Why Gay Marriage Is Not a Threat

Copyright 2004 by Neil Chethik www.NeilChethik.com

In a nation wracked by child abuse, domestic violence, and other family tragedies, it's hard to believe that politicians would spend their energy condemning people for loving each other. But that's exactly the effect of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which would prevent the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex marriages, even if those marriages became legal in individual states.

The act's congressional sponsors describe it as "protection" for the American family. However, as a married man, I am unable to discern the threat. On the contrary, I've come to believe, legalizing gay unions would actually strengthen the institution of marriage.

I did not always hold this conviction.

As a teenager, I was bombarded with the same messages about homosexuals as most Americans. And I absorbed those messages: Gays were strange, perverted, lacking in morals. Besides, in my obsession with my own burgeoning heterosexuality, it seemed unfathomable that any male would not be sexually interested in females.

In the ensuing years, my opinions began to shift as I learned about the origins of sexual orientation. But I didn't change much until about age 25. That's when I met Bob and Scott.

Bob was a co-worker of Kelly, my then-girlfriend whom I would later marry. One day, Bob asked Kelly is we'd like to join them for dinner. Kelly accepted readily, but my discomfort was palpable. Suffice it to say that on the car ride there, I asked Kelly what I should do if either of these men tried to hug me.

My uneasiness lasted throughout that evening. And even today, more than two decades later, it still creeps up on me at times. But as I got to know Bob and Scott, and then other gay people since then, I reached this conclusion about homosexual relationships:

They are not much different than heterosexual ones.

At their essence is the same kind of spark that exists between straight couples. They go through the same kinds of excitements and disappointments. And, like their straight counterparts, gay relationships are far more about respect, trust and commitment than they are about sex.

The most significant difference between gay and straight relationships, I discovered, was the atmosphere in which they exist. The love between straight people is celebrated and affirmed; gay love is attacked and condemned.

Legalizing homosexual marriage would diminish these attacks. It would take the wind from the sails of the true sexual bigots, encouraging an evolution in attitude similar to the one we've experienced with interracial and inter-religious unions. Gay people, at least to some extent, would be freed from their embattled status.

But the benefits of gay marriage, I believe, would extend beyond the gay community.

The rest of us would benefit because legitimizing gay marriage would bolster the institution of marriage. How? By reminding all of us that at its core, marriage is not so much about gender, or sex, or politics, but about caring, maturing, committed love.


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Neil Chethik is a writer and speaker. He is author of FatherLoss: How sons deal with the deaths of their dads (Hyperion) and VoiceMale: What Husbands Really Think of Their Wives (Simon & Schuster). Reach him at neil@neilchethik.com or at www.NeilChethik.com .

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Copyright 2009 Neil Chethik