Gay Marriage Isn’t Rare, and It’s Never Destroyed Society
One of the lies peddled by the Christian bigots is that if gay marriage is allowed, it will destroy society. People will be marrying lambs and sloths, and carp and anchovies, and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit-bats… Straight marriage will be so corrupted that the “sanctity of marriage” will disappear.
The thing is, like so many of their claims, this one completely contradicts the evidence. And there’s lots of evidence. Let’s start close to home:
Of course, bigots will be bigots, and will not accept this data. Divorce has been on the decline in Canada since before gay marriage was allowed. Nevertheless, allowing gay marriage hasn’t dented the increase in happy, long lasting marriages. And that says an awful lot.
They will go on to say that an isolated bit of data does not a case make. And in principle, they’re correct. With regard to the facts, they’re ignoring Argentina, Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. (LINK)
Even so, the haters will retort that these are all recent examples. We haven’t had enough time to really examine them. They are isolated anomalies. Glitches in the Matrix. Gay marriage has always been shunned by long term successful society.
Only… it hasn’t.
- There are numerous West African societies (some quite old) in which a woman may legally take a “woman husband.” Numerous African societies recognize male-male marriage. (1)
- In many Native American tribes, marriage is/was defined by the role, not the genitalia. A woman doing “man’s work” could marry a woman doing “woman’s work,” and likewise for men marrying men. (2)
- In ancient Greek society, a similar relationship ethic prevailed. Though marriage was usually reserved for political alliance and procreation, relationships between same-sex couples were accepted — as long as one assumed the “masculine” role and one assumed the “feminine.”(3)
It turns out, the Christian bigots are even wrong about marrying dogs.
- Both the Bella Coola and Kwakiutl societies of the Pacific Northwest allowed bizarre marriages — including marrying a dog — to solidify trade agreements between tribes. And until the Europeans arrived with their silly ideas about marriage and their smallpox, things were just fine. (4)
Could it get any worse? YES! And it has!
- Both Chinese and Sudanese cultures allow for marrying dead people. That’s right. Two societies, one of which was ancient when Jesus was called Tammuz, have allowed people to marry ghosts. (4)
- As a final insult to injury, there are the Na. Dating back to at least the Ming Dinasty (1368-1644), this society of thirty thousand or so has not had a concept of marriage at all! Brothers and sisters live together in a matrilinial society, raising, educating, and supporting all the children of all the women in the family — with no regard or concern for who is the father. (3,4)
The sad thing is that this information isn’t hard to find, nor is it controversial. The only thing we should be regarding as scandalous is our myopic and egotistical assumption that marriage is confined to one man and one woman, that it is inspired by love first, and that it is an exclusive sexual contract, inviolate and unbreakable. A cursory examination of the anthropological record shows that quite the opposite is true. Marriage is as diverse as culture is diverse, and all the different variations, quirks, and permissive tendencies have exactly one thing in common. Not one of them has ever destroyed society.
(1) Gouh, Kathleen. “The Nayar: Central Kerela,” Matrilinial Kinship. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1961. Krige, Eileen. “Woman-Marriage, with Special Reference to the Lovedu — Its Significance for the Definition of Marriage.” Africa 44. 1974. Amadiume, Ifi. “Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society.” London: Zed Books, 1987.
(2) Blackwood, Evelyn, ed. “The Many Faces of Homosexuality: Anthropological Approaches to Homosexual Behavior.” New York: Harrington Park Press, 1986. Jacobs, Sue-Ellen. Thomas, Wesley, and Lang, Sabine, eds. “The Two Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality.” Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.
(3) Ryan, Christopher and Cacilda, Jetha. Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships. Harper Perennial; Reprint edition, 2011.
(4) Coontz, Stephanie. Marriage, A History. New York: Viking Press. 2005.