Frequently, opponents of gay marriage are accused of trying to impose their religious outlook on society at large. Fundamentally, the dispute over acceptance of gay marriage is a religious dispute. But the religious stances fundamental in the dispute are not the Judaic, Christian and Islamic religions vs. secularism. The religious dispute is between different visions of the civic religions for Western societies.
In my judgment coming out to endorse “gay marriage” is something like being
converted to a religious doctrine and practicing a ritual to declare the belief. Declaration
of acceptance is like an offering of incense to a god of the Durkheimian religion of
Western societies. (See Mary Douglas’ Purity and Danger (1) for an account of how a
society’s civil religion makes sacred the basic structure of the society.) Anecdotal
evidence indicates that switching to support of gay marriage is similar to having a
conversion experience. My interpretation is that heterosexuals who come out for gay
marriage are switching to a progressive stance on sexuality. A progressive stance
changes significant boundaries between males and females. Endorsing gay marriage
sacralizes this new social structure.
In the Durkheimian sense of religion, a new religious outlook is emerging. This
new religious outlook does not fit well with religions of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
We can be told that nothing much will change if there are same sex marriages. So, why
not accept them? Indeed, offering incense to the emperor did little or nothing except
corrupt early Christians who succumbed to threats. Fidelity and honesty requires holders
of traditional sexual morality to speak against and to vote against same sex marriage if they
have an opportunity to do so.
If same sex marriage is not made a public issue, it is best to
keep silence and hope the silliness passes away. I suggest regarding gay weddings as
outrageous “camp.” The seriousness with which some heterosexuals discuss homosexual
marriage is comic. They include the president of the United States whom I otherwise
take seriously. Why classify gay-weddings as comic or “gay theater?”
To gain some understanding of camp in the gay life style, see David Hailperin’s
How To Be Gay.(2) Participating in camp is a way of compensating for a homosexual’s
sense of being marginalized. Dramatic mockery of structures, practices and institutions
taken seriously in the larger society helps in some way to expose the boundaries of
structures marginalizing homosexuals as ultimately not serious. Basically it is all role-playing
in a tragic comedy.
1. Routledge and Kegan Paul London, 1966
2. Belknap/Harvard U. Press, Cambridge MA, 2012. Reviewed by Edmund White, New
York Review of Books , Oct. 25, 2012