Gay marriage is a hot issue these days. It is possibly the hottest social and political issue in the USA. Here in Thailand there is agitation for gay civil rights, as well, including the chance to get married and be eligible for the same protections as heterosexuals.
It is not appropriate for a foreign guest in the country to presume to tell Thailand how to write its laws. So I am making suggestions about benefits any society might derive from adopting gay marriage.
The benefit most often mentioned is how gay couples can help preserve the institution of marriage by lowering the divorce rate and restoring the principles that underlie the family. I am referring to statistics that show that in countries with a gay marriage history, the rate of divorce is lower for gay couples than for heterosexual couples. Children of gay couples also rate higher on tests of socialization and language skills.
But the proposals I want to make are not about gay marriages that perfectly mirror the ideal heterosexual marriage in terms of monogamy, romantic power, and 1.7 children (the latest Thai figure for the number of children in families with children). I want to comment on how gay marriages might change and improve the standard marriage model.
The first contribution we might make would be new models of commitment. Let me put it this way, in gay marriages we may not promise everything but we mean what we promise. So our first contribution to reform the institution of marriage would be a specified commitment. Of course, this is anathema to those defending the old concept of marriage where everything is promised “until death do ye part,” but hardly anybody lives up to it. Even couples in lovely 60-year exclusive partnerships hold back on some things and shift over the years on others. Guilt is often the result, which has a corrosive effect on life. Let’s add a less guilt-ridden type of contextualized commitment. We who are in gay marriages swear to you this works well. Oh, come on, you straight couples are doing this anyhow. We’ll just help you legitimize it.
Sub-point A would be about monogamy. To be brief, just agree with me that monogamy is not a very ancient concept. If your marriage really would only survive if it were monogamous, well, go that way. But on the whole I will argue that most long-term gay marriages have more openness than that and the issues of commitment are about more important things.
I can hear the shrieks already. “That’s what we mean,” I hear. “Gay marriage is a sham because it isn’t a sexual prison.” (OK, those aren’t the words they use.) But making sex the measure of a committed relationship hasn’t really protected the institution of marriage very well. We can show you a better measure of commitment.
Our second contribution could be realigned patterns of relationship.
First of all, we can show you several different ways to get kids, including ways with heightened levels of intentionality, to put it in polysyllabic terms. Hey, with us there are no surprises or after-thoughts. Furthermore, our children are valued and cherished because we don’t just breed babies, we have to strategize.
Then we can introduce a new way of being family. It may not be for everybody. Some people are into blood lines for their livestock and themselves. For some people there’s nothing quite as thrilling as hosting a tea party for the Daughters of the Ancient Regime. But let’s say you’re not royal and succession to the throne is not a personal issue with you. You might be ready for a non-dynastic family, one composed of people with whom you have a lot in common and with whom you enjoy frequent contact. We gay sons and daughters can show you how to structure a really workable new relational pattern complete with a whole new type of kings and queens. We’ve worked it out. It’s how we have survived.
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Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.