Friday, March 25, 2011

How Gay Marriage Will Save Straight Marriage!

Straight marriage, the marriage between a man and a woman, is in serious trouble. Traditionally, the married relationship between males and females found its support and stability in social roles, customs and laws which made relatively secondary the type of direct personal relationship between the parties involved. But all these social supports are rapidly fading away. Clearly, genuine personal love between husband and wife as equals will be necessary to sustain the heterosexual family. In many American communities more than half of all straight marriages end in divorce. Once the children are born, sex frequently drops out of the married relationship. The inequality of the partners frequently leads to anger. And anger is the greatest anti-aphrodisiac going. The traditional model for straight marriage is the patriarchal model based on male superiority and female inferiority. Since women's liberation, there has been a seismic shift in the understanding of the relation of the sexes. Human love in its fullness can exist only between couples who see themselves total and equal to each other. Healthy human love should be love out of fullness and not out of need.

Another major problem with heterosexual marriage is that it is based on gender-identity images. But gender-identity images frequently play a dehumanizing and a depersonalizing role in our culture. If we assume that these heterosexual gender identity images constitute the total mature content of the human personality, serious consequences follow. They result in seeing the human individual, whether male or female, as essentially partial and incomplete. No human person is seen as complete in him or her-self, but as essentially dependent on the opposite sex for her or his completion. The male is required to suppress all the feminine in himself and seek the feminine outside himself in a woman. Women, in turn, must suppress all the masculine in themselves and seek the masculine outside themselves in the male.

Women today, who are more in touch with both their masculine and feminine dimension, and see themselves as whole persons, are increasingly unwilling to play the role of being the mediators of feminine emotional and compassionate needs of men. They want a man who is a total human person in himself. They are demanding, and rightly so, that men get deeply in touch with their own feminine dimension. Many men, in turn, who are becoming in touch with both the masculine and feminine dimensions of themselves, are refusing to continue to play the role of being the mediators of the masculine needs of women for assertiveness and autonomy.

It is this shift in consciousness that has caused the enormous amount of breakdown and divorce when heterosexuals try to follow the traditional patterns of male dominance and feminine submission. Both genders are being called on to develop the fullness of their own humanity, so that they can approach each other as complete, independent persons and not remain essentially dependent on the other gender for their completion.

The new model for a healthy married relationship will come from the emergence of a visible group that can live out fully both its masculine and feminine dimensions without the need to repress either. We need a group that will model the ideal goal of humanity's present evolution; people who can keep their masculine and feminine dimension in good equilibrium and bring forth a balanced synthesis of the two. That, I believe, is the providential role of the gay and lesbian groups that through divine providence have come into being over the past thirty-five years. Every dialectical movement toward a higher synthesis, if it is to succeed, must carry the seed of resolution within itself.

John Boswell, a Church historian, in his book, Same Sex Marriages, discovered that the Church did not celebrate marriage as a sacrament until 1215. Until then the Church viewed marriage as a civil contract. One bought a wife and the wife was the buyer's property. There cannot be a sacrament unless a relation of love is involved. It was not until the twelve hundreds and the Romantic Movement that marriage began to be seen as based on a love relation.

However, gay marriage rituals were universally found in Church documents as early as the fourth century. Boswell argues that these rituals were true marriage ceremonies. Such ritual celebrations of marriage were possible because gay couples saw each other as equal and based their relationship on interpersonal love. Nine centuries before heterosexual marriages were recognized as a sacrament, the Church liturgically celebrated same-sex covenants. Gays are being called on once again to model out the true basis for married love.

As I write these pages, legal gay and lesbian marriages are becoming legalin several states and in many countries around the world.. We must ask why gay and lesbian marriage, which was unthinkable just a few years ago, should suddenly become a reality at this time. Once again, I believe that this is providential. Most gay people are in touch with both the masculine and feminine dimensions of themselves. Gays have an important gift to make to the human community in modeling out a new and different style of interpersonal relations based on equality and the total human person of each partner. There is a desperate need for this understanding of marriage on the part of all --- gay and straight alike. This understanding of marriage is opening up a vast new reservoir of human love .

John J. McNeill

(954) 963-6559


  1. As rich and as meticulously presented as Boswell's evidence is, his commitment to argue that the rites he discusses are same-sex equivalents to marriage ceremonies sidelines an equally fascinating and exciting possibility: to wit, that they are homosocial rites that don't necessarily imply erotic relationship--but that they were often understood to imply erotic relationship, both by the principals and their communities. The scenario that queer people used existing forms to fly under the radar of institutional oppression is as empowering, and as richly suggestive for our own culture, as the idea that these rituals were fully accepted marriage ceremonies.