Thursday, May 14, 2009

As far as Storms go, we're already at the Eye

An article in today's edition of The Economist took a look at the spread of gay marriage and the potential sociological effects of it. The tone generally seems to be “so what?” and it suggests that this is increasingly the public’s response to the issue. I also saw an article about a Maine Bishop calling gay marriage a “dangerous sociological experiment”, a phrase that made me raise an eyebrow. Despite the so-called “Storm” that has been brewing, this issue is not new in a sociological sense.

First off, gay families have existed for quite some time already, this is nothing new. All current legislation does is formally recognize them, so in a strictly literal sense not much changes when marriage is legalized. Most of the benefits of being married do not take directly visible form, so a gay couple who is married will more or less continue to live the same way, so there will be very few visible effects on the community they live in.

Similarly, even though there are prohibitions in place to prevent gay couples from adopting in several states gay people have and will continue to give birth to and adopt children. Though it’s hard to measure the exact statistics of gay adoption, the fact is that gay people do have children one way or another and there’s little that can be done to prevent it. The whole “protecting children” argument also hits an iceberg, since it's been shown that the children of same sex couples have better mental health when their parents' union is recognized, as reported by the Vermont Psychological association.

The tired out argument that gay marriages threaten traditional marriage and the nuclear family hits its biggest pothole when you realize that those two concepts - traditional marriage and the nuclear family - are at this point in history already an endangered species. What always bugs me when this argument is made is that it undermines the experiences of people who have been raised in single parent households for generations. While it is true that children in single-parent families live disproportionately in poverty, society has adapted to cope with these situations, and now even the President of the United States is the product of such a family, so it can't be said that a single parent put a child at an automatic disadvantage.

Likewise, the argument that children need both a mother and a father hits a similar logical snare when you take single parents and other family situations into account. The first linked article makes an interesting point about how even in gay families there tends to be a "mom" role and a "dad" role, but this may be applying gender roles that don't entirely fit the situation. And if we look at the pure concept of "mom" and "dad" as social roles we can also see that these have been changing for quite some time, since there is no longer a strict divide between the two now that most households have two working parents rather than a single breadwinner.

In short, if they've been trying to prevent a storm they're far too late, if anything they're at the eye already.

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