Time to ban straight marriage

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, June 17, 2008 23:00 EDT
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Straight people shouldn’t be allowed to marry. That’s what I came to realize that Maggie Gallagher must believe after reading this article of hers, where she suggests that gay marriage isn’t really marriage because—get this—some gay couples are non-monogamous.

Less than a decade later, Eric Erbelding from the perch of his legally recognized Massachusetts gay marriage, is quite comfortable explaining to the New York Times that “Our rule is you can play around because, you know, you have to be practical.”

Eric elaborates why he think it works for gay men: “I think men view sex very differently than women. Men are pigs, they know that each other are pigs, so they can operate accordingly. It doesn’t mean anything.”

Still, Mr. Erbelding said, in what to the old-fashioned ear is the most astonishing single sentence in the whole piece: most married gay couples he knows are “for the most part monogamous, but for maybe a casual three-way.”

For the most part . . . except for the casual three-way?

But hey, if the word “marriage” can be redefined as a civil-rights imperative, why balk at lesser ideas like “monogamy” or “fidelity”?

Goodness gracious, she’s right. Because some members of a group don’t consider strict monogamy to be an important part of their marriage, and may have outside sexual contact with each others’ blessing, then we should ban marriage for all members of the group. Which means straight people shouldn’t marry, either, because tons of straight marriages are open. I’m sort of amazed that a great, deep thinker like Gallagher is having a problem understanding this, but she seems to be functioning under some false information.

Problematic kinds of relationships that are “commonly found in the LGBT community but virtually unheard of among opposite-sex couples” Benkof warns, “will have every right to use the word marriage.”

He goes on to point out these differences: “I have never been at a soiree with multiple straight “committed” couples in which someone suggests we take off our clothes and see what happens, but I’m sad to say it’s happened with gay friends in long-term relationships. Of course, I know, many men cheat on their wives. But they almost never define their marriage as something that accommodates adultery.”

If it’s unheard of, it’s partially because straight people who do have different definitions of fidelity in their relationships just don’t talk about it. But the idea that they’re unheard of because they don’t exist is just silly. I mean, there’s an annual convention called Swing Fest every year in Vegas, and tons of smaller ones where thousands of straight, married people swarm the place to swap partners. And many, many more have open marriages. But clearly Gallagher has just never heard of any of this, or she’d surely reverse her opinion immediately. So I sent her an email.

{encode=”maggie@imapp.org” title=”Dear Ms. Gallagher—”}

I see in your recent NRO column that you argue that gays and lesbians should be denied the right to marry because many of them tolerate outside sexual contact in their relationships. I’m assuming that you made this argument in good faith and are completely ignorant of the fact that thousands, perhaps millions, of straight, married couples also tolerate outside sexual contact. Many of them relish it, attending local swinger’s clubs much like the one John Bolton enjoyed attending. In fact, there’s an annual convention in Las Vegas every year called SwingFest.

On top of the organized swinging community, you have many more times as many married couples who have open marriages where the couples just seek outside contact on their own, and not together. All told, the number of straight married couples in this country who embrace non-monogamy far outstrips the number of gay couples who do, if only because there’s like 20 times as many straight people as gay people. Straight people are quieter about it, sure, but that’s because no one is trying to take away our rights.

Now that you’ve been educated about the fallacy in your argument, I expect that you will immediately issue a retraction of your argument, and support the right of same sex couples to marry. Otherwise, I will be forced to assume that you are actually a bigot who makes arguments in bad faith, because she can’t just own up to her bigotry.

Of course, I don’t actually expect her to embrace a bit of intellectual honesty, because she makes this asinine argument later in the piece:

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to after four-plus years of active participation in the same-sex-marriage debate: Gay marriage is not primarily about marriage. It’s also not about Adam and Steve and their personal practical legal needs. It is about inserting into the law the principle that “gay is the new black” — that sexual orientation should be treated exactly the same way we treat race in law and culture.

Gay-marriage advocates say it all the time: People who think marriage is the union of husband and wife are like bigots who opposed interracial marriage. Believe them. They say it because they mean it.

No, they say it because it’s true. And how come fighting for equality is a mutually exclusive goal from securing your own home? What are rights for if not to use them? The idea that GLBT activists are fighting for marriage rights not because they want the benefits of marriage, but as a stand against inequality is like arguing that women wanted the vote not because we wanted to influence elections, but for its symbolic value. Both/and. I think most people are primarily invested in the romantic, family, and financial benefits of marriage, but making a sourpuss bigot who feeds off resenting other people’s happiness like Gallagher frown is an added cherry on top, no doubt.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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