Arguing Equality Chapter 2: Marriage is a Civilizing Influence

This is a nine-part installment designed to help everyone understand marriage equality.  For some, it will be an education, for others, it will be helpful when discussing the subject.  I have included links to each chapter at the end, as well as information about the author.



An argument which has gained considerable appeal in some communities rallies around the irony that the very same people who crucify gays as promiscuous in one breath often vilify gay marriage in the next. If promiscuity is anathema and gay marriage is immoral, then what alternatives do gay men and lesbians have? All too often, what appears to be the appealing alternative is to conceal one’s sexuality and marry someone of the opposite sex. Andrew Sullivan makes quick work of this option:

Presumably, it is against the interest of heterosexual families to force homosexuals into roles they are not equipped to play and may disastrously perform. This is not an abstract matter. It is quite common that homosexual fathers and mothers who are encouraged into heterosexual marriages subsequently find the charade and dishonesty too great to bear: spouses are betrayed, children are abandoned, families are broken, and lives are ruined.

A second choice for the gay individual, and that which is advocated by the Roman Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations, is to live a life of celibacy. Of course, this alternative is largely unrealistic, highly arbitrary, and definitively inequitable. Under this schema the heterosexual is permitted, indeed encouraged, to lead a fruitful, healthy, loving life while the homosexual is expected to live a life of loneliness and isolation. As Bruce Bawer explains: “[G]ay Christians simply cannot conceive of a God who would bless them with the ability to love and yet demand that they spend their lives alone.”

The last viable option, then, is homosexual monogamy. To be sure, this is a sound choice for many, but lifelong commitment is no easy task – with all the social, religious, and government assistance that heterosexual couples receive, over half of all marriages still end in divorce. A monogamous gay couple, receiving none of this assistance, certainly faces an uphill battle.

And thus society, through its laws, pushes the gay individual away from monogamy towards solitary promiscuity or unstable roles in heterosexual family units. It is as if, as one author put it, “it is somehow in the interest of traditional families that gay men be encouraged to lead lonely, promiscuous lives rather than be permitted to marry each other.

Instead of placing obstacles in the path of gay couples, it seems that the smarter, more palatable alternative from a societal perspective would be to encourage monogamy and stability. As the editors of The Economist put it: “Homosexuals need emotional and economic stability no less than heterosexuals — and society surely benefits when they have it.”

In a sentence: legalizing gay marriage is not only a matter of justice, it is smart common sense.

“How ironic that promiscuity and instability are stereotypes associated with a group in society that has been trying to gain recognition of their stable relationships. And, how ironic it is that a society that embraces these stereotypes will not offer the mechanism, marriage, by which same-sex partners could demonstrate their commitments to each other and to their relationship.”Deborah Gray, “Marriage: Homosexual Couples Need Not Apply”

via Marriage is a Civilizing Influence.


Seth Persily is a member of the Georgia Bar and a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, Mr. Persily served as Publisher of the Harvard Law Record and co-President of the Lambda Law Association. Mr. Persily obtained his undergraduate degree from Duke University, where he served as President of the Duke Gay, Bisexual & Lesbian Association. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, with a B.A. in Religion and a minor in Gay & Lesbian Studies.

Mr. Persily worked at the Atlanta law firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan before opening his own practice, Persily & Associates, which concentrates on employment discrimination and real estate law. He serves on the Board of Directors for Georgia Equality as well as YouthPride.


  1. Excellent. You leave your opponents with only the option of denying reality: gay people are not “really” born that way, they can become straight if they repent; or they are damned if they are not celibate, in which case I choose Hell rather than a vile God who would do that. Or, they could come straight out and admit their hatred and prejudice.


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