Marriage between Homosexuals Is Good for Marriage
Ruether, Rosemary Radford, National Catholic Reporter
In the current culture wars, we are constantly told by conservatives that gay marriage would be a disaster for the ideal and institution of (heterosexual) marriage. James Dobson, founder of the conservative evangelical group Focus on the Family, has opined, "Barring a miracle, the family as it has been known for more than five millennia will crumble, presaging the fall of Western civilization itself." Pope John Paul II judged same-sex unions as "degrading" marriage. The Vatican declaration "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons" (2004) stated, "Legal recognition of homosexual unions obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of mankind."
But are these warnings that gay marriage poses a threat to marriage true? Do they make either logical or empirical sense? At a time when fewer Americans are marrying at all and many are divorcing, at a time when a third of American households consist in single people, why is it a threat to marriage that homosexual people are embracing marriage? Shouldn't we find the large numbers of people who are unmarried, often raising children as single parents, the prime threat to marriage? What is remarkable about the current movement for marriage among gay people is that they are asking for basically the same institution and ideals of marriage as heterosexuals currently enjoy. They want a publicly recognized sealing of a commitment to a lifelong monogamous union with another person with whom they want to share their lives, an institution that also carries with it certain legal rights, such as shared pensions and health plans. Why is this a threat to marriage?
If marriage is not allowed for gay people, what is the alternative that conservative Christians are demanding? For some, gay people shouldn't exist at all; they can and should be converted to heterosexuality. But few medical and psychological experts now share this view. Sexual orientation has proved to be deeply embedded and not easily changed. Another alternative is lifelong celibacy. But celibacy has generally been recognized in the Christian tradition to be a special gift, not given to most people. Why should all gay people be assumed to have this gift? If conservative Christians demand that gays remain unmarried, but they are not capable of celibacy, what are we saying? That they should be promiscuous, that they should have uncommitted relations?
Two evangelical writers, Letha Scanzoni, author of the 1978 book Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? …