According to the Pew Research Center fewer people are getting married, and they are waiting longer to “tie the knot.” Basically, what we think of as “traditional marriage” is on the decline. It clings desperately to life, somewhere in the hinterlands of suburbia, where scattered herds of Hummers and Tahoes still run free. But it is basically a dying institution.
Personally, I am not quite so worried. Our ideal marriage has more in common with 1950s sitcoms than the facts of history or the theology of the church, for that matter. That’s not to say I do not worry about marriage. Speaking for myself, there are lots of threats to my marriage, but I’m pretty sure none of them is gay.
James Dobson has said that gay marriage would “undermine the traditional relationship between men and women.” Pope Benedict XVI also recently called gay marriage a “threat to human dignity and the future of marriage itself.” They seem to be worried about the kinds of things we will think of as “normal,” and the long term effect that will have on society.
This line of thinking makes two bad assumptions. Either (1) gay people are recruiting, or (2) seeing two women or two men standing at the courthouse will somehow sour the institution of marriage for straight people. It’s as if brides-to-be everywhere will shout a collective, “Gross!” and toss their diamond rings into the gutter!
Personally, I think Dr. Dobson and His Holiness, the Patriarch of the West (dammit!) need more gay friends.
I know my experience is not universal, but Stephanie and I have never been out on a date, only to be ambushed by the crew from Queer Eye. My door has never been kicked in by Carson Kressley, packing a hairdryer in one hand and a 9mm in the other. No gay couple has ever shouted to me, “Hey! Your marriage needs to be more gay!”
Even opponents of same-sex marriage seem to think their own straight marriages will be just fine. They are right. Gay marriage is not a threat to my relationship. It does not change what my marriage is (I say more about this here).
My wife and I have a healthy marriage. We love each other and are committed to each other. But there are some days when we don’t like each other very much. We need date nights and time to talk to keep our marriage strong. But, like lots of people since 2008, my wife now does a job that three people used to do. Between my own nine-to-five job and the work I do as a theologian (i.e. the work that doesn’t pay), I get very little sleep. Fewer and smaller raises, plus rising prices, make date nights rare events.
The greatest threats to my own marriage are lack of time, lack of money, lack of energy. They are the economic and social consequences that come from living in a hyper-capitalist society (i.e. few vacations, few job protections, and skyrocketing healthcare costs). Last time I checked, none of this was the gays’ fault.
If Christians want to defend marriage, shouldn’t they put more time and energy into economic and social policies that nurture families rather than legislate what a family is?