Sexuality and Gender

Michaelson: Gay Culture Will Affect Marriage, Not the Other Way Around

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 05/28/2014

In “Were Christians Right about Gay Marriage All Along?” Jay Michaelson asks a question that’s currently dividing the country: “What if gay marriage really will change the institution of marriage, shifting conceptions around monogamy and intimacy? On the other hand, what if the domesticating institution of marriage changes—and even erases—the more libertine tendencies of gay culture?”

Michaelson points out that both “ultra-conservatives” and “radical liberationists” oppose same-sex marriage—conservatives because they fear it will change the institution in fundamental ways, and liberationists because they fear it won’t: “[N]ormalizing marriage is a narrowing, rather than an expanding, of sexual possibility,” and, “If your agenda is liberation, then the vision of same-sex marriage, in which gays become domesticated and live happily ever after, is a kind of nightmare.”

But Michaelson thinks the liberationists need not fear. His prediction falls on the side of same-sex marriage changing the institution, and he supports that as a good thing:

[T]here is some truth to the conservative claim that gay marriage is changing, not just expanding, marriage. According to a 2013 study, about half of gay marriages surveyed (admittedly, the study was conducted in San Francisco) were not strictly monogamous.

This fact is well-known in the gay community—indeed, we assume it’s more like three-quarters. But it’s been fascinating to see how my straight friends react to it. Some feel they’ve been duped: They were fighting for marriage equality, not marriage redefinition....

What would happen if gay non-monogamy—and I’ll include writer Dan Savage’s “monogamish” model, which involves extramarital sex once a year or so—actually starts to spread to straight people? ... Is non-monogamy one of the things same-sex marriage can teach straight ones, along with egalitarian chores and matching towel sets? ...

Maybe instead of jealousy, non-monogamous couples will cultivate “compersion” to take pleasure in their partners’ sexual delight.

His conclusion:

Notice, by the way, that the ultra-conservatives and the radical liberationists share the same vision of LGBT liberation. Whether as dream or nightmare, both see it as destroying conventional notions of church and state. The only question is whether same-sex marriage will speed or slow the process. And, of course, whether it’s for better or for worse.

The mainstream LGBT movement, meanwhile, still insists that neither of these futures will come to pass. Don’t worry, they say, we’re not out to smash anything.

Who’s right? Only time will tell....

[I]f I had to predict, I’d go with a gradual realization of the conservative nightmare—only it won’t be a nightmare, and plenty of straight people will thank us for it. Maybe gays will preserve marriage precisely by redefining, expanding, and reforming it—and maybe then it can be palatable to progressives, as one of a multitude of options.

If any liberals or conservatives who supported same-sex marriage feel they’ve been duped, it’s only because they weren’t listening to those who explained the consequences of detaching marriage from two complementary sexes whose union completes “one flesh” and creates new life. Marriage is monogamous because two complete the union. Marriage is permanent because that union creates children who need to be raised.

Other unions do not complete the human reproductive system and create children, therefore monogamy and permanence are not central. Rather, what’s central is the sexual and emotional fulfillment of the participants, and who’s to say there’s one best way to accomplish that? Therefore, the radical activists seek “liberation”—the freedom to seek their own fulfillment however they see fit. No boundaries, no rules, no societal expectations. Each person acting as his own god, defining for himself what it means to be human.

So once again we’re back to the truth that sexual expression is a worldview issue. Those who believe in God will always be at odds with those who believe they are gods. Will being their own gods, remaking themselves in any image they like, make them happy? Will society flourish with their view of sexuality and marriage?

I say with great sorrow, no.