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Straight marriage
Straight marriage
by Jennifer Vanasco - SGN Contributing Writer

"What I honestly don't understand is why some conservatives think that Gay people marrying will hurt straight marriages," I said at a debate held at a law school last week.

"I've tried to understand this, and I honestly don't get it."

My opponent, in response, said something about how families need fathers to be legally bound to their children and the mothers of their children in order to have stability. She talked about "tradition." She talked about how personal this battle was for her.

And I listened.

I kept turning what she said over and over in my mind. What is it that conservatives are actually saying when they say we will harm heterosexual marriage?

Many straight couples I know are also baffled. My brother rolled his eyes when he first heard this, and said, "I don't know how you getting married will hurt my marriage. My marriage is my business. Also, I want you to be happy. And I love being married."

Even before Gay people started being able to legally marry in Massachusetts, divorce rates for straight people were brutal: about one in two marriages end. Straight people are hurting marriage through no-fault divorce, maybe, or by quickie marriages in Vegas, but certainly not due to anything Gays have or haven't done.

But conservatives hew hard to the point: Gays marrying will harm straight marriages.

I believe that they believe this. I just didn't understand why.

My opponent said something like this: We keep hearing that Gay marriage will be its own thing, that there will be straight marriage and there will be Gay marriage and they will follow their own paths. If this was true, I might be OK with it.

When someone asked her what it would take for her to believe that Gay marriage was not harming straight marriage, she responded: at least two generations, where Gay marriage didn't become straight marriage, where they stayed separate things.

I listened. And I thought.

And at some point - maybe after my opponent said that she is OK with separate-but-equal, maybe after she privately shared some of her heartbreaking personal story - it clicked. I got it.

These conservatives think that Gay marriage will hurt straight marriage because the idea of two men or two women getting married is SO distasteful to them that they think that people won't want to be a part of something that Gay people are part of.

Oh. So there it is - not just homophobia, but a belief that homophobia is so rampant and pervasive in our culture that straight young men will not marry straight young women because they will be afraid that marriage is "so Gay."

It's a masculine identity problem. We've all heard variations of this: "real" men don't dance ballet, don't cut hair, don't wear pink, don't cry.

And some conservatives worry that "real men don't get married" might get added to that list.

I haven't heard a conservative actually say this. It's speculation. But it seems to me that this is what is secretly behind the claim that two men exchanging rings and kisses will hurt straight marriage. It's not that it will hurt marriages that already exist - it's that they are afraid that Gay people marrying will keep straight men from marrying, and it's already hard enough to convince young men to put on a "ball and chain" instead of cohabitating.

But this, then, is not an argument against Gay marriage - it is an argument about opening the minds of young straight men. And honestly, I believe they are already opened. Younger generations are much more supportive of Gay marriage than those over 40.

Young straight men will get married if young Gay men do - and I'll make one more prediction. I'll say that those young straight men, like my brother, will take their wives and dance happily at Gay weddings.

Jennifer Vanasco is an award-winning, syndicated columnist. E-mail her at Jennifer.vanasco@gmail.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/JenniferVanasco.

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