Family matters

Posted on 26 Jun 2015 at 8:10am

Put aside the myth of ‘traditional marriage’ AND the myth that SCOTUS can solve all our problems


The Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage will undoubtedly bring some cheers, and some jeers. Needless to say, the LGBT community will celebrate and those on the far right will gnash their teeth and rend their garments.

One pastor has already said he will set himself on fire if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land. I suspect his idea of “set himself on fire” will be modified to a metaphoric version should the decision go our way.

The real threat will doubtlessly come in the rise in homophobic violence that may follow the decision. In France, an LGBT rights law incited a spate of anti-gay violence a few years ago. And we can note similar up-ticks in hate crimes in our country.

So though this will be a win in the long run I suspect there will be some short-term consequences that will be ugly.

It only takes a glance at the inflammatory rhetoric of propaganda outlets like Fox News to see why. They are trumpeting any ruling favoring same-sex marriage as the downfall of civilization. Their pundits are shouting about how this decision will destroy traditional marriage.

But the truth is, “traditional marriage” is an institution that has been hemorrhaging for decades. The divorce rate in the late 1970s and the 1980s was as high as 50 percent.

That rate has been dropping slowly but the reason has little to do with tradition. The modern institution of marriage is actually getting a bit stronger, perhaps because people are getting married for the right reasons.

Marriage-Equality-logoIt also stems from the fact that fewer people are getting married at all.

“Traditional marriage” — where women marry to find a good breadwinner so they can be the homemaker has steadily been eroding since the 1960s, according to Stephanie Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families. People today are marrying more because of love and less because of tradition.

Personally, I see same-sex marriage as an extension of that.

This also gets to the root of the problem, and that is the idea that families can only be defined as father-plus-mother-equals-kids (plus or minus a dog or cat or two).

That formula has been outmoded for a long time. Single-parent households, specifically households led by single mothers, have increased to the point that demographers believe half of all children will live with a single mom at some point prior to their 18th birthday.

So, if we are going for what is “normal” in America, it is far from the 1950s sitcom families. Meanwhile, Americans are defining their own families and have been for a long time.

The concept of “family of choice” has long been a model for the LGBT community, since so many LGBT youth have been disowned by their biological parents. They created tight groups of friends who became their family, not only in living arrangements, but in emotional support and mentoring roles.

These families are often stronger and healthier than the often dysfunctional family of origin, yet our society does not recognize them in any material way.

In the leather community, there is a tradition of “leather families,” with members taking on a variety of roles and often living together communally. Their structure is varied, but many follow a hierarchy based on sexual roles such as Top/Sir/Daddy and sub/bottom/boy.

These families sometimes last for many years and yet again, have no formal recognition legally or socially except within the leather/kink subculture.

So let’s drop the ruse of believing that there is such a thing as a “traditional marriage.” Let’s also stop believing that once we obtain same-sex marriage all our troubles will be over.

Indeed, the Supreme Court decision might just be the beginning.

Whether that is the beginning of more trouble or the beginning of the end of discrimination and start of recognition of all families will largely be up to us.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and board member for the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 26, 2015.

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