Saturday, January 30, 2010

New York Times: Same-sex marriage doesn't involve fidelity

The New York Times is reporting that same-sex marriage would redefine marriage for society, and not just with regard to who can marry whom. Many same-gender couples are tossing out the basic principles that American society sees as the whole point of marriage.

The story is here.
When Rio and Ray married in 2008, the Bay Area women omitted two words from their wedding vows: fidelity and monogamy.

“I take it as a gift that someone will be that open and honest and sharing with me,” said Rio, using the word “open” to describe their marriage.

Love brought the middle-age couple together — they wed during California’s brief legal window for same-sex marriage. But they knew from the beginning that their bond would be forged on their own terms, including what they call “play” with other women.

As the trial phase of the constitutional battle to overturn the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage concludes in federal court, gay nuptials are portrayed by opponents as an effort to rewrite the traditional rules of matrimony. Quietly, outside of the news media and courtroom spotlight, many gay couples are doing just that, according to groundbreaking new research.

A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.

New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.

That consent is key. “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,” said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, “but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.”

In short, same-sex marriage doesn't fit the definition of traditional marriage, in which devoted monogamy is supposed to be key. While many heterosexual marriages don't live up to that standard, that doesn't mean we're ready to redefine the institution, even if the New York Times thinks that open marriage is an evolution of the institution that may be important to its survival. That's not their decision to make. Of 31 states that have voted on same-sex marriage, 31 have voted against it (source here as part of a related story). It should be clear that Americans aren't interested in giving up on monogamy as a standard in marriage.

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