Back during the battle between our War President and John Kerry we also had a battle here in Ohio and elsewhere concerning referenda on whether gay marriages should be allowed. As I drove to the polling place, I saw signs urging voters to protect their marriages by voting against establishing a right for two gay men or two gay women to marry. Right now, Assistant Attorney General Patrick DeAlmeida of the state of New Jersey is trying to get 7 justices of the New Jersey Supreme Court to "protect the institution of marriage" by not "redefining marriage" to allow gays to be married.
There are some linguistic mind games going on here. The fact is that if the voters had voted to allow gay marriage in Ohio, my marriage would not have been affected. I wouldn't have loved my wife less nor would she have stopped loving me. Our marriage would have been just as strong or good as it was the day before gay marriage became legal. Indeed, the only thing I know of that has had a negative effect on heterosexual marriage has been the establishment of no fault divorce. That has constituted a real threat to the institution of marriage for it allows for one spouse to obtain a divorce even though the other party doesn't want one. Gay marriage poses no threat of any sort. Indeed, gay marriage might strengthen the institution of marriage if the gays getting married could set a better standard for marriage than the miserable one that we heterosexuals have established.
What did the ignorant, religiously inspired voters in Ohio think would happen if gay marriage had been approved? Did they think that someone like me would have jumped at the chance to become gay, would have dumped my wife rapidly (thanks to the no fault divorce law), and gone out in the world to find some man to marry? Who knows what they were thinking. My view is that these people quit thinking years ago and replaced thinking with Christian and other religious dogma. Deep down in their murky hearts, I suspect, their motivation was their hostility toward homosexuality. The problem is that we straight folks have been conditioned to think that gays are some sort of horrible kind of human being.
When I was a kid, I recall my mother pointing to some man and saying he was something or other -- a queer or a homosexual -- and I decided instantly that being a queer was very, very bad. I had no idea why this was bad since she didn't elaborate what it meant to be queer. While in grade school I remember someone telling me that a gay was someone who burst fart bubbles in their bath water with their teeth. I must have thought that was a possibility or it wouldn't have had so deep an effect that I would remember it so many years later. After I found out what a gay was (but before I discovered what gays did in bed), I began to fear I might be gay, that is, I might be one of these very awful people. However, it turned out that I liked girls in a different way than I liked boys so I was saved. I think a lot of little boys worry about that just as they worry about how you go about getting a girl to let you go to bed with her. My friends and I didn't have a clue how we could get that to happen. Of course I am talking about what little boys thought about in the 50's.
Later, when I was in my thirties, at the height of my political liberalism, I still harbored negative feelings toward gays. These feelings were exposed to the light of day when a close friend who was married made a pass at me late one night. I was shocked but it turned out that I was more concerned at his betrayal of his wife than that he was gay per se. We stayed friends. I learned a lot about what gay men go through from talking to him and began to feel some sympathy for them but I was still bummed that he had betrayed his wife. Latter on, another very close friend who was married (our families were very close as well) outed himself. I responded badly but, again, it turns out that I wasn't bothered so much by his being gay as his betrayal of his wife. I was not nearly as bummed as she was. Indeed, learning of his betrayal destroyed her confidence in her judgment and ended up largely wrecking her life.
The moral of this story is that I have very strong feelings about the institution of marriage. To me the central responsibility of married partners is that they be faithful to each other -- that they be able trust each other. I have no problem with divorce but I do have a problem with infidelity. Now, does gay marriage damage the institution of marriage as I construe the institution,, where trust and fidelity are its central values? The answer is obviously, "No." The only way gays can damage the institution of heterosexual marriage is by marrying a straight person. The irony is that the nitwits who oppose gay marriage seem to be perfectly happy with a gay man marrying a straight woman (or a gay woman marrying a straight man), the one thing that is a threat to the institution of marriage. And the fact is that the prejudice against gay people that pervades our society drives some of them to engage in fraudulent marriages as a cover.