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Opening Arguments

Yes, marriage is changing

The Daily Beast, of all places, asks the most interesting question of the day: Were Christians right about gay marriage all along?

What if gay marriage really will change the institution of marriage, shifting conceptions around monogamy and intimacy? On the other hand, what if the domesticating institution of marriage changes—and even erases—the more libertine tendencies of gay culture?

Obviously, we now know that the sky doesn’t fall when gays get married. Contrary to the hysterical claims that same-sex marriage would threaten marriage in general, 10 years of experience in Massachusetts have shown the opposite: The divorce rate has gone down, and straight kids aren’t suddenly turning gay.

At the same time, there is some truth to the conservative claim that gay marriage is changing, not just expanding, marriage.  According to a 2013 study, about half of gay marriages surveyed (admittedly, the study was conducted in San Francisco) were not strictly monogamous. 

This fact is well-known in the gay community—indeed, we assume it’s more like three-quarters. But it’s been fascinating to see how my straight friends react to it. Some feel they’ve been duped: They were fighting for marriage equality, not marriage redefinition. Others feel downright envious, as if gays are getting a better deal, one that wouldn’t work for straight couples. Maybe they’re right; women are from Venus, after all. Right?

And I rather suspect it is more likely that straight marriages will become more libertine than it is that gay marriages will become more conservative. And once gay marriage becomes thorougly insitutionalized nationwide -- that seems inevitable now, does it not? -- the pressure will be on to grant marital status to more than two people. Don't bisexuals have the same rights as the rest of us?

Of course article's author thinks marriage "is a patriarchal, sexist institution that should be discarded rather than reformed," so he's not necessarily appalled at how radically things could change:

. . . the future of marriage, in fact, may turn out to be a lot like the Christian Right’s nightmare: a sex-positive, body-affirming compact between two adults that allows for a wide range of intimate and emotional experience. Maybe no one will be the “husband” (as in, animal husbandry) and no one the chattel.  Maybe instead of jealousy, non-monogamous couples will cultivate “compersion” to take pleasure in their partners’ sexual delight. And most dangerously, maybe marriage will be only one of many forms of such a compact; maybe people will choose their own intimate futures without coercion from the state. The horror!

Some things just make you wanna go, "Whew!"