Monday, June 23, 2014

Straight Couples Are Killing Marriage

Ten years after Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to allow same-sex marriage, and with marriage equality now the law in 19 states, hate, mistrust and bigotry are still as alive and well now as they were a decade, generation and century ago. I used to think I would not see marriage equality in my lifetime. Now that it is here, I wonder if it is acceptance I might not see. Given the nation's record on continuing racial hatred, I'm not sure I should be optimistic.

As I read the stories of states continuing their fights to protect bigotry and justify intolerance and hatred, I search for some logic or reasoning. It eludes me. But here is one thing I do believe. If there is a threat to marriage, it is not same-sex matrimony. The real threat to the future of marriage would be heterosexual couples who have never had to fight for the right to get married.

I did a quick Google search and found that the rate of divorce among same sex couples is about 1% per year. That's half of the 2% rate for straight couples. That means, about 1% of all same-sex marriages and 2% of all straight marriages will end each year. And overall, we already know that about half of all straight marriages will eventually end in divorce.

Same-sex marriage is still too new for researchers to have a real handle on why gay couples are divorcing less than straight couples. But I have my own unscientific theory.

Gay couples have had to wait so long, work so hard and endure so much trauma to be able to get married, that they take it more seriously, appreciate it more, and are more sure of what they are doing by the time they get to do it.

Straight couples have had centuries of taking marriage for granted. What the hell. Go to the courthouse or Vegas, sober or drunk, maybe on a whim, and get married. If it works, great. If it doesn't, end it as quickly as possible and move on. Straight couples treat marriage like a Walgreen's ball point pen. It's cheap, easy, and if it breaks just throw it out and get a new one. No thought needed. Or respect.

Gay couples, on the other hand, have had to fight for generations for basic equal rights, acceptance and then the right to marry. Gays understand the importance of marriage, respect the commitment and understand the love it takes to make the fight worthwhile and necessary.

I wonder how many straight couples in America would take on the same struggle for the right to get married. I think it is worth asking each man and woman who are planning a wedding if their commitment to each other is strong enough to endure what gay couples endure, just for the simple right to be married.

I'm not sure that's a question most straight couples would know how to answer. Or would want to answer.

While there is no research to support my theory, there are new, very real statistics that show the majority of American women are now having at least one child before they get married. And a growing number of mothers never get married. So, while gay men and women are fighting every day for the right to marry, straight people don't seem to really care.

Conservative politicians, preachers and talk-show hosts spew hate-riddled rhetoric deriding same-sex marriage for no reason, other than bigotry and hatred. It has nothing to do with them, yet they can't seem to think about anything else. Church leaders spew venom from the pulpit in their fight against same-sex marriage, but ignore the decay of marriages in their own congregations.

Who is re-defining marriage? It is straight couples who have turned it into an opportunity to justify lavish spending, outrageous gift demands and drunken debacles that may or may not last a year or two. It is straight couples who have decided that marriage is just what they do because their families expect it. It is straight couples who don't really care whether they'll still be married in 10 or 20 years. 

So, back to the 1% and 2%. Will same-sex couples be better at making their marriages work? Will they succeed where straight couples failed? I would like to think so. I would like to believe that gays appreciate and understand the struggle, and respect the rights we are slowly winning. And will same-sex marriages eventually be the law in every state? Again, I hope so. But even when that happens, the fight for equality will continue. Small minded people will always find ways to hate people who look, think or love differently than they do. 

In the end, the fight will continue to make gay men and women stronger, because our fight is for survival and acceptance. I also believe the real concept of marriage and its survival lies with the same-sex couples who love each other enough to fight against all odds for the right to marry. They understand the love and hard work that it takes to make marriage succeed. But marriage as a tradition will not survive if "traditional" is the only kind allowed.