Monday, July 04, 2011

Notes on SSM

The securing of same-sex marriage in New York State has invited various reflections.

The decision effectively doubles the number of potential beneficiaries. A welcome momentum has been added. In my view, however, it is too optimistic to predict that the other states--now forming a rejectionist bloc in the heartland and the South--will fall quickly into line. The resistance seems irrational, since the states that have SSM are serving as laboratories that have demonstrated that the dire predictions of opponents have not come to pass. But the motives of the resisters are not easily swayed by reason.

A kind of impromptu debate has sprung up between the views of Jonathan Rauch and Dan Savage. As far as I know, the two have not engaged in direct debate, but the contrasts are clear enough. Rauch, who is author of the book "Gay Marriage: Why It is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America," holds that the changes mean that "same-sex relationships will continue to move towards both durability and exclusivity." In other words, gay and lesbian unions will start to observe the undeviating fidelity that is so obviously characteristic of heterosexual unions. Except that it is not. This utopian dream of absolute monogamy clashes with well-established biological realities, especially in the human male. It also contrasts with biblical prototypes, such as Abraham and Solomon, where polygamy was the norm.

Dan Savage is a sex columnist who has emerged recently as a real thinker regarding human relationships. His views are profiled in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Reflecting on his own experience with his partner of some years, Savage has concluded that a certain amount of straying has in fact ensured the stability of the relationship. As a general rule that seems accurate, though the details may be troublesome to work out.

Much of the current discussion focuses on male-male relationships. However, statistical evidence from other countries that have had same-sex marriage for some years indicates that, proportionately, lesbians are more likely to take advantage of the option than are gay men. Since woman-woman relationships, often involving children, tend to be more stable anyway, the change is unlikely to affect them very much. Except, that is to say, for this result: the heightened sense of self-esteem and recognition that tying the knot will bring.



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