Study showing lack of gay monogamy could impact nation's marriage debate
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--About half of all male homosexual couples have sex outside of the relationship with the approval of the partner, according to a new study out of San Francisco that some say should have a dramatic impact on the nation's debate over "gay marriage."
The research from San Francisco State University has not been released yet but was previewed in a New York Times story, which itself is newsworthy being that the newspaper rarely casts the issue of "gay marriage" in a negative light. In fact, the story actually spun the data so as to make it supposedly positive, quoting experts who argued that the "transparency can make relationships stronger."
Such arguments likely won't win many converts in mainstream America but apparently are commonplace in the homosexual community. The research followed 556 male couples over three years and found that half had arrangements agreeing that the other partner could have sex with other men. Sometimes that included rules: "advance approval of partners" and "no sex with strangers," The Times story said.
"None of this is news in the gay community, but few will speak publicly about it," author Scott James wrote in The Times. "Of the dozen people in open relationships contacted for this column, no one would agree to use his or her full name, citing privacy concerns. They also worried that discussing the subject could undermine the legal fight for same-sex marriage."
The research is being released in the same city where a landmark federal trial is taking place that could decide the future of "gay marriage" in the United States. The trial will determine whether California was within its constitutional rights to pass an amendment in 2008 prohibiting "marriage" between homosexuals. If it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, it could result in "gay marriage" recognition in every state.
Despite what some same-sex couples might wish, the new research no doubt will be used by opponents of "gay marriage" who will say it shows the dramatic shift that could take place in the culture if marriage is redefined. The New York Times' article, posted online Jan. 28, did not address whether the remaining 50 percent of male couples in the study are monogamous or whether they simply have sex outside the relationship without telling the partner. The Times' story ran under the headline, "Many Successful Gay Marriages Share an Open Secret." The author talked to one lesbian couple who intentionally left the words "monogamy" and "fidelity" out of their vows.
"The study demonstrates clearly what we've been arguing: That gays bring a different definition to marriage," Glenn T. Stanton, a sociologist who is the director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family, told Baptist Press. "And it's not just a different definition that male and female become optional, but that monogamy becomes optional as well. They are coming into marriage with a wholly different view of marriage than anybody has -- left, right, conservative, liberal.... They come in with that understanding of openness. These are people who come into marriage with a wholly different and really radical definition of what marriage is about."
Among heterosexuals, Stanton said, roughly 25 percent of people will be unfaithful in their marriages, but they "certainly don't enter their marriages thinking that that's going to be the case." The story quoted a woman in a lesbian open relationship as saying, "I take it as a gift that someone will be that open and honest and sharing with me."
"Can you imagine a man going to the altar with his wife, and he's thinking, 'Marriage is great, but the nice thing is I'm going to be able to still keep my options open'? Nobody approaches marriage that way," Stanton said.
Colleen Hoff, an author of the study, told The Times, "With straight people, it's called affairs or cheating, but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations."
The San Francisco research is not the first one to show a lack of monogamy among male couples. A study by University of Vermont researchers showed that only half of male couples who had entered into civil unions in 2000-2001 believed monogamy was important.
The issue of homosexual monogamy made it into the entertainment world even before The Times' article was released, when "The View" co-host Joy Behar, recounting on the Jan. 26 program a previous interview she had had with liberal commentator Dan Savage, said that "[gay men] don't take monogamy and infidelity the same way that the straight community does." Savage responded by saying he had been talking to Behar about all men in general -- including straights -- but nevertheless, he agreed that Behar's point was correct. Savage is homosexual.
"Gay male couples generally don't view monogamy as the defining characteristic of a loving, committed relationship," Savage wrote. "Studies of male couples in long-term relationships have found that most gay male couples do allow for some 'outside sexual contact,' as they say, contacts that I wouldn't characterize as 'affairs' or 'cheating.' If there are no lies, if there is no betrayal, if neither partner is doing anything that violates the commitment he made to the other, then no one cheated and no one was cheated on."
Savage's concession is one that was even once made by Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Christian Churches, an organization of homosexual churches.
"Monogamy is not a word the gay community uses," Perry told The Dallas Morning News in 2003. "It doesn't believe that heterosexuals are monogamous anymore. Just look at all the divorces in America. We talk about fidelity. That means you live in a loving, caring, honest relationship with your partner. Because we can't marry, we have people with widely varying opinions as to what that means. Some would say that committed couples could have multiple sexual partners as long as there's no deception. Each couple has to decide."
Focus on the Family's Stanton, who participates in "gay marriage" issue debates regularly, likes to recount the story of the first same-sex couple in Provincetown, Mass., to receive a marriage license in May 2003. Their names were Cody Rogahn and Jonathan Yarbrough, and as the first couple in line in Provincetown -- a popular destination for homosexuals -- the media wanted to talk to them. Yarbrough told the Boston Herald they were planning an "open" marriage.
"I think it's possible to love more than one person and have more than one partner, not in the polygamist sense," he said. "In our case, it is, we have, an open marriage."
Said Stanton, "This is not like it's the 45th couple in line that [conservative publication] World Magazine found. It's the first couple in line. I've used that as an example to show that gays clearly have a different conception of what marriage is about."
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.