On a number of occasions on this blog, I have made it clear that I have not been particularly happy about the quality of the debate on gay marriage. While I have focused on the rhetoric of the advocates of gay marriage, I have indicated from time to time that that of the opponents of gay marriage is no better.
One reason I have not focused as much on those opponents is because a number of other gay (as well as other media) oulets have addressed the silliness of their basic argument — that same-sex marriage would be a threat to traditional marriage. Unfortunately, when they take on this argument, I believe these activists merely dismiss the argument (while sometimes offering vague allusion to “responsibilities” and “commitment”).
Gay marriage advocates could do a better job of taking on opponents of gay marriage if they made clear that they recognized monogamy as an essential aspect of marriage for same- as well as different-sex couples. I agree with them that gay marriage per se doesn’t threaten the institution of marriage as we have long understood it in our culture, the monogamous lifetime union of one man and one woman. But, because advocates of gay marriage have, by and large, failed to address monogamy, I do see where the social conservatives are coming from.
When pushing for gay marriage, too few of its advocates talk about standards. Without standards, gay marriage does represent a threat to traditional marriage as it creates a union that is little more than two people shacking up with the same freedom they enjoyed before they took their vows.
To show that advocates are aware of the life-changing meaning of those vows, it is of paramount importance that we discuss monogamy and other standards recognized as essential to marriage (as it’s currently understood) when we advocate extending its definition to include same-sex couples. When we make clear that monogamy is an essential aspect of marriage, we show that we recognize that this sacred institution represents a deeper level of commitment than just two people shacking up.
Just as gay marriage advocates need to show the seriousness of their commitment to the institution by talking about monogamy, if the opponents are really concerned about “protecting marriage,” as they claim, then they would spend as much (if not more) time discussing the threat no-fault divorce represents to marriage as study after study has shown the adverse impact of divorce on the children of such broke marriages.