I don't think the opposition to gay marriage can be explained simply as
being anti-gay. That is a big factor, of course, but it's far from
being the whole story.
I happen to be part of an opposite-sex partnership. Our life is pretty
much indistinguishable from any traditional married couple: house, kids,
and (shudder) minivan. But we aren't, in fact, married. My partner,
especially, and I, to a lesser degree, just aren't that comfortable with
the idea of being jammed into the traditional roles of "husband" and
"wife". The funny thing is, when gay marriage was making big strides,
we found ourselves suddenly a bit more interested in getting married
ourselves, and when the gay marriage movement got slapped back down
again, we once again dropped the idea. It's entirely possible that gay
marriage getting legalized would make us feel better enough about the
meaning of marriage in our society that we would finally get married (at
the current rate of progress, our grandchildren may attend).
So though my feelings about it are the opposite of those of the anti-gay
marriage folks, I do have to admit one point: the legalization of gay
marriage might alter the meaning of marriage for hetrosexual couples. I
think by broadening the definition of who may marry, we broaden the
definition of what a marriage is and what people's roles are within it.
For people like my partner to whom traditional marriage looks
suspiciously like a trap, loosening the definitions of marriage may make
it much more appealing. But there are people who define success in life
largely in terms of achieving and maintaining a good, traditional
marriage. Certainly it is not unreasonable for such people to feel
threatened or diminished by a societal redefinition of marriage?
Is this reason enough to deny the right of marriage to gays? No, of
course not. But it does mean that many people who are not particularly
anti-gay are going to have knee jerk reactions against gay marriage. I
think it is a very great mistake to assume all opponents of gay marriage
are solidly anti-gay.
At some point I'd like to revise the above article again to try to get
deeper into what exactly gay marriage means for straight marriage. I
don't think the answer is "nothing." I think broadening the definition
of marriage to allow gays to marry may broaden it's meaning for other
couples too. For people like my partner and I, that may be welcome,
making marriage a viable option when it wasn't before. What it takes
away from people who were already comfortable with the old definition of
marriage is less clear. It's not as if the new definition would no
longer include them. It would just include more things beside them,
making them less special, making "the straight and narrow" less narrow.
It takes away a few of the walls that have defined their lives. One
can't deny that walls are often good things to have around. But are
these walls so necessary to keep that it justifies excluding a whole
class of people from marriage?
I think a touch of anti-gay sentiment makes it easier to decide that
it's OK to exclude gays from marriage, but I don't think it is the root
of the desire to do so.