In De-Lovely, the new film about songwriter Cole Porterâ€™s life, Porter tells his wife, Linda, about his homosexuality. Linda, who is the inspiration behind his genius, tells him that his music comes from his talent not from his behavior. But she does beg Porter to give up his scandalous behavior so as â€śnot to put us at jeopardy,â€? a promise Porter isnâ€™t prepared to make.
The prospect of a marriage where children, permanence, and fidelity are in doubt is supposed to make us pity Linda Porter, even if she was complicit in her own plight. After all, who would opt for such an arrangement? Well, according to one scholar, many Americans have. And understanding how and why this is the case is crucial to understanding the push for same-sex â€śmarriages.â€?
According to Bryce Christensen of Southern Utah University, homosexuals donâ€™t want marriage, at least not marriage as understood for most of the past two millennia. They want what â€śmarriage has becomeâ€? as a result of cultural changes and bad policy choices.
Historically speaking, marriage was an institution â€śdefined by religious doctrine, moral tradition, home-centered commitments to child rearing, and gender complementarity . . . â€? Today, it is a â€śhighly individualistic and egalitarian institution.â€? Marriage no longer â€ś[implies] commitment to home, to Church, to childbearing, to traditional gender duties, or even (permanently) to spouse,â€? so writes Christensen.
Traditionally, the â€śhusband-wife bondâ€? was defined by â€śmutual sacrifice and cooperative labor.â€? But that has been replaced by â€śdual-careerist vistas of self-fulfillment and consumer satisfaction.â€?
According to Christensen, no one should be surprised that homosexuals want â€śthe strange new thing marriage has become.â€? After all, â€ścontemporary marriage . . . certifies a certain legitimacy in the mainstream of American culture.â€? In addition, it â€śdelivers tax, insurance, life-style, and governmental benefits.â€?
And, best of all, from the homosexualâ€™s perspective, it does all of these things â€świthout imposing any of the obligations of traditional marriage.â€? If childbearing, sexual fidelity, and permanence are no longer central to our cultureâ€™s understanding of marriage, but the benefits are the same, why not agitate for marriage?
Christensen says that it would be a mockery to issue marriage license to couples who, by definition, â€ścan never have children,â€? â€świll not resist the temptations to extramarital affairs, and will not preserve their union for a lifetime.â€?
But, as he reminds us, this mockery of wedlock started â€śdecades ago.â€? It started when hundreds of thousands of heterosexual couples started â€śbuying basset hounds rather than bassinets; started indulging in extramarital affairs; and started fulfilling divorce attorneysâ€™ dreams of avarice.â€? The result was marriages that more closely resembled the one depicted in De-Lovely than the traditional model.
This doesnâ€™t mean that we shouldnâ€™t fight the attempt to extend the marriage franchise to same-sex couples. Itâ€™s still a mockery of a sacred institution. But it does mean that our efforts should be part of what Christensen calls a â€śbroader effort to restore moral and religious integrity to marriage as a heterosexual institution.â€?
Until that happens, marriage, regardless of who gets a marriage license, will remain an institution in jeopardy.
WE TAKE THESE RISKS NOT TO ESCAPE LIFE, BUT SO THAT LIFE DOES NOT ESCAPE US