So, after all that has happened in the last
couple years, it seems the Internet gods have it out for me. My original blog is dead. At least, dead for the time being. I need to do a backup, but I don't have the FTP site as the space doesn't belong to me...so there it waits, inaccessible by all. And I only noticed it because I finally have something to sort out.
There is a theory about how people express themselves when they lie. The theory is that when people lie, there is truth somewhere in what they say, even if they don't know it or intend to leak the truth. I believe in this theory, because I believe that people say the things they think about, and if they tease you about your weight or whatever, then that comes from some thought they had about it. So, on some level, they actually mean it. Or, at least, they're thinking about your weight. Or your pimples. "There is truth in every joke."
As an example, I want to quote from the LDS document entitled "The Divine Institution of Marriage," emphasis mine:
"Marriage between a man and a woman is central to the plan of salvation. The sacred nature of marriage is closely linked to the power of procreation. Only a man and a woman together have the natural biological capacity to conceive children. This power of procreation...is sacred and precious. Misuse of this power undermines the institution of the family and thereby weakens the social fabric. Strong families serve as the fundamental institution for transmitting to future generations the moral strengths, traditions, and values that sustain civilization.
"...extensive studies have shown that in general a husband and wife united in a loving, committed marriage provide the optimal environment for children to be protected, nurtured, and raised. This is not only because of the substantial personal resources that two parents can bring to bear on raising a child, but because of the differing strengths that a father and a mother, by virtue of their gender, bring to the task.
"Court decisions in Massachusetts (2004) and California (2008) have allowed same-sex marriages. This trend constitutes a serious threat to marriage and family. The institution of marriage will be weakened, resulting in negative consequences for both adults and children."
I wanted to point out the argument that we have all heard: same-sex marriage undermines the sacred institution of traditional marriage. This argument has been made by many, but I think the LDS support of the Proposition 8 effort is the most concise. As also pointed out in the document, the response to the claim that gay marriage shatters the power of marriage as an institution is usually one of "It won't affect you, so why should you care?" In fact, many proponents of same-sex marriage equality believe that it will strengthen the institution, increase the marriage rate, decrease the divorce rate, and increase the average length of marriage, among other benefits (see research
). Despite all the facts represented by countries and states that have already legalized same-sex marriage, I wonder: is there any truth behind the claim that marriage will be undermined and will it really spell out the downfall of society?
I have come to the conclusion that, yes, gay marriage spells the downfall of society and
undermines the power of marriage. I believe that what they are afraid of is actually going to become reality.
Okay, lemme 'splain. All things being equal, what is the difference between traditional marriage and same-sex marriage? The answer is obvious: you don't have one man and one woman. Why is that important? If you go back to what marriage was way back when women didn't have the right to own property or to vote or, really, any rights at all, what was the tradition in marriage then? Marriage was used as a way to consolidate and to accumulate wealth. Property and inheritance rights were key to keep your wealth in your family. A wealthy wife could lose everything she thought she owned should her husband die if there was no male to inherit the fortune. It could go to the next of kin who may not care about the woman's sudden impoverishment.
While marriage has come a long way since that time, there are remnants of the mindset that for so long had dominated traditional marriage: that the man had the power in the marriage. In addition to being a way to amass wealth, marriage has long been a symbol of status and power. I believe this is directly related to the concept of women as inferior beings. Evinced in the marriage rights of the husband at the time, they really had power to command and control the wife, to punish and to please as they saw fit. The man was in charge of the woman. Specific roles for each gender were very strict. Even today women struggle to assert their rights as equals in our society. How deeply this runs remains to be seen, but traditional marriage, at least for the last several centuries, has been a patriarchal marriage.
How does the emerging idea of same-sex marriage affect this idea of patriarchal order? It throws confusion into the ring. If two men are married, who has the power? If two women marry, how can you tell who is in charge? If same-sex marriage is ever given equal footing with traditional marriage, the illusion of patriarchal power will be broken. It requires all partners in marriage to be viewed as equals and not to assume that certain roles apply.
Going back to the quote from the document above, I think in their defense they have tipped their hand. They believe that gender roles have intrinsic, sacred, even divine significance, confirming that the tradition they wish to perpetuate is the tradition of gender roles and patriarchy, specifically. It's written in their doctrine
! If you know anything about the LDS church, it is the men who have the Priesthood power while the women get the privilege of sharing in that power through marriage. They are told that there is no more important role than that of a wife and mother and that their power lies in their ability to preserve their marriage and raise their children in the faith. Their power is in procreation, and there is no more "sacred and precious" power - and men can't have that
power. However, the leaders of the church from the top down are always men, except in the Primary (for children) and the Relief Society (for women).
Churches (and marriages!) that operate on a patriarchal system are the ones most threatened by the idea of same-sex marriage. Not only does it undermine
their idea of marriage and gender roles, but should gay marriage be taught to their children, they might be more likely to address the glaring inequalities within patriarchal organizations and bring down the great whore that is disparity and discrimination. If that wouldn't rock society from its very foundations, I don't know what would.
That being said, it's kind of an extreme view of what may happen. My overall point is that gender roles grant a certain amount of power to those who believe in and apply them. This power is an illusion, perpetuated simply by the emphasis of their importance over generations and over pulpits and curricula. If there is one thing that man is loathe to give up, it is power in any form. The fight against equality for same-sex couples in marriage goes far beyond homosexuality - people are afraid of losing the power that they have whithin the existing institution as well. They know, but may not understand, that they will be expected by society to stand on equal ground with their spouses and will have no more right to treat them as they have been. They can no longer feel justified if society takes another turn toward equality regardless of gender.
If you don't believe that this is an issue about gender roles, let's bring sex into it. Sexuality, in a large sense, is still defined either by the man/woman model or the aggressor/submissor model. Both models represent a power element. This is true among heterosexuals as well as the homosexuals. How many times have I been asked in my initial coming out whether I was going to be the man or the woman in the relationship? I don't believe that it's required to have one person who is the man and does all the manly things and one person who is the woman and does all the domestic things. I don't believe that it's necessary or good, even, to try and fit in to society's mold for your role in the relationship.
Consider sexual fantasy. Consider pornography as a visual expression of sexual fantasy. What do you see in pornography when you look at it on a larger scale? You will see that power play. I believe that everybody wants to be in control of someone or something. If you don't have it in real life, you seek it in fantasy. Everybody wants power, nobody wants to admit it, and even fewer people are willing to let it go once they have had it.
The fight and the fear that inspires it comes from a deeper desire for a traditional kind of power that is now being threatened. Therefore, I say that same-sex marriage will be the downfall of society as we know it - if same-sex marriage becomes normalized, society will be forced out of its current paradigm and into a new one where equality is the standard and the gender roles of the past will be seen as archaic. I find that very appealing and very freeing. Gay marriage will undermine traditional marriage - as long as traditional marriage depends on the power play to function. Religions may crumble, but it will not be from under the weight of a lawsuit or a governmental decree, it will be from its followers believing in equality for all and choosing a faith that complements that belief.
Perhaps they know this consciously. I'm guessing they do not. I don't think people are looking ahead enough (or enough into the past) to realize what forces we're up against in this fight for equal rights under the law. Even so, a change of this magnitude would take generations to evolve once same-sex marriage is nationally recognized as a legal institution in every way as equal to opposite-sex marriage.