“Okay class,” says the teacher (in the enthusiastic simper we all remember from our young years), “today we're going to talk about our sex-u-a-li-ty! Did you know that each of you is born with your very own sexuality? Yay! OK now, repeat after me!”
Whether God is in the picture or not, you can imagine a program at the end of the year with an audience of proud parents and guardians, each child standing up on the risers with an appropriately naive and happy smiley face drawing.
“I'm gay!” says one with a gap-toothed grin.
And then, in chorus: “Each of us is born with our very own sexuality, and we each have the right to express it! My sexuality is a gift just for me!”
Yay! Applause! Isn't that precious? Isn't it exciting to see children taught in righteousness? Pat their little heads and give them stickers.
I expect there's at least one private school doing this somewhere in America, but if I know what's good for me I shouldn't ask how the parents and guardians make the money to pay the tuition. Make a little tweak, though, and it sounds like a fantasy primary lesson not far from the wishes of LDS therapists who think they're sex-positive: “My sexuality is a special gift which God has given to me for my happiness!” Each child recites it sweetly in turn, in a singsong voice, and the adults all smile and say “Awesome! Good JOB!”
I repeat: this is the fatal error of supposing that human sexuality is a tidy package deal, and that God – excuse me, Heavenly Father – gave it to us wrapped tightly that we might have joy in this life through a natural union with a single spouse. If everyone is born with their sexuality as a constant core part of their identity, and if it is God that has planted this neat little package unalterable within each spirit at birth, then -
Hell yes! those who were born with their individual switches turned all the way to gay should be allowed to marry a partner of the same biological sex or socially-constructed gender, and to have such a union sealed in the Temple.
But this doesn't go nearly far enough. What about all those who were born with their switches halfway between, to bisexual? Why can't they have two spouses, one of each sex (and/or gender)? Aren't their rights being violated too by a social order that only gives legal recognition to monogamy?
Right here I am not being flippant! It is irresponsible, dishonest and downright cowardly for “marriage equality” activists not to be calling for legal recognition of all kinds of marriage, including all kinds of polygamy. If marriage equality is something to truly promote as a social good, not to mention a fundamental right, then we need, post-haste, a riff on the 11th Article of Faith to be the social guideline on marriage: let them marry how, where or what they may. This must include any number of partners of any sex (assigned by chromosome, hormone or expensive high-tech surgery) or arbitrary, fluid, socially-constructed gender. Only then will marriage equality be realized.
No, not quite. It will be further challenged by those who assert – quite rightly – that the age of consent is also an arbitrary social construct.
Look: in setting norms, you have to draw lines which unavoidably cut across some realities, leaving some people partly or wholly out. Marriage is a sexual norm, and it is stupid to suppose that sex is so tidy that in opening up the institution of marriage to state ratification for any two people who are legally adults, society is achieving sexual justice or enlightenment. A responsible and principled position would say that marriage, as one kind of religious and social tradition (in its bourgeois capitalist form or not), should lose its special legal privilege, and the law should treat it as just one of any number of socio-sexual options which people may enter into of their own free will, officiated by any kind of authority they recognize (religious, spiritual, psychic, commercial . . .), without any effect on their equal standing before the law. (The law must still leave aside the huge psychic and cosmic question of whether these consenting adults are really emotionally mature and whether they have the self-knowledge to be making any kind of responsible life decision for themselves at all. The world has always been full of stunted, spoiled, petulant or narcissistic people, children in grownup bodies, unequal to their social license, and gay activism isn't going to change that.)
Let me state in dead earnest here that I am fully in favor of the state completely backing off from its presumption of favoring any kind of consensual erotic or family association over any other. This would leave the “traditional” marriage of man and woman (as well as its potential Mormon radical transformation into an equal partnership between a man and a woman) safe from confusion within religious communities and their ceremonies. It would allow religious freedom to flourish: no more discrimination against the fundamentalist LDS community, and no more need for them to practice their family life in the secrecy that so well hides (and cultivates) abuse. Experiments like the Oneida Community would be able to arise again, free from legal harassment. Science fiction enthusiasts, neo-pagans, futurists, occultists and even Satanists would be able to come up with all kinds of arrangements and practice them without fear – well, without fear of the police anyway. Eventually.
Of course, such a full honoring of religious freedom would even further destroy any consensus of monogamous heterosexual marriage as the fundamental unit of society! Religious institutions in a – pay attention, this is important – secular republic like the United States and the other states of the post-industrial world, ought to know better than to think they can have it both ways. If I may raise my lightning rod higher: this has been the fatal error in the Church's response to gay marriage activism: the arrogance to presume that the metaphysical teachings of the One who said “enter ye in at the strait gate” can be enforced as the norms of a pluralistic society.