The Next Step of SSM Dialog, 2: We Won’t Abide the Government in Our Bedrooms.
In my experience with the same-sex marriage debate, the second corruptive mechanism that I suggest in answer to the question of how incorporating homosexual relationships would undermine marriage is often asserted to be the weakest, but it’s also the least well understood (whether the fault is mine, a failure of the imagination, or a desire to avoid).
M. Steven elides entirely my explanation in order to find the suggestion “unfair,” writing:
It implies that arrangements that are not intimate would increase by allowing same-sex couples to marry by adding a reason to exploit the law for the purpose of mutual care. Yet the same impetus already exists for opposite-sex arrangements. To me, this is sort of a stereotypical ‘liberal’ argument in that something should not be allowed due to the possibility of exploitation for self-interest. The pro-SSMer could argue that allowing it would decrease the number of corruptive non-intimate arrangements between gay and straight opposite-sex persons.
I’m not suggesting that SSM would add a reason to exploit the law — the reasons exist already — but rather an excuse. My entire argument is that same-sex marriage, as something new, would not carry with it the same instinctive reverence, nor the same cultural connotations. Like it or not, to the average heterosexual, a same-sex marriage would not be a real marriage. It could be laughed off.
Hollywood movies to the contrary aside, there would be no continuing, and extremely minimal initial, test of intimacy. (That’s why I titled this point with reference to the government in the bedroom; once the image was used to create the specter of the prurient public spy seeking to ensure that nothing sexual was going on, but it could just as easily involve a prurient public spy verifying that something is.) A readily available prenup, a few words rendered meaningless by divorce law, and the benefits would be acquired. The cost to anybody secure in his or her own sexuality would not exist. Friends and family don’t even have to know.
Pragmatist misses the point when he argues that “most heterosexuals marry people of the opposite sex, so the number of heterosexuals eligible to do this is small to begin with.” People would not enter into legally exploitative marriages with the intention of permanence. I can easily imagine having married my friend/roommate out of high school if there’d been a gain to it; we would have joked about it with the girls whom we pursued.
But I’m not presenting the exploitation, per se, as the objectionable result. Rather, as I stressed in my extended explanation of corruptive mechanism #1, I’m offering the possible development as an outcome that would undermine the institution of marriage for all.
Heck, I’m not even presenting non-sexual marriages as exclusively exploitative. If the justification given for recognizing civil marriage at all is thinned out in order to include couples that can’t, by their nature, almost inadvertently create children, then sex is incidental to the relationship. Pragmatist offers two “non-child-centric” bases for same-sex marriage:
- It is good for society as a whole when people are paired with someone else who has the “job” of looking out for someone else.
- It is generally a good thing that men are coupled with partners.
And a third basis for marriage:
- “The raising of children is one of the most important functions of marriage.”
The first and third bases clearly apply to non-sexual couples, including friends and family members. The second arguably applies, as well. One can deduce from Pragmatist’s argument that he doesn’t believe that it is women who domesticate men. Surely it isn’t sex, or even monogamy. Rather, men’s participation in partnerships, as Pragmatist writes, “promotes positive social relationships and instills responsibility.” Having some degree of declared responsibility is what makes waifish men grow up. In a world that increasingly leads men and women to be well into their adult years before doing the family thing, it would seem to be as much — or perhaps more — in the public interest to encourage heterosexual bachelors to grow up as it is to do the same with homosexuals. (I should note, though, that I believe that it is ultimately women and the procreative link that provide the real impetus in marriage for male maturation.)
Again, the reason same-sex marriage would increase the likelihood of the institution’s being treated in this way is that it inherently separates procreation from marriage, not only as a matter of the the individual relationship, but as a matter of basic principles. With marriage bound up in the nearly mystical interweaving of selves (genetically, in children), tying together lines of ancestry into the past and progeny into the future, marriages of convenience carry a natural burden of denial. With the event of SSM, that denial would be ready-made.
Marriage wouldn’t be about having babies. It would be about two (or perhaps more) adults helping each other out. Or, as friends might say, getting each other’s backs.
And that brings us to mechanism #3.