The benefits of marriage – gays need not apply?

I was recently waiting somewhere and started flicking through “The Good News: A magazine of understanding.” Instead of promoting understanding, one of the articles (Does Marriage Really Matter?) extolled the virtues of marriage but sought to exclude some people (who I presume the author would believe are made in the image of God) from being able to marry. According to the article there are many benefits of marriage:

Numerous studies have confirmed that being married helps us live healthier, happier and longer lives (p. 10).

In fact it suggests that not being married can be “hazardous for your health” as nonmarried women have a mortality rate “50% higher” than married women, and that for nonmarried men it is “250% higher” than for married men. It goes on to suggest that

In addition to enjoying better physical health, married men and women report better mental health – less depression and anxiety – than those not married. They also report greater happiness, and it’s been documented that married couples accumulate greater wealth than those divorced or single (p. 10).

While I’m somewhat sceptical about some of the statistics in the article, there is substantial evidence that marriage can have a positive impact on our social, mental and physical health (Hassed, 2004). The article also fails to acknowledge that unhealthy marriages (e.g., ones where there is domestic violence and conflict) can have negative outcomes on health and wellbeing (Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001). Despite the limitations, I can accept the general thrust of the argument that marriage is good for you. (I should add, the author was suggesting that the health benefits came from “traditional marriages” but I haven’t seen any evidence suggesting that these benefit would not also relate to same-sex marriages.) What I find galling about the article is that the author, while highlighting some of the benefits of marriage, is happy to deny these benefits to gays and lesbians. About a third of the article was explaining God’s attitude toward same-sex marriage which, surprisingly, was unsupportive. I don’t know why some people are so threatened by the idea of gays and lesbians marrying. Certainly there are passages in the bible which can be used when trying to argue for the “superiority” of “traditional marriages” but there are many more passages which support a much more loving response to other people. And let’s not forget how easily we ignore inconvenient passages in the bible like the ones which suggest that every 49th or 50th year we should return property (with a few exceptions) to its original owners or their heirs. Surely it is time to accept that gays and lesbians can (and do) have loving, supportive relationships, and that our moral and social wellbeing is not threatened by allowing them to publicly acknowledge their love through marriage. References Hassed, C. (2004). Marriage: is it good for you? Australian Family Physician, 33(6), 460-461. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., & Newton, T. L. (2001). Marriage and health: His and hers. Psychological Bulletin, 127(4), 472-503. Treybig, D. (2010) Does marriage really matter? The Good News: A magazine of understanding, 15(6), 9-11.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
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