New publisher Pantera Press’s Why vs Why series gives longtime gay activist Rodney Croome and longtime family conservative activist Bill Muehlenberg equal space to put their arguments for and against gay marriage, and rebut each other (with the debate continuing online). It’s a good summary of common arguments for and against gay marriage.
While I generally preferred Croome’s stance, he struggled a bit with one of Muehlenberg’s arguments. Essentially, Muehlenberg thinks that gay marriages would differ from current marriages in more than just the gender mix. He cites multiple gay sources on how, to put it mildly, long-lasting monogamous relationships are not the norm in the gay community. He doesn’t want the idea of an ‘open’ marriage to get started by extending marriage rights to a community that may be reluctant to give up its old ‘homosexual lifestyle’ ways.
In response Croome says that the surveys Muehlenberg cites are small or biased in favour of relatively promiscuous guys (sometimes deliberately, to target those at risk of HIV). While this may be true, the one random survey I know of found that of gay men those who were sexually active, less than a quarter had had just one partner in the past year. For straight guys, well over three-quarters had had just one partner. There are currently major gay-straight differences on monogamy.
Though Meuhlenberg’s factual claim is basically right, I don’t think it is as strong an argument against the institution of gay marriage as he believes.
While ‘open’ relationships may work for some couples, they probably aren’t the couples who will seek gay marriage. People get married because they want to sign up to the institution of marriage, where monogamy is still the ideal (though obviously not always the reality). 95% of people in relationships still support the idea. This may be one reason why a survey of gay people found that while they overwhelmingly supported gay marriage being available, 45% did not want one themselves.
But even if there were some open gay marriages, would this be imitated in heterosexual relationships? The norm of marital monogamy has survived the sexual revolution for good reasons. Heterosexual adulterers haven’t broken monogamy as an aspiration and it seems unlikely that their gay equivalent could do so either.
On the subject of gay marriage, Ryan Heath has set up a gay marriage blog.