One of the arguments against same sex marriage is that it will fundamentally weaken the institution by opening it up to groups who do not take the vows as seriously as they should, thus cheapening the whole enterprise and leading more people to forgo it entirely. Stanley Kurtz is probably the most widely known advocate of this view. Of specific interest to this post is the following excerpt:
Many thoughtful gay activists see same-sex marriage as a chance to redefine marriage itself — stripping marriage of what they see as its outdated and constricting connection to monogamy. And of course, even more powerfully than openly non-monogamous gay marriages, legalized group marriage would destroy the taboo against adultery.
I do not feel confident commenting on the validity of the argument summarized above. Untangling definitional issues surrounding the conception of marriage from a host of other social trends that potentially influence the health of marriage as an ‘institution’ exceeds my modest capacities.
However, the distrust those who advocate a traditional definition of marriage feel toward those who support same sex marriage is understandable. The GSS queried 4,146 people on their support for same sex marriage and level of moral acceptance of extramarital sex. Since marriage vows don’t allow much room for that, the belief that extramarital sex is anything other than always wrong can reasonably be seen as an ‘attack’ on the institution itself.
The percentage of people who feel extramarital sex is always wrong, by level of support for same sex marriage:
|Homosexuals should marry||Xmarital sex always wrong|
Whether or not expanding the definition of marriage to include same sex couples will materially effect the institution’s success rate, those who support expanding its definition are less likely to see a problem with married people running around on one another.
In 2008, the GSS included a direct query on sexual orientation for the first time. At only 33, the sample size for gays and bisexuals who responded to the question on extramarital sex is small. But it does little to assuage the concerns of those who are worried about the weakening of marriage bonds. Only 47.4% (16 of 33) of gays and bisexuals deem extramarital sex as always wrong. In contrast, 84.8% (966 of 1,139) of heterosexuals see it that way.
GSS variables used: XMARSEX, SEXORNT(1-2)(3), MARHOMO