The Great Unweaving


I’m sitting outside a downtown Starbucks with two George Washington University undergraduates, talking about sex, politics, and religion. Michele Walk and Conor Joseph Rogers fit my stereotype of contemporary American college students. They’re sincere, confident, and hyperaware of the ways in which they’re different from their parents.

Michele and Conor also represent a growing demographic: They consider themselves both pro-life and supporters of gay marriage.

Although polls are volatile on both issues, there are strong indications that young adults increasingly support gay marriage, and weaker indications that they are increasingly pro-life. A 2005 poll of high school seniors found that, while 60 percent believed Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, they were as likely to consider themselves “pro-life” as “pro-choice,” and 67 percent said that abortion was either “always” or “usually” wrong.

Meanwhile, a 2006 poll found 61.2 percent support for “legal marital status” for gay couples among college freshmen, and this percentage has been increasing since 1997. A February 2010 Washington Post-ABC News poll found, for the first time, that a majority of young adults “strongly” favored gay marriage. Discussions of gay marriage now include phrases like “cohort replacement” — a euphemism for “old people dying off.”

Liberal poll maven Nate Silver summarized the shift in 2009:

[T]here is some decent evidence that Gen Y’ers are less inclined to take the pro-choice position than Gen X’ers or Baby Boomers — although they are still more pro-choice than the voters they are gradually replacing in the voting pool…. This is in spite of the fact that young Americans are considerably more liberal than their peers on issues like gay marriage and marijuana legalization, issues on which there is more tangible evidence of “momentum” in favor of the liberal position. There are evidently an increasing number of pro-life, pro-gay marriage Americans, particularly among Generation Yers, a position it would have been very unusual to encounter just a few years ago.

The Sonogram Generation

Today’s young adults grew up with their baby brother’s sonogram pictures on the refrigerator door. Their sister’s post unborn-baby photos on Facebook. Meanwhile, doctors are learning how to save ever-tinier premature babies: 11 ounces, 9 ounces; 25 weeks, 21 weeks. Conor notes, with barely suppressed emotion, “There are some states now where abortion is legal at the stage when I was born.”

Moreover, even as genetic testing leads many parents to abort children diagnosed with potential birth defects — the vast majority of all children with prenatal diagnoses of Down Syndrome are aborted — other parents, and their children, draw a different lesson. Jake, a law student, told me, “I’ve had an older brother and my younger sister [who] died when they were infants due to a rare genetic defect. When my mom became pregnant with me the doctor yelled at her and made her cry, and said she should have an abortion. I ended up being born fine and my younger sister was okay; and unfortunately my youngest sister passed away. We have experienced the joy [of being with my youngest sister] for a short while.”

And finally, one consequence of the shocking American abortion rate — about one in five pregnancies end in abortion every year, for a total of about 1.2 million per year — is that many, many people know women who have aborted. And many of those women describe some level of grief, regret, and guilt. Even when post-abortive women say they made the right decision, or simply don’t address that question when describing their feelings, the people who love them hear their distress. The Feminists for Life slogan, “Women deserve better than abortion,” may strike tough-minded abortion-rights advocates as platitudinous. But for many young adults, including those who have had abortions, the slogan represents the wisdom of experience.

But does telling a pollster you’re pro-life really represent a belief strong enough to change behavior? Although the abortion rate has fallen from its 1990 peak, it’s leveled off above the million-a-year mark. And every abortion-clinic worker’s blog mentions how often self-described “pro-life” women come in for abortions — for themselves, for their daughters. Although the teen abortion rate has fallen, young adults remain one of the most abortion-vulnerable populations: A Guttmacher Institute survey found that 57 percent of all abortions in 2004 were performed on women in their 20s, and another survey found that about a third of all abortions are performed on women age 20-24.

If the abortion-rights movement can’t stop the effects of ultrasound technology, the pro-life movement is even more helpless against the broad economic changes that have made abortion one of the “structural sins” of contemporary America. An economy based on the two-earner family and, increasingly, on not merely postsecondary but postgraduate education is an economy hostile to women’s fertility. Add blithe romanticism about premarital sex (“as long as you’re ‘committed’!”), preference for self-image over practicality (“I’m not the kind of girl who goes on birth control”), and the usual American self-righteousness followed swiftly by self-justification, and the numbers should come as no surprise.

Finally, Roe v. Wade may make it easier for young adults to call themselves pro-life. As long as there’s no chance that abortions will be outlawed, and only popular restrictions like parental notification can be enacted, pro-lifers don’t need to confront the hard facts of forcing women to bear unwanted children. When abortion is legal, the horror stories are almost all on one side. That won’t be true if Roe is ever overturned. Today, pro-lifers can focus on “helping women make the choice for life,” and on a lot of other (necessary and wonderful) actions that make people feel fluffy about themselves. If South Dakota, say, ever outlaws abortion, jailing doctors and perhaps fining or even jailing pregnant women, I would expect the percentage of people who tell pollsters they’re pro-life to plummet. What Conor cleverly called “the sonogram generation” has never had to face the possibility of life after illegal abortion.

‘The First Civil Union I Ever Went To’

The rising generation’s shift on gay marriage is often presented as if its explanation is obvious: Young adults today grew up knowing gay people. A 2004 poll by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network found that 72 percent of high school students know someone who is gay or lesbian. Chris Pagliarella, a Yale undergraduate, told me, “The first civil union I ever went to was my grandmother’s two neighbors. They’ve always taken care of my grandmother. They’re both doctors. And that struck me as entirely my ideal commitment: both completely dedicated to each other and the community.”

But young adults embrace gay marriage not solely because of their beliefs about gay couples, but because of their beliefs about marriage. They typically view marriage as the capstone on their accomplishments, to be attempted only once they’ve crossed off all the other major items on life’s to-do list. A friend of mine, who got engaged right after graduating from college, said he’d had to make a mental shift: He wasn’t missing out on the twenty-something years of drifting and experimenting and “living a little,” but was instead getting an early start on his real life, married life.

The biggest change in our understanding of marriage might be called “the Great Unweaving.” A whole host of concepts that used to converge in marriage have now been unlinked: sex, commitment, cohabitation, procreation, and child-rearing now appear mix-and-match rather than bundled. In the 2000-2005 school terms, researchers replicated a 1940 study of students’ attitudes toward premarital sex and deliberate childlessness. The contemporary students were more accepting of premarital sex, and vastly more accepting of voluntary childlessness, than their World War II-era predecessors. Young adults are familiar with commitment outside of marriage, and when they discuss marriage they talk almost exclusively in terms of a couple, childless and isolated from the extended family.

The notion of marriage as a haven for procreation, a promise to tie the child to her biological father and to keep him from dividing his energies between many families, rarely occurs to them when they discuss marriage. The exceptions, which have always been with us — some women raise their children alone, some couples adopt or remain childless — are now viewed as undermining the rule, making it impossible for young adults to view the biological family as a norm or ideal.

There is one typical exception to young adults’ Chinese-menu approach to relationships: sexual exclusivity. Both gay and straight college students seem to view “open relationships” as suspect. These are typically the only kind of relationships young adults will even tentatively pass judgment on. Although they hedge with reflexively tolerant clauses like “I don’t think it’s my business,” their typical attitude is strongly negative. (That updating-the-1940s study similarly found that today’s students were more negative toward extramarital sex than their predecessors.)

I’m not certain how long this vestigial traditionalism will last. Polygamy gets terrible press, but rebrand it as polyamory — egalitarian, excruciatingly ethical — and the media changes tune. The weblog Poly in the Media argues that polyamorists are “winning the race to define ourselves,” citing a score of positive mainstream media stories. Moreover, while the gay students I’ve spoken with were as adamant about sexual exclusivity as their heterosexual cohorts, a January New York Times story suggests that age and experience may complicate their purity: “A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many.” If knowing happy and productive gay couples led young adults to support gay marriage, will knowing people in happy and productive “open relationships” lead them to unweave yet another thread?

Meanwhile, the legal and sacramental aspects of marriage, which were once mutually reinforcing, are now viewed as conflicting. Michele summarizes a common view: “Any marriage that the government gets involved in should be called a civil union, because marriage is a religious term, a religious sacrament. It never should have been co-opted by the government. The government calling something marriage is like the government standing on the corner handing out saltines and saying that’s communion!” This is why most young adults I speak with think it would be fine — maybe even best — if government stopped recognizing marriage entirely. They often view this solution as “impractical,” but rational and fair.

American marriages are under tremendous pressure, since they are almost the only form of relationship we honor and on which we depend. All the other roles that once had public status and popular honor have become mere accessories: neighbors, friends, godparents, extended family. All of these are nice, if you happen to get a job near one of them, but especially in more affluent communities (interestingly, the ones much more likely to get married), these roles impose no special obligations. They are neither forms of love nor forms of duty. A 2004 study purported to find that one-quarter of Americans have no confidants at all; though later research suggests that this is an exaggeration, the trend is still toward increasing isolation and fewer close relationships.

This pressure on marriage makes gay marriage appear more necessary. If nothing but marriage is honored, then marriage seems like the only possible way to honor the social and personal goods provided by gay couples. I would prefer to see us honor a far wider variety of nonmarital loves and obligations, acknowledging that they are different from one another as well as from marriage. Civil unions address the legal needs of gay couples while, one hopes, preserving the concept of marriage as something distinct and tailored to heterosexual couples’ needs. A couple of states recognize “reciprocal beneficiaries,” in which two people not eligible for marriage can nonetheless share various legal benefits and obligations. Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis proposed something similar in 2009 in The Public Discourse.

But legal distinctions can be undermined by cultural shifts: Although the United Kingdom has “civil partnerships” rather than gay marriage, the cultural effect is that newspapers say gay couples are “wedding” and heterosexuals refer to their “partners” rather than their husbands or wives. And many forms of nonmarital kinship don’t need much legal accommodation; what they need is social honor and support. If we began treating our closest friend as kin, how would our lives change? If we treated our godchildren as ours, what would we need from others to support that kinship?

My sense, based on necessarily unrepresentative conversations with young adults, is that they are much more open to the possibility that marriage is a heterosexual institution when they are offered other ways of acknowledging, honoring, and supporting the good work done by gay couples. There will be limits to how much honor many religious Americans can give these relationships; but the answer cannot be “don’t give any legal support to gay couples raising children,” for example.

Equality or Sameness?

When I described this article to some undergraduates I interviewed, they wondered what the connection between abortion and gay marriage could be. And I wondered, myself, whether the old “social issues” mantle had been a seamless garment or a patchwork coalition.

But there is one major way in which opposition to abortion conflicts with support for gay marriage — one feature of a pro-life stance that reveals the major flaw in the gay-marriage argument.

If abortion is morally neutral, an unpleasant but basically acceptable form of backup birth control, then heterosexual relationships look vastly more like homosexual relationships than they do if abortion is wrong, horrific, or tragic. If abortion is outlawed; or if enough women become sufficiently pro-life that they choose life for their babies, even when the pregnancy feels like a cruel joke; or if enough men and women lose their naiveté and wishful thinking and begin to make sexual choices knowing that they may be creating a child… then the tragedies and the culture of heterosexuality will be starkly different from the tragedies and culture of homosexuality. If there’s one social evil a gay relationship will virtually never produce, it’s an abortion. And yet, for most heterosexual couples to avoid abortion, they must make a lot of difficult choices again and again.

Thinking this way should underline the ways in which homosexual relationships were always different from heterosexual ones. Because men and women are different — biologically different, and differently situated socially — men and women face different risks and rewards in a straight relationship. The norms and culture of marriage arose to meet the needs of heterosexual couples: to minimize the damage of unregulated intercourse and maximize the great social good of childrearing within the natural family. (To take one obvious example, try to find someone who holds up “abstinence until gay marriage” as an ideal. I did find one guy who said this, but he’s very much in the minority.) Can we sustain or, more pointedly, renew the marriage norms and culture which heterosexuals and their children desperately need, while pretending that heterosexual relationships face the same challenges as gay relationships and need the same rules?


Eve Tushnet was born in 1978 and grew up in Washington, D.C. She was received into the Catholic Church at Yale University in 1998. Her hobbies include sin, confession, and ecstasy. Her writing can be found on her blog and She writes a lot about being gay and Catholic. Her patron saint is Elizabeth of Hungary. She has worked full-time for the National Catholic Register and the Manhattan Institute (one year each), and part-time for the Institute on Marriage and Public Policy, the Bible Literacy Project, and the National Organization for Marriage. She has written for publications including Commonweal, the New York Post, the Washington Blade, and the Weekly Standard. Mostly she writes the art reviews for publications people don't read for the art reviews.

  • Mother of Two Sons

    Since it is all about choice in the end anyway…. certain choices end you in hell, and certain choices end you in Heaven?
    And before you get all twisted like I think gay people are all going to hell, I didn’t say that; I would say that their lifestyle choice is more like hell than they or their lobby wants to admit. Making it equal to marriage isn’t going to change that….. I am not convinced that there isn’t more abuse in their stories than choice… It is not a choice I would want my boys to make; btw, I have only boys.
    So why not just throw up our hands and say…. go ahead and do whatever you all want? Especially since we have tolerated it up to this point… even in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” toleration handbook.
    Well the reason we don’t just throw up our hands completely is because we don’t want our country to be full of hellions, or resemble Hell….. I thought we are walking toward, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven…. It seems that we have completely lost our compass….
    clearly spoken in this conversation about our young peoples view about gay marriage. Make no mistake about it; they have been marketed to, all of us have for years…. every television show has to have a homosexual in it now…. and the young people have been sitting in schools that have taught it as an acceptable lifestyle through the National Education Association… right under our noses.
    I am sick of being put in a position of elevating homosexuality because someone hurt them somehow; go take some Kung Fu lessons. It is a choice that goes against natural law and if you make that choice you have to live with the consequences…. just like everyone of us and the choices we make. Why would we want to elevate homosexuality; what does it add to our society? No one is stopping them from living together; single people live together every day; what is it exactly, that this very small minority wants, if not forcing us, the majority, who make up this God-fearing nation, to put a seal of approval on an unnatural lifestyle? I think not. I think it is time for someone to write the real story of how painful and disgusting their lifestyle choice really is…. I care about them too…. it is time to get out of denial.

  • BPessaro

    I’m sitting outside a downtown Starbucks with two George Washington University undergraduates, talking about sex, politics, and religion. Michele Walk and Conor Joseph Rogers fit my stereotype of contemporary American college students. They’re sincere, confident, and hyperaware of the ways in which they’re different from their parents.

    You’ve heard the old joke. When you were a teenager, you thought your parents were idiots. When you were in your 20’s, you realized they’re not as dumb as you thought they were. After you became a parent, you wonder how they ever became so wise.

    My point is no one is the same person that they used to be. Views change with age. I’m 38, and my views aren’t the same as they were when I was 28 or 18. So high school and college kids today support gay marriage. OK. Will they still believe that after they get married and have kids of their own? Maybe, maybe not. I think it’s more likely that every new generation of kids goes through a narcissist phase where history begins and ends with them, and then one day they realize that isn’t the case.

    Of course what I’m arguing is predicated on having enough older people around to pass on this wisdom about marriage. But if society reaches a tipping point and you don’t have anyone left at all that has a clue what marriage is supposed to be about, then what you’re left with is….Europe.

  • Mother of Two Sons

    and in my crunch for time I regretfully left off the most loving part of my heart… due to my concern for our nation’s decline…. that being, if we could teach and/or understand that we have millions of thoughts traveling through our minds, millions of impulses and impressions are made throughout our days, months and years. Is it possible that boys are being thrown into this questioning because they aren’t sports-minded and because girls aren’t attracted to them or because they are attracted to the maleness they so wish they had…. based on our cultures programming? Perhaps they are missing what wonderful husbands and fathers they would make with their particular set of personality traits. Is it possible that girls are also thrown down this same very limiting path they don’t feel like they fit into and they are attracted to that woman who embodies what they think would make them whole; when in fact, they could find their male counterpart successfully, just embracing the wonderfulness of who they are…. It just seems that the possibilities for happiness within the heterosexual design of God are endless, if we accept His boundaries and press into ourselves and discover our wonderfulness inside. Others do not complete us…. it is what we can do as complete human beings together…… and as you inferred, it is a process!

  • Brian

    Our culture’s attitudes toward both homosexuality and abortion are rooted, ultimately, in our culture’s wholesale adoption of contraception as a societal necessity. I’m a bit puzzled the author chose to avoid this topic.

  • Arturo V.

    I commend the author for having the appropriate balance and nuance needed to appropriately address these questions. If you want anywhere to go from here, you have to take a very hard look at what the situation actually looks like on the ground. Between abortion and the roles of homosexuals in civil discourse, there seems to be many intersections and divergences, and I think they were soberly covered in this article.

    As to the commenters’ hysterical rhetoric concerning the decline of civilization, I find such posturing extremely unhelpful. Unless we are prepared to lynch homosexuals or consign them to some sort of societal apartheid, we are going to have to deal with these issues with far more tolerant attitudes. In other words, they are not just going to disappear, nor should we want them to, because they have always been with us. If anything, they are reminders that our sexual past was far more complex and ambiguous than we care to admit. Our sexual ideals are just that: ideals. To the extent that it is possible to live up to them is a struggle we all must face in our daily lives. Calling other people “unnatural” and “disgusting” only makes such struggles all the more difficult.

  • Andrew Nelson

    Homosexuals keep looking for approval of their lifestyle. Why are they looking for this approval? Do they believe this will bring joy & peace? Even if all within our society approved the homosexual lifestyle, this would not bring true peace & joy into their lives. They would still be chasing this peace. Why, becuase the natural law is written in every human heart. And what is not natural, is trying to convince kids & adults, the homosexual lifestyle is natural. Let’s be honest, quit deceiving ourselves, and especially deceiving our children. Kids know, without being taught, a man with a man, or a woman with a woman, is not natural. It goes against the natural law within us.

  • Dan Deeny

    I agree with Brian that contraception is a big part of the problem. I’d like to read an article by Eve Tushnet on this topic.

  • MRA

    I find Miss Tushnet’s analysis very interesting. I’ve been struck by the nearly universal approval for gay marriage among the freshman I teach, who are mostly Catholic. I think she’s put her finger on the reason, the “unweaving” of marriage as they understand it.

    The last part is interesting too, where she connects the two issues. I have a question for her about that: why is it that so many abortion clinic escorts and counter-protesters (the super aggressive ones) are homosexuals? At least in DC, the phenomenon is very striking – I’ve seen whole gangs of flamboyantly queer men dancing in the faces of quietly praying protesters, chanting “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!” (Seriously!)

    Why should so many homosexuals be so committed to abortion rights? Is it because they want heterosexual relations to resemble their own more, as you point out that they can with abortion? Or that, having defined themselves in terms of sexual activities and choices, and making them the core of their identity, they must promote every aspect of the sexual revolution?

  • Jacqueline

    Go to (Institute for Marriage and Public Policy) and read this article, “(How) Will Gay Marriage Weaken Marriage as a Social Institution: A Reply to Andrew Koppelman University of St. Thomas Law Journal, Fall 2005, Volume 2 Number 1” which is one among many interesting ones by Maggie Gallagher. Maybe this will help people understand the consequences of accepting gay marriage/civil unions.

  • Sam Gagne

    This was a really interesting article, and I am going to need to digest it. This last part was kind of mind-blowing to me. I haven’t thought about these subjects together like this before.

    I also think this argument should be ampilified:

    But there is one major way in which opposition to abortion conflicts with support for gay marriage — one feature of a pro-life stance that reveals the major flaw in the gay-marriage argument.

    If abortion is morally neutral, an unpleasant but basically acceptable form of backup birth control, then heterosexual relationships look vastly more like homosexual relationships than they do if abortion is wrong, horrific, or tragic. If abortion is outlawed; or if enough women become sufficiently pro-life that they choose life for their babies, even when the pregnancy feels like a cruel joke; or if enough men and women lose their naivet

  • BPessaro

    I agree with Brian that contraception is a big part of the problem.

    Not to toot my own horn, but toot toot…kitt.html

  • Pilgrim

    Thanks for tooting your own horn, BPessaro. I enjoyed the article, especially after having read this one by Eve Tushnet. The quote that stood out to me most from yours was “If gay marriage and sex is wrong because no life can come from it, how can a Christian married couple justify rendering their own marital embrace as sterile as homosexual sodomy through the use of contraceptives?”

  • Amy

    RuthInstitute.Org – podcasts and articles- brilliant!

  • piotr

    If there’s one social evil a gay relationship will virtually never produce, it’s an abortion.

    Even IVF can lead to pregnancies, which may result in abortions.

  • Richard Winger

    This long thoughtful article could have also discussed the people who have sex change operations.

  • Kevin J Jones

    Unless we are prepared to lynch homosexuals or consign them to some sort of societal apartheid, we are going to have to deal with these issues with far more tolerant attitudes.

    I’m touched that you think “we” are in the driver’s seat. Catholic adoption agencies have been banned in Massachusetts and DC. The public defense of traditionalism in sexual matters will sink peoples’ careers in many areas, including in many circles of the “conservative” GOP. The new “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” taboos will target traditionalists for re-education. In the face of determined cultural suppression, is “tolerance” even possible?

    “Tolerance” has only resulted in further decline. I suspect in a few years we will have to reassure young people that they aren’t bigots for refusing to experiment bisexually.

    Error rots.

    Also missing in this discussion is the spiritual and physical ruin which sexual vice has caused. If tolerance means pretending self-destruction is OK, that looks a lot like hate to me.

    Almost everyone was better off when sexual mores were more restricted and people could more easily lose their jobs for moral turpitude. Was that an apartheid system?

  • kmk

    no-fault divorce also contributed to this unraveling as well, I think–and is also entwined with the acceptance of contraception

    Chastity for all of us–isn’t that what the Church teaches? The beauty of that teaching, if well and thoughtfully taught, hopefully win out in the end.

    Also, it is interesting that one’s fertility and sexual inclinations are so much a part of our public discourse—and I mean, if you have a few children with you, complete strangers at the grocery store as you if you’re done–or if you have one child, if you plan to have another–and then give you the details of their vasectomy, etc. I am frankly not interested what a person’s sexual inclination is, it is not necessary for me to know, unless the person is attempting to influence my children into believing that everything goes.

    Fascinating, that Roe v. Wade is premised on our “right to privacy,’ but our society is increasingly more –ahh, what’s the word-open–nah, that’s not it. (Sigh).
    Lord, have mercy on us.

  • kmk

    My mother is Catholic, believes in the teachings of the Church, etc–some of her siblings are in different places. She has a cousin who lived with another woman for years until (I think) the other woman passed away. A couple of her more liberal-minded siblings always confidently asserted that they were lesbians, though the women had never said anything of the sort to anyone. The women lived far away , so none of the siblings saw them that much. My mom just loved her cousin, and these women were a support to each other–my mom wasn’t interested in asserting that she could see into their bedroom. Again, why do we have to know? Why can’t we assume the best in these situations? How can people boast about knowing that someone is gay or lesbian, and assure you of their tolerance–who wants to know?

  • Terrance

    Concrete legal reasons for why gay marriage hurts marriage are listed at marriagenewsnow dot com.

    As for gay acceptance, it’s based on fantasies, propaganda, and outright lies. Does anyone ever hear the truth that active gay sexuality reduces average lifespan by up to two decades (due to disease)? Does anyone hear of all the AIDS-infected people who picked up the disease from gay men who knew they had HIV when they proceeded to engage in sexual activity? Does anyone read the statistics that most gays refuse monogamy? Does anyone ever visit gay pride “parades” only to see a bizarre and sex-obsessed crowd simulating public sex acts wearing speedos or less? When I was in San Fran I had the unpleasant moment of walking near a nude men’s volleyball match — right near the Golden Gate Bridge, right in mid day.

    People need to see real gays, not Will and Grace TV agit-prop gays.

  • Steve Cornell Cornell

    Sexual behavior must always be understood in the context of human choosing:

  • Jane

    Thank you for this thoughtful article, Ms. Tushnet!

    To elaborate on its reflection on the link between “life issues” and marriage: it seems that what pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage positions hold in common is that sex is essentially sterile/non-procreative. This seems clear in the “life issues” arena: if sex is seen as sterile, then a baby can genuinely be an “accident,” a “mistake,” etc, such that “taking care of” the mistake is within a woman’s rights.

    In the gay-marriage arena, sex is nothing but sterile. As Ms. Tushnet observes, within a homosexual relationship there are not the same “risks and rewards” as those in a male-female union. Sex between two men or two women simply lacks the capacity to welcome the gift of new life.

    So in response to well-meaning folks who are pro-life but also pro-gay marriage, I would suggest that the same view of sex operative in the gay-marriage proposal is precisely what underlies our culture’s inability to put together sex and children in such a way that children are not seen as inopportune intruders but the natural fruit of sexual love.

  • Marjorie Murphy Campbell

    I have wondered considerably about the support for gay marriage I’ve observed in the younger generation – a support that comes at the same time I’ve heard a lot hushed expressions of concern about sexual confusion. Some young people simply do not know what they “are” or how they “should be” oriented sexually and to which community to commit themselves. Boys are told that “all” males are at least a little bit homosexual and, and same-sex acts between girls are encouraged by a broad ranger of pressures. “Gay or heterosexual” seems less a bright line than a chaotic grey area in which a young person might actually get stuck. The notion that everyone needs to belly up and commit to a sexual orientation, I suspect, fuels some of the support for same-sex marriage. It pressures clarification in sexual orientation where young people find themselves sometimes painfully twisting: “Somebody told me
    You had a boyfriend … Who looks like a girlfriend … That I had in February of last year.”

  • Ray Ingles

    Civil unions address the legal needs of gay couples while, one hopes, preserving the concept of marriage as something distinct and tailored to heterosexual couples’ needs… There will be limits to how much honor many religious Americans can give these relationships; but the answer cannot be “don’t give any legal support to gay couples raising children,” for example.

    Well, the “Defense of Marriage” amendments in Michigan and Virginia specifically disallow civil unions. So, to the extent that it’s become an “all or nothing”. “gay marriage or bust” battle, ‘defenders of traditional marriage’ have to take some of the blame.

  • Ben

    Eve raises some very thoughtful issues. However, I would like more people to hear views outside of colleges, especially very liberal ones. I agree with the other reader, BPessaro, and his (or her) point about adults growing up too and changing their views.

    People can turn conservative. Kind of like the

  • Jordan

    Thank you Eve for pointing out that a pro-life conviction necessarily entails a different view of heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Your conclusion highlights the enduring chasm between many heterosexuals and many homosexuals. Those heterosexual couples who live their pro-life convictions (as opposed to merely verbally affirming pro-life values) often must live quite burdened lives especially if one of their children is disabled or otherwise challenged. The Cross, should one wish. Homosexual discourses often do not even countenance the suffering of childbearing and childrearing, let alone attempt empathy. I suspect that many heterosexuals rage at the homosexual indifference to their burdens/crosses. Still, endless religious bromides and cliches hinder rather than clarify the division before us.

    As Arturo V. has noted in this thread, homosexuality is an indelible facet of the human race. He also notes the alternatives to civil discussion — apartheid, violence, irrational hatred, cliched “argument”, religion as a cover for forthright discourse. Some have tried to maintain hatred through a coerced sublimation of homosexuals through behavioral “conversions”. The manifest failure of these programs have have not placated those who would prefer that homosexuality disappear from public discourse.

    Americans have not learned much fifty years after the Civil Rights movement. So many still despise African-Americans and “immigrants” and pale at the thought of voicing their racism at work while sharing it privately or behind the blinds of nativism. Paradoxically, true reconciliation between heterosexuals and homosexuals will appear when both sides voice their hatreds (that is, inadequacies) and agree to coexist without a Girardian de-evolution into emotional violence. Eve’s observations can only bear fruit after rage is vented through open but non-violent means.

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  • Keith

    Found your post via Andrew Sullivan. Thank you for an illuminating read. I think you raise the most important point midway in your essay about ‘civil’ marriage. Marriage granted by the (currently) nine states for gay couples and by all 50 states for straight couples are ‘civil’ marriages. Couples getting married by a religious institution also need to get a ‘civil’ marriage license before a church wedding can be solemnized. All that people in the marriage equality movement are seeking is the extension of that civil licensure by the state to our own unions. Transforming state civil ‘marriage’ licenses into civil ‘union’ licenses for any and all couples wouldn’t change the equality movement’s fight. It’s not the word we’re fighting for – it is rather a much deeper and important thing: to be treated equally under the law. If the term is ‘marriage’ then that is my fight. And it is a fight, by the way, very much traditionally American.