Is straight marriage the only great marriage?

Genevieve Beenen  for The Review

It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that gay/lesbian couples want the right to marry. They represent yet one more significant element of our society asking that their full legal and civil rights be recognized. In the eyes of the State, marriage is a legal contract. It recognizes a couple as a unit with certain rights and responsibilities. What should make samesex couples ineligible to enter into a legal contract?

Some opponents insist that God doesn’t approve of same-sex marriage, as though marriage was designed in heaven and humans have been following that template forever. Well, church-blessed marriages that guaranteed God’s approval have quite a convoluted history—from no marriage needed by the poor since a “blessed” marriage focused on property rights, to the buying and selling of brides, to parental arrangements to marry off daughters, to political arrangements to expand kingdoms, to the only way a woman could avoid life as a prostitute, to the biblical pattern of men owning as many women as they could afford, to “yesteryear’s” arrangement where—however brutal her husband—the wife was advised that he’d treat her right if only she tried harder, to today’s manipulation of the situation where either party can have as many legal partners as they want—as long as it’s one at a time. Not too long ago, society allowed aging men to marry prepubscent girls, but did not allow marriage between sameage couples of different races. Go figure!

Yes, there’s the cry against sodomy—although the outcry seems to limit itself to gay use only. (Go figure that one!) Well, re-read your Bible! Many thoughtful scholars and believers insist that sodomy was not what brought about the destruction of Sodom. Rather it was the city inhabitants’ lack of charity toward strangers. What a tragic bit of irony that the story is used to excuse intolerance toward others.

The legal status between marriage partners has changed as human society has matured in its willingness (albeit with a significant amount of kicking and screaming) to accept that all humans have equal dignity and equal claim to the same inalienable rights.

Our understanding of “family” has also evolved. In the past, for the really powerful it meant contracting one inhabitant of a baby crib to an inhabitant of another baby crib as a way to buy peace between warring kingdoms. For some of the elite, having children meant hiring nannies and nurses and governesses to care for an infant the parents would see only in passing. For some impoverished members of society it meant having something to sell to a buyer who needed workers. To others it meant having two more little hands to help earn bread for the table.

The fact that along the way so many children were loved and well cared for is an almost surprising triumph of our better natures rather than something anyone could take for granted.

Many heterosexual couples begin their families unintentionally. Same-sex couples become parents because they choose to be and, for the record, have done as fine a job of childcare as—and some say better than—heterosexual couples. Same-gender couples are strides ahead of many heterosexual couples in allowing traditional parenting roles to blend. They have demonstrated that mothering and fathering skills are not hidebound gender-related roles but are in reality shared adult parenting skills. Couples who feel free to grow beyond standard gender-assigned roles are developing both sides of their brains and personalities and may become better individuals and parents. Seems good for the kids, too.

If our society insisted on a man and woman being equally involved in child rearing, corporate America would grind to a halt. Members of the military and professionals in most fields could be accused of child abandonment. Childcare facilities would have to close down. In reality, the man/ woman dyad offers no guarantee of an equal mother/father sharing of time or energy in parenting, nor does it guarantee that healthy nurturing will occur. What about children whose father spends 14 hours a day obeying the dictates of his company’s CEO? Or of a mother who works three jobs and has barely enough energy to make the evening meal? ... families who lose one parent? … families with multiple divorces? ... children raised in multiple households? Shall we forcibly restructure those situations to ensure for children a man/woman equal-time parenting experience?

Heterosexual couples may choose to produce their own offspring—after all, that’s how nature works. But married couples bring under their care the children of other adults in the family who die or become incapacitated. Or bring into their home children who are not blood-related but are loved and recognized as their own. Children frequently find themselves members of quite complicated ex- and step-families. Apparently no one-size-fits-all template exists for families, either.

Afraid kids of gay or lesbian parents will “catch” gayness? In reality, every gay/lesbian child is the product of a heterosexual relationship. And given the prejudice homosexuals encounter you’re not likely to find non-homosexuals volunteering for the lifestyle. Healthy loving relationships blossom between members of the same sex just as naturally as they do between members of the opposite sex. Same-gender attraction exists in its own right as one of Nature’s important contributions to a wonderfully diverse world.

We don’t “grant” others their inalienable rights. They already have the rights; we must simply learn to acknowledge what’s been there all along. We have acknowledged that Black persons have equal dignity and must be accorded their civil rights (although there is a good bit of kicking and screaming, as opponents still resist that); we have acknowledged that women have equal dignity and must be accorded their civil rights, (yes, there’s considerable kicking and screaming against that, too).

Moving right along, it’s time to acknowledge that gays and lesbians have equal dignity and must be accorded their civil rights. (If you hear kicking and screaming, it’s probably from some whose hearts are still a few sizes too small. Hopefully those hearts will stretch.) It really is time—and recognizing gay/lesbian marriage rights is a sign democracy is alive and well and headed in the right direction.

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