Homosexuality Is Ruining Traditional Marriage (And So Is Heterosexuality)

Gay marriage.

Two people who love each other, want to spend the rest of their lives together, and bring out the best in each other, who are both male or both female.

It’s a simple concept, really, but one that’s become perhaps the most hot-button issue in the U.S. because it clashes with evangelical Christianity, which pervades public consciousness and shapes policy despite the nominal separation of church and state.

The uproar from conservative voices is that gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage.

They’re not wrong. They’re just not completely right either…because straight marriage, as it exists in our culture, is just as much of a threat to traditional marriage.

What is “traditional marriage”? The nuclear-family dynamic of the 1950s? The institution as carried through church history, therefore predominantly by Roman Catholicism? “Biblical” marriage? Images of Biblical marriage have made their way around Facebook for years now. Here’s one:

Biblical marriage.

I shouldn’t need to comb through the Scriptures like I did in my last series to convince you that there’s no such thing as “Biblical marriage”, or that if there is, it frequently looks nothing like “traditional marriage” between a man and a woman. That’s one problem with grounding a definition of marriage in our ancient sacred text. The other problem is cultural; the history of marriage, within the history of civilized humanity, is patriarchal and androcentric. Marriage, by tradition, is about a man acquiring a wife (or wives) for himself for the purposes of procreation, social acceptance/advancement, homemaking, and/or just because it’s part of the culture. Grow up, get a wife. That’s what you do. The woman has little to no say about whether she wants to marry the man. The remnants of this androcentrism are visible in the fact that, even today, most women take their husband’s last name at marriage, symbolizing a transfer from her family into his – never the other way around, because patriarchy means that it’s always the husband and father whose name carries the legacy. This is perfectly exemplified in the panel above labeled “Rapist + his victim”, which combines androcentrism (the raped virgin is obligated to marry her assailant – won’t that be a happy and enduring relationship? – and the man may never divorce her; a woman divorcing her husband was unheard of in this culture) and women-as-property (the rapist had to pay his victim’s father in cash for his new wife).

If not the Bible, where did we acquire this concept of “traditional” marriage? Like most enduring facets of Christianity, we got it from…the Romans. Some quick research on Wikipedia reveals the progression of the concept of “marriage”. Beginning with the nomads and extending to ancient Israel, a wife generally had her own private area in which to live, and was expected to perform wifely duties like sewing, cooking and farming. The husband’s responsibility was basically to care for her with food and shelter and not neglect her. Neither stated nor implied is any hint of love or romance – or consent or choice. The ancient Greeks had no wedding ceremony, simply allowing any two consenting parties (presumably heterosexual) to enter into marriage by mutual agreement. Yet this model preserved patriarchy: “Married Greek women had few rights”, and “Inheritance was more important than feelings” – even to the point that a married woman whose father died without having a son could be forced to divorce her husband and marry her closest male relative to preserve the family line. Then once we hit ancient Rome, we get a form of marriage called conventio in manum which required a ceremony to establish (or dissolve), made the woman legally separated from her family and part of her husband’s, and placed the woman under her husband’s authority. That, with some cultural tweaks, more or less reflects our concept of “traditional marriage” today.

But again, such ancient traditions of marriage viewed the institution as contractual, legal, social – not necessarily emotional, romantic, and consensual. No longer do we live in a culture with dowries, betrothals, and explicit patriarchal transaction of women as property. In our culture, men and women are free to pursue and reject one another, to date and court, to explore their “hearts” and search for their “soulmate”, their “true love”. A woman is not simply sold or given away by her father to a suitor; she is free to decide for herself whom she will marry. This is novel; this is radical; this is wonderful; but this is a far cry from any “traditional” concept of marriage. Our modern culture of gender equality, romantic love, mutual consent, and free choice has already undermined “traditional marriage”. It’s not homosexuality that’s ruining traditional marriage – it’s sexuality.

You know what ruins marriage?  Divorce. Adultery. Pornography. Financial irresponsibility. Abuse – physical, emotional, and psychological. Greed. Selfishness. Laziness. Plenty of things.

But two human beings loving each other and wanting to commit their lives to each other? Ruining marriage? That shouldn’t be on the list. Homosexuals aren’t ruining marriage, they’re assimilating it, adopting it, enhancing it, and honoring it – the same way heterosexuals have been doing for centuries as they transformed it within their culture.