Something I have noticed on the Gay Marriage debates is what causes people to change their minds, and it is generally social proof. More, what I am seeing has caused me to think that arguing over gay marriage may be the wrong argument to be having.
As for changing opinions:
- Those most likely to change from opposed to gay marriage to in favor of gay marriage know gays in long term, monogamous, committed relationships.
- Those most likely to change from in favor of gay marriage to opposed to gay marriage meet gays seeking benefits who are either not in exclusive relationships or who are hostile to a religious or heterosexual group they belong in.
From studying conflict resolution, I find myself often just as interested in how the process of conversion works as any other part of a conflict. Especially because in these cases the conversions tell us something about what is really being debated, and it seems to be nothing about whether gays get married and everything about what people think marriage is.
Which is I started reflecting on what marriage was and what it has become.
At one time, sterility was a basis for annulment. marriage was a child rearing procreative driven economic partnership. In some cultures love was considered inappropriate, in others, impossible vis a vis marriage. Marriage was something far different. Read the early Greek philosophers on why it is impossible for men to really love their wives like they do their buddies and you get a perspective completely alien to modern marriage and modern life, but very close to the way people felt in some parts of the world for thousands of years.
Read some of the old polygamist diaries and writings, lots of respect or devotion or dedication, but often not much talk of love. (Compare those to Joseph Smith’s letters to Emma, where it was all about love).
But what is marriage now? We don’t consider childless couples unfit for marriage, we don’t allow annulment for sterility. We expect men to love their wives more than their golfing buddies. The term leman (partner for love rather than partner for practical reasons) has faded from our lexicon. As far as I can tell, there are two competing models.
- There is the “forsaking all others” model, marriage as a celebration of pair bonding. Monogamous marriage.
- There is the “marriage is a pathway to entitlements” model, marriage as a title that conveys a benefit. Often seen in “open” or social marriages (such as green card marriages where the parties have no contact and nothing in common).
I’m not going to argue what marriage should be, only state that I think that, perhaps, gay marriage may be the wrong frame for the debate as to what marriage is and should be. However, I think we need to think more about the right answers to the question.