(The following was originally posted on my blog, Tavdy’s Ramblings, on April 25th 2008 – and so it’s now a little out of date. However given the current situation with the Catholics, LDS hierarchy and Evangelicals, it’s still very relevant. Adn while many of the major points made have no doubt been made before; I nonetheless think it’s worth sharing as it highlights another area of double-standards for the Religious Reich.)

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Two days ago Dan Savage highlighted something which, had the current child-abuse scandal surrounding the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) group in Texas not begun, I might never have noticed: the general lack of significant public opposition to polygamy by the “one man one woman” crowd – the same people who are so vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage. Many of those opposed to same-sex marriage say that they oppose all sin equally, yet this is clearly not the case here despite both forms of marriage – same-sex and polygamous – being something other than their strictly-defined concept of marriage. So why the unequal treatment?

Dan suggests the opposition is not due to “what they’re for (one man and one woman) but what they’re against (gay sex, love, desire, etc.)” however I think that simply scratches the surface of the issue. If a person genuinely opposed all sins, as I believe some do, why make such a major distinction between same-sex and polygamous marriage that one is fought against tooth and nail while the other is simply ignored?Some might say that it is due to tolerance of theologically similar religious groups, and a mutual opposition to heathens and atheists. Yet many Christian groups are at the forefront of the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage and on most key points, such as the Trinity, the theology of these groups is far closer than that of FLDS to the theology of Christian same-sex marriage opponents.

It seems to me that the answer lies in other similarities between the FLDS group and many of those Christians opposed to gender-blind marriage, and the symbolism of same-sex marriage as a part of a wider social trend they would both consider a threat.

The form of polygamy practised by the FLDS – one man, multiple wives – is inherently sexist. The husband is considered to be superior to and master of his wives, who are expected to submit to his authority. The most vehement opposition to gender-blind marriage comes from Christian groups where this is also the case. This inequality between the genders isn’t restricted to marriage either – it is central to their entire social system. This is why there is such a huge difference in the numbers of men and women in full-time jobs. By actively supporting gender inequality, polygamists can be seen as slightly distasteful allies at a time when gender inequality is becoming less socially acceptable in the West.

By contrast in a same-sex couple either both partners are equal, or one takes on the role and responsibilities that conservatives arbitrarily assign to the opposite gender. For a same-sex couple to get married does not simply go against the “one man-one woman” religious ideal, it actually opposes gender inequality by ignoring the pre-defined gender roles inherent in such a system. It is for this same reason that unmarried monogamous same-sex couples find their relationships belittled, derided and invalidated as debased, unnatural, and based on lust rather than genuine love. By refusing to recognise that same-sex relationships can be and frequently are based on love, those who advocate gender disparity attempt to remove it from the discussion since it is specifically same-sex love that poses a threat to their concept of how social roles should be divided, by raising the possibility of spouses – and therefore genders – being equal.

In other words, the fight over same-sex marriage is as much about gender equality as gay and religious equality.

Refusing to recognise that same-sex relationships can be (and often are) based on genuine love raises doubts about the claims of those who oppose same-sex marriage. After all, if such marriages were based on lust rather than love they wouldn’t last, yet they are just as stable as straight marriages, as can be shown by the divorce and dissolution statistics for countries which have legalised gay marriage or civil unions. In fact, divorce rates – both straight and gay – are lower in places where same-sex marriage or civil unions are legal, and divorce rates fall – not rise – after legalisation, so legalising same-sex marriage seems to cause straight divorce rates to drop. Yet this fly in their ointment typically gets ignored, or even outright denied – after all, that would mean having to admit that they just might be wrong. Humble pie might be good for you, but it doesn’t taste very nice.

tavdy79

tavdy79