So You Wanna Protect and Defend Marriage? Here’s a REALLY GOOD Way!

I just read some amazing figures that confirm what I have suspected for a very long time.

First let’s talk about China. Then we’ll talk about the U.S.

An article in The Economist reports that as many as 90% of gay men in China are married to heterosexual women. The figure for lesbians married to straight men is likely to be roughly the same. The population of China is about 1.33 billion, and a significant number of those (perhaps 8% to 10%) are gay or lesbian. You can do the math, factoring out children and adolescents, and the results will show that tens of millions of gay or lesbian Chinese individuals are married to heterosexuals.

Liu Dalin, a sexologist now retired from the University of Shanghai, estimates the number of women married to gay men may be as high as 25 million. Double that and you’ll have the approximate number of homosexuals married to straight partners: 50 million.

Think about it. That’s roughly the combined populations of California and Illinois.

And it’s a staggering number of potentially loveless, childless, and even miserable marriages. A Beijing-based support group called Pink Space reports women entering into deep depression when they realize their husbands do not want to get close to them or touch them. The lack of intimacy almost always leads to low self-esteem, anger, and resentment on both sides. Some of these marriages end in divorce, but most do not.

What are we to make of this miserable state of affairs, and can anything be done to remedy it?

First of all, not even a Roman Catholic would dare describe the conditions of marriage in China as “healthy.” The divorce rate may be low, but the readings for domestic misery must be off the charts. These millions of “odd couples” produce far fewer children than straight couples, and what children they have grow up in dysfunctional homes without healthy role-modeling in matters of sex and love.

Second, we must look for the causes behind this massive “warping” of marriage in China. And they are obvious. Homosexuality is not socially acceptable in China, and so it is almost universally concealed. Then, there is enormous pressure from family and friends to marry and raise children.

Li Yinhe, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has campaigned for same-sex marriage for years, but progress is understandably slow in an authoritarian culture like China’s. Mrs. Li believes her country will continue to lag behind every other country in the world on this issue.

Finally, before leaving China, let’s consider a really stretchy hypothetical: What if the taboos around homosexuality there were lifted over the course of a few decades as they have been in the U.S. and Europe? What if China were then to legalize same-sex marriage?

Wouldn’t the outcome be better for everyone involved? Courtship would be much more natural and spontaneous, and every person could choose a spouse from the appropriate pool of candidates—even if there were family pressures to marry certain individuals from within that pool. The chances for marital happiness would be greatly enhanced, and the children of these unions—whether natural or adopted—would be better off knowing that their parents were compatible in a most fundamental way. When parents are happy together, their children have much greater chances for happiness.

Now let’s turn to the U.S., where, I think we will all agree, the problem of sexual orientation mis-matching is not nearly so great as in China. According to The Economist, about 15-20% of gay men in America marry heterosexual women. This is a far cry from the 90% estimate for China.

And what might account for this lower figure? You guessed it: many more GLBTs are now out and proud. Many of them are in domestic partnerships or marriages.

Roughly 25-30 million Americans are gay or lesbian (in a population of 309 million). So, again factoring out children and adolescents, and recognizing that only about 50% of adults are married, we can get a very rough figure of about three million marriages in which only one spouse is heterosexual—not a small number, but much better than China’s 50 million.

Now, presumably, the outcomes for these mismatches are about the same as in China: depression, low-esteem, anger, resentment, childlessness (where children are wanted), poor role-modeling for children (where they are present), and divorce.

But the divorce rate in the U.S. is much higher than in China. Let’s say that half the American “mismatch” marriages end in divorce. That still leaves well over a million mismatched married couples. Meanwhile, the divorcés have wasted years of their lives, and their prospects for re-marriage may not be particularly good.

So, what are we to conclude from all this? Even if my calculations are way wrong (always a possibility), the following conclusions are inescapable:

  1. The institution of marriage, whether in China, the U.S., or any other country, will never be healthy as long as homosexuals are forced by social opprobrium to live closeted lives.
  2. Granting full and equal rights to gays and lesbians will clear the way for them to marry partners of their own orientation.
  3. Legalization of same-sex marriage will result in more marriages, less promiscuity, more loving commitment, and less loneliness and despair.
  4. Any efforts to reverse the trends or “roll back the clock” on LGBT rights in this country will bring us closer to a situation like China’s.
  5. Politicians, preachers, and pundits who sincerely want to “protect” and strengthen the institution of marriage can best do so by supporting efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.
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