As I listened to reaction unfold after the California Supreme Court decision to uphold Proposition 8 and affirm the some 18,000 couples who married while same-gender marriage was legal, I heard a curious argument from one pastor. He kept insisting that “the social sciences” proved that marriage was good, but only for heterosexuals – that marriage would permanently damaged if gays and lesbians were allowed entrée into the esteemed institution.
On the surface, it sounded like a good argument. There were no religious overtones in the pastor’s reaction, no appeals to “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” But, while it sounded reasonable, the argument is just as spurious as the “Adam and Steve” canard.
A new study of gays and lesbians who have married in Massachusetts has been conducted by UCLA’s Williams Institute. The study shows that “the social sciences” are, indeed, firmly on the side of marriage – but that marriage strengthens not just heterosexual relationships, but same-sex relationships as well.
Marriage appears to have forged stronger ties between spouses and their families and even colleagues on the job. When asked whether marriage had created a stronger bond with their partners, nearly three-quarters said it had. And families, the gay couples said, reacted with overwhelming acceptance of their marriage: 82 percent said their parents responded positively, while 91 percent indicated siblings were receptive.
Eight of 10 study participants said that being married made them more likely to disclose their sexual orientation to their coworkers and doctors.
“That suggests there’s something powerful about that ritual, about that institution,” said (Lee Badgett, researcher director of the Williams Institute and senior author of the study). “People feel more accepted by society.”
The survey, in short, confirms everything that those opposed to same-gender marriage fear the most. They don’t, as they continue to assert, fear that including gays and lesbians in marriage will destroy the sacred institution. What they’re truly afraid of is that their “social science” argument that marriage must be limited to one man and one woman to keep the family strong will be disproved by studies just like this one. Instead of destroying marriage, these studies show that marriage is strengthening gay and lesbian relationships, legitimizing them, causing more gay and lesbian people to be open about their lives, and causing more and more family and friends to be accepting of gay and lesbian partnerships.
This is what anti-gay marriage forces fear the most – that marriage will normalize gay and lesbian lives. According to this survey – that’s exactly what it does. It is these types of studies that prove it will only be a matter of time before marriage equality becomes a reality in the United States. Anti-marriage equality forces understand that their “social science” argument is undermined by such studies because it shows that marriage is good – not just for heterosexuals, but for gays and lesbians as well. It improves not just the relationship between the couple, but their relationship with family, friends, and society at large.
The reason the pastor on NPR did not resort to a religious defense of heterosexual-only marriage in his interview is because he knows – as does the majority of the anti-marriage equality movement – it is a weak argument. You cannot argue that marriage is a religious institution while allowing atheists and agnostics to enter into marriage contracts on a daily basis. They can use religion to muddy the water, and they certainly have, but in the end, it cannot be a winning argument.
Switching tactics to secular “social science” arguments are their last resort. If an appeal to religion fails, then they’ll seek proof in the scientific world. But, this new survey, and the flurry of surveys that are certain to come in the future, will disprove even this appeal to authority. The “social sciences” are proving that marriage is good, no matter the sexual makeup of the couple involved, because it improves a couple’s standing in society and ensures their acceptance in the world. It’s what anti-marriage equality factions fear the most, and what gay and lesbian people have known all along.