As a straight woman formerly married to a gay man who married me because he thought it was the “right thing to do” and then decided after 25 years to come out and be true to himself and me, I believe that my experience and those of other straight spouses of gay or lesbian partners across the country reveal important and little-known facts about the consequences of the proposed marriage amendments that would define marriage as a union of one woman and one man. Our stories are rarely told, but they are an example of how damaging the denial of marriage equality can be.
Our gay husbands or lesbian wives loved us, yes, but they also felt pressured to follow the one-man/one-woman definition of marriage endorsed by society and, for many, their faith communities. As much as they tried to make their marriages work, however, their sexual orientation eventually came to the fore, and they felt compelled to tell the truth. When they came out, we straight spouses were devastated, our own identities, integrity and belief systems shattered. Ultimately, most of our marriages ended in divorce, causing our children to find themselves in broken families, suffering the problems faced by all children of divorce. Bottom line: Not only were all our family members hurt, but our divorces added to the statistics that demonstrate the current weakening of the institution of marriage.
In other words, the proposed marriage amendments will in fact not protect children, families or traditional marriage. Were gay men and lesbians able to legally marry someone of the same sex, with all the inherent legal responsibilities and personal commitments, then their unions would have a greater chance of lasting than mixed-orientation marriages, thus strengthening the institution of marriage. Their families would be more stable than those of divorced mixed-orientation couples. Furthermore, their children would not suffer or turn out worse than children in traditional families. People who are able to live their truths are going to be healthier and happier, and isn’t that what we are all striving for in life?
Supporters of the bill claim that they are not bigoted, mean-spirited or homophobic. Perhaps that’s true, but their position is based on a lack of knowledge of the facts. Rather than protect children, as they claim the one-woman/one-man definition of marriage will achieve, the amendment, if passed, would put the children of mixed-orientation marriages that currently exist (or those that might result from continued societal pressure on closeted lesbians and gay men to conform) in a situation of potential family breakdown and its lifelong negative effects. I know these facts from the personal accounts of the 25,000 spouses with whom I’ve been in contact since 1986 and the 10 published research studies I have conducted on all aspects of mixed-orientation marriages and their families.
As I said before, this part of the story is rarely told, but it should be clear to anyone who takes the time to think about it that the continued lack of access to marriage equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people only creates a climate and culture that pressures some to try and live a life that is ultimately inauthentic and hurts families.