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Same-sex unions: Yes, they will hurt marriage

SCV Voices

Posted: June 22, 2008 6:08 p.m.
Updated: August 23, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
Defenders of the same-sex marriages that began this month in California have repeatedly claimed the new definition of marriage will in no way hurt male-female marriages.

Even the state Supreme Court decision paving the way for these June weddings declared its move would not deprive any male-female couple "of any of the rights and benefits conferred by the marriage statutes."

But marriage is not just about rights and benefits. It is a social institution that existed long before the state of California.

Extending the word "marriage" to couples who have never before been considered married will cause real and appreciable harms to male-female marriages, and to all people who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Because of space, I'll just point out two such harms here.

The first harm is to the meaning of "marriage" itself. The term in California has always referred to couples who agree to be sexually exclusive.

Couples usually don't marry until they are ready for such a commitment. Although adultery certainly occurs, virtually everyone involved agrees that such acts damage marriages and should be discouraged whenever possible.

Yet most male-male couples are not sexually exclusive. According to gay.com's psychotherapist Michael Shernoff, only approximately one-third of gay couples are monogamous.

The rest typically have "arrangements" that allow one or both partners to have sex with others under certain conditions - such as no kissing, or only out of town, for example.

The New York Times reported recently that legal marriage in Massachusetts hasn't dampened any extramarital enthusiasm by gay couples.

One man with a husband who lives in a different city said the couple has a rule allowing intimacy with outsiders "because, you know, you have to be practical."

He added that most gay marriages were mostly monogamous except for "maybe a casual three-way."

Now in a free society gay men can build whatever kinds of partnerships they want. But when they sue to have society call their open relationships "marriages," that dilutes the meaning of the term "marriage" for everyone who's in one.

The other example of harms from the government celebrating same-sex unions as marriages is more indirect. I have been talking to many gay and lesbian activists, and they feel traditional parents should not have the right to decide when, how, and what their children learn about homosexuality, if that right ever interferes with a same-sex couple's desire to express their orientation publicly.

Last month, the gay community in Seattle was furious that an usher at the baseball stadium had asked a lesbian couple to stop kissing when a mother had complained they were confusing her young son.

Here is part of the reaction of openly gay Seattle writer Dan Savage:

"Sorry, Mom, but if straight people can kiss on the lips at Safeco, so can we. ... You're going to have to tell your kids about the existence of gays and lesbians sometime - and if you want to avoid that conversation for as long as possible, don't leave the house."

Savage also proposed a "kiss-in" at an upcoming Mariners game. Not only do traditional families want the option of introducing their children to the concept of same-sex couples when they're ready, rather than when the lesbian couple a few rows ahead of them at the ballgame gets randy, they also don't want the public schools teaching about "family diversity" to very young children.

Yet the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network has been working with gay-friendly teachers, principals, and unions to introduce curricula dealing with gay and lesbian issues starting in kindergarten.

The lessons often take the guise of "anti-bullying" programs, but they clearly have the intent of undermining traditional ideas about the family.

If the state declares same-sex couples to be married, what's to stop lessons for first-graders about the fact that when they grow up they can marry a man, or a woman, whichever they choose?

Even the park and the zoo aren't safe spaces for parents who think very young children aren't ready to learn about homosexuality. One reader of my blog said he approves of a same-sex couple who starts kissing when they see little kids, all part of an effort to fight homophobia.

If people think on the whole that detaching monogamy from marriage, and making it harder for parents to control their own children's education about homosexuality, are not nearly as big of a problem as the self-esteem of same-sex couples who are told that their relationships with completely equal benefits are only domestic partnerships and not marriages, fine. Don't support November's California Marriage Protection Act.

But please stop saying same-sex marriage doesn't hurt anybody.

David Benkof is a columnist for several gay newspapers around the country. He blogs at www.GaysDefendMarriage.com and can be reached at DavidBenkof@aol.com. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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