The True Threat to the Sanctity of Marriage?

An article I read recently riffs on the notion that allowing homosexuals and bisexuals to marry would somehow negatively impact the sanctity of marriage by positing that us heterosexuals (or as commenter David would say, str8s) are doing a fine job of making marriage a joke.

[New York Senate Democrat Diane] Savino’s argument was shocking and fresh. After an affecting nod to gay constituents, she began her genuine work. She dared us to consider the condition of contemporary marriage.

The sanctity of marriage, she said, could not possibly be endangered by permitting its access to same-sex couples. If there is any threat to the sanctity of marriage, she said, ”it comes from those of us who have the privilege and the right, and we have abused it for decades”.

”What are we really protecting?” she asked before reminding us that, these days, husbands could be snared on television game shows.

The article goes on to describe how trashing the dress makes a mockery of marriage and that brides and grooms are focusing on everything from the wedding favors to the flavor of the cake instead of putting their energy into the marriage itself. While I, to some extent, can get behind the second point — namely that there are some brides and grooms who go ga-ga over the wedding without really thinking about what marriage means, I really doubt those people are in the majority. Some people take marriage lightly, but thus far, all those people have been heterosexual. It might turn out that homosexuals and bisexuals do a better job of preserving the sanctity of marriage, if only because they had to work so much harder for it.


And I simply cannot get behind the first point. The wedding isn’t the marriage; one can have the most frivolous of weddings and the most serious of marriages. Wearing one’s wedding dress into a pond to capture what have now become fairly ordinary photographs doesn’t mean one is any less committed to one’s spouse. At most, it could mean one is less committed to one’s wedding dress. Weddings are made of ceremonies and celebrations that commemorate a commitment. They aren’t the commitment itself!

But yeah, divorce. If trashing the dress doesn’t negatively impact the sanctity of marriage and letting gay folks marry won’t negatively impact the sanctity of marriage, maybe it’s divorce? Maybe divorce itself is the problem?

After all, one of the most simplistic arguments against gay marriage suggests that allowing it would lead to more divorce, though it’s never specified whether that’s because there’d be a larger body of married people seeking out divorces or because all us heterosexuals would be running out to get divorced because we’re super psyched that we can marry within our own gender pool now. “Gay marriage is legal now? Oh, snap! I’mma get me one of those! Bye, honey. I loved you once, but the pull of the gay is too strong to resist!”

In any case, a more important question might be: Does it matter? Frankly, I don’t care if allowing homosexual couples to marry would lead to a higher divorce rate. I don’t actually care much if my fellow heterosexuals do all the divorcing, either. The right to marry, after all, is bundled with the right to divorce. At will. For pretty much any reason. And as terrible a thing as divorce can be, it’s also the institution — if I might call it that — that allows abused women and men to escape their abusers… allows children to grow up in homes that aren’t clouded by anger… allows two individuals who might be perfectly good people but aren’t *good together* to have a second chance at happiness.

Should all people have the right to marry the consenting adults they choose to marry? Abso-freaking-lutely. Should all people have the right to divorce the whomever they choose to divorce? Again, yeppers. Do either of those rights make a mockery of marriage? I don’t think so. And for goodness sake, can we all agree that trashing the dress is not leading to divorce? Because that’s just plain silly.

6 Responses to “The True Threat to the Sanctity of Marriage?”

  1. Ashleyrah says:

    Hear hear! If anything Trash The Dress is going against the WIC idea that the perfect dress, perfect day = perfect marriage.

    Not that I’m going to trash the dress, but come on. Thinking that getting a few artsy pictures of a muddy dress are going to ruin a marriage is ridiculous.

  2. Kristin says:

    People will say the most bizarre things about marriage. I think it’s because marriage is an institution that most people grow up with a deeply-held, rarely-verbalized conception of–and in that case, it’s all too easy to assume that other people share our views, and the shock of discovering that they don’t can be quite upsetting.

    And when you bring in anything to do with homosexuality, there’s another thing with those formed-in-childhood, deeply-held, rarely-verbalized beliefs. So you wad up these two incredibly emotionally and politically fraught concepts and then you ask people to talk rationally about them. It’s hard. It’s possible, but it’s really hard. I’ve talked to people who honestly didn’t know that there were rights associated with legal marriage such as visiting one’s spouse in a hospital, and people who didn’t realize that legal marriage and religious marriage can be separate institutions. Are they now? Mostly not. But there’s no reason why a legal marriage, with strictly legal rights and obligations, in a non-theocratic country, has to involve religion.

    My sister once spent an afternoon telling me all about how the type of engagement ring you choose is linked to how likely it is you’ll divorce. People take that kind of thing, a handy-dandy Instant Personality Assessment With No Merit, and run with it, way too far. (I get particularly annoyed about that kind of post-hoc assessment because I’m in experimental psychology, where we want, you know, evidence.) If I want to play soccer in my wedding dress, I will. Heck, I wanted a full-fledged Star Trek/Star Wars theme wedding. Doesn’t mean I don’t take my relationship with my partner seriously; it just means I love Star Trek and I know he loves Star Wars. The people who “destroy the sanctity of marriage” are the ones who get married without thinking about the consequences. My sister and her husband got married on a whim, after dating for a relatively short period of time, and they fought like cats and dogs for years before things calmed down. Is their marriage a success? Maybe–but I bet it would have run more smoothly if they’d talked about it first. Like who wanted kids, and how much.

    There are no good, logical, non-religious arguments against gay marriage. People on both sides can still be both wrong and silly.

  3. Phyllis says:

    Well as you know, here in Massachusetts we have legal same sex marriage and it has had exactly zero negative impact since it was enacted. Really what is the big deal with it? Same-sex couples deserve the right to complain about their in-laws just like the rest of us.

  4. the type of engagement ring you choose is linked to how likely it is you’ll divorce

    I don’t like wearing rings. I wear my wedding ring only when my husband, who travels a lot for his job, is at home and then only when I am not doing housework or at the gym.

    I did want a decent trash can. We joked that the expensive Simply Human trash can that we finally got was my engagement trash can. What does that portend for the future of my marriage?

  5. @class factotum I think it means you’ll be married forever and ever.

  6. Elly says:

    Not really related to the trash-the-dress discussion, but watch the youtube clip of Savino’s argument in favour of marriage rights for G&L couples – one of the most passionate, convincing speeches I have seen yet.