A college classmate recently posted on Facebook about gay marriage. And when I found myself weighing in, I offered a response a bit longer than I had anticipated. It’s organized as are most of my post, more in the form of random thoughts, but since I took some time crafting it, I thought I would share with with you, slightly amended with links added:
As perhaps the only gay person on this thread, I must note that I have long been decidedly ambivalent on gay marriage, in part because many gay marriage advocates seem more interested in winning the culture wars than in promoting the institution and in part because of my studies of myth, psychology and anthropology and the longstanding human recognition of the importance of sex difference. And marriage rituals of every culture (see van Gennep) are based upon bringing together individuals from different groups.
In my grad school paper for my Native American class, I researched the legends of the berdache, or two-spirit. Many cite the berdacge tradition as an example of cultures which accept and embrace homosexuality and same-sex relationships. And while many American Indian tribes recognized same-sex marriages, they all required one partner in such a union to live in the guise of the other sex. Thus, if one man married another man, one would wear men’s clothes and go hunting with the “braves” while the other would have to wear women’s clothes and live as a “squaw.” The one who lived as a woman could not go hunting with his same-sex peers nor could he participate in activities, rituals etc reserved for his biological sex.
Sex difference in short has long been inherent to the notion of marriage.
That said, I believe, states should — at minimum — recognize gay relationships as civil unions. And perhaps the ideal would be for the state to simply call monogamous relationships “civil unions” (for all people) and let churches, synagogues, private individuals, etc. call them marriage — or whatever they want. [Read more…]