: neither partner is the expected master, neither is the expected servant; you expect to marry the person you love rather than being expected to marry for economic/dynastic reasons. Naturally gay people want to get in on this cultural innovation -- why wouldn't they?
But it's very obvious that gay marriage is the result of the change in marriage, not the cause. Traditionalists can deny gay people their family/relationship protection nine ways from Tuesday -- but it won't shove the genie back into the bottle nor the woman back into her shackles.
Many traditionalists viscerally hate the idea of gay marriage because it symbolizes equal partnership marriage to them.
You straight feminists -- male and female -- who cherish your love-and-equal-partnership marriages: You're eating your cake while your gay brothers and sisters are bearing the brunt of the punishments that the theocrats would like to be directing at you.
Let's not leave them out to dry.
Stay tuned for my next installment: "Why worry about what goes on in other people's bedrooms?" I promise the theories I'll be presenting in that one will be far wackier than the ones in this episode. ;-)