“The Values of Marriage”?

We start this with some fairly typical reports. NOM has promoted an article from an organization that they likely helped found in New Zealand. Their sock puppet reports that gay married people, according to Science, have less monogamous relationships in the Netherlands than straight people. Looking at the report shows that the data is from before gay marriage was legal in the Netherlands and has nothing to do with marriage at all and doesn’t even talk about lesbians and…well, you get the idea. NOM is lying about a report, we all point and laugh, everyone goes home. Good game.

But wait…what’s this? [emphasis mine]

Recent research from a major British medical journal AIDS on male same-sex relationships in the Netherlands — arguably one of the most gay friendly cultures on earth — indicates gay men have a very difficult time living by the values of marriage.

This caught me back a little bit. What the hell are the “values of marriage”?

I took some time to think about this rather odd phrase. I mean, marriage is something that has happened in many cultures around the world, in many different ways, and had a range of significance. What “values” do they speak of?

The more I thought about it, the more I came to what should have been an obvious realization, but just never solidified: these people genuinely think they’re “defending” marriage because their definition of marriage is so much more broad than mine.

Think about it: what is marriage, exactly? Asked that question, I would say it was a legal contract designed to merge property and a symbolic act designed to make manifest the love and dedication that people have for one another. That’s really it. Now, the legal benefits are pretty damn good, and the power of symbolism is remarkably strong and wonderful, but ultimately marriage is no more than those two things.

But to people like the ones at NOM, marriage is so much more than that. It’s very specifically a union of one man and one woman into a deal with the sky patriarch to make more little [insert faith of choice]s and, like all things associated with god, bearing certain rules, regulations, and prohibitions that must be followed to the letter. For some people that may or may not include a strict or even loose patriarchy, the inclusion or exclusion of contraception, very specific gender expectations, etc. All of these things are integral to what “marriage” means to the folks at NOM, and for many of them, anything that is not a patriarchal home where the man works to support a stay-at-home mom who raises their horde of Christian children to understand their faith (especially the proper roles for boys and girls), then it just doesn’t count as a marriage. And if marriage is opened to include things that don’t fit that very specific standard, the definition really has changed.

That being said, nobody gave them any authority to settle on that specific definition to begin with. They did it of their own accord, crafting a fantasy to please themselves and flailing about miserably when everyone else doesn’t share their strange hierarchical wet dream. And the many people who are in open and polyamorous marriages, or have a partnership of equals, or don’t mind that their daughter doesn’t like dresses much, have been whittling away at that odd fantasy for a while, all that time still sharing the “value of marriage” by filling it with the things they value.

I feel like understanding this, or at least having a new avenue, may change the way I approach anti-equality bigots. I’m not quite sure how, and this may be nothing, but I feel like I’ve come to an important idea.

It could also just be wishful thinking.


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