NY State Senator Diane Savino Takes on the “Sanctity of Marriage” Argument

The same-sex marriage debate has been around so long that the rhetoric on both sides has started to become stale. The right trots out the end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it scenarios and the slippery-slope-toward-polygamy-or-OMG!-bestiality scenarios, while we—the ones who want to look lovingly into our partners’ eyes and say, “I’m so glad I married you!” instead of “I’m so glad I entered into a domestic partnership arrangement with you!”—sometimes sound legalistic, conventional, and boring with our appeals to fairness and common sense.

There seem to be two broad categories of arguments against same-sex marriage—those that conceal their religious basis and those that put it right up front and center. Though the authority of scripture and religious teaching has been weakened in our secularized society, it still has broad appeal, and so we hear—or perhaps “overhear”—the argument that same-sex marriage is a threat to the “sanctity” of marriage. Conservative Christians seem to know what is meant by this claim, and few dare to question it because it is planted squarely in the realm of the sacred, which is of course bristling with taboos. Same-sex marriage advocates may just back off rather than follow the debate into the minefield of religion.

But we don’t need to venture onto that minefield to pursue the argument. Diane Savino, NY State Senator, has shown us how. In a recent (12/2/09) speech on the floor of the NY State Senate, Senator Savino reminds us of how badly the institution of marriage has been abused over the past several decades—and by the opposite-sex crowd! Here is what she had to say:

I know many people are concerned about the destruction of the sanctity of marriage, as well, and they view this as a threat. But let me ask you something, ladies and gentlemen, what are we really protecting when you look at the divorce rate in our society? Turn on the television. We have a wedding channel on cable TV devoted to the behavior of people on their way to the altar. They spend billions of dollars, behave in the most appalling way, all in an effort to be princess for a day. You don’t have cable television? Put on network TV. We’re giving away husbands on a game show. You can watch “The Bachelor,” where 30 desperate women will compete to marry a 40-year-old man who has never been able to maintain a decent relationship in his life. We have “The Bachelorette,” in reverse. And my favorite show, which thank God only ran one season because it was truly distasteful, was “The Littlest Groom,” where 30 desperate women competed to marry a dwarf. That’s what we’ve done to marriage in America, where young women are socialized from the time they’re five years old to think of being nothing but a bride. They plan every day what they’ll wear, how they’ll look, the invitations, the whole bit. They don’t spend five minutes thinking about what it means to be a wife. People stand up there before God and man [and] they swear to love, honor, and obey; they don’t mean a word of it. So if there’s anything wrong, any threat to the sanctity of marriage in America, it comes from those of us who have the privilege and the right, and we have abused it for decades.

So to those who view same-sex marriage as a threat to the “sanctity” of marriage, we say, “Look to your own record. What have heterosexuals done to the institution of marriage?” If gay and lesbian married couples had such a sorry record as straight ones, it would be cited as proof that they shouldn’t be allowed to marry. Why, then, don’t we question the legitimacy of straight marriages, nearly half of which end in divorce in this country? The real “threat” to the sanctity of marriage is not coming from same-sex couples.

The point of raising this question is only to bring perspective into the debate, not to seriously suggest that heterosexuals should be barred from marrying. The more serious and enduring question is about where our focus needs to be if we are concerned about either the health or the “sanctity” of marriage as an institution.

View Senator Savino’s entire speech here. Read the transcript here.

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One Response to “NY State Senator Diane Savino Takes on the “Sanctity of Marriage” Argument”

  1. L.D Libra Says:

    I’m a Christ-follower, and have no desire to bar homosexuals from marrying. Why should I put my ideals off onto others who don’t share them with me? Under what standard can I hold them? None. I find that behavior (barring gay marriage) to be in no way loving, which is the adjectival crux of our faith. So, I hope the world knows that not all of us Christ-followers are so blindingly dedicated to fighting a pointless war against gay marriage. God bless you all.

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