Mark Regnerus’s Prognosis For Marriage Ignores Society’s History Of Homophobia

Debunked anti-gay researcher Mark Regnerus has taken on a role as a semi-regular conservative columnist to continue spinning the results of his fraudulent claims about same-sex parenting. In his latest post — cross-promoted by the National Organization for Marriage — he defends the argument that allowing same-sex couples to marry will hurt marriage for heterosexual couples. He claims the sexual permissiveness of gay men will motivate straight men to disavow monogamy:

Many libertarians and conservatives, including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, assert that marriage is a conservative institution—which is true—one that will therefore function as such for those who enter it, whether gay or straight. While certainly the case for some, that claim is an unlikely future for many, not because gay or lesbian couples are liberal but because those in the driver’s seat of the contemporary mating market—men—are permissive. This, I predict, will be same-sex marriage’s signature effect on the institution—the institutionalization of monogamish as an acceptable marital trait. No, gay men can’t cause straight men to cheat. Instead, the legitimacy newly accorded their marital unions spells opportunity for men everywhere to bend the boundaries. Dan Savage will be proud.

Regnerus concedes that research shows that gay men don’t actually have more sex than straight men — they just have more partners. Because men are generally more permissive sexually, he suggests, the relationship of two men is likewise more permissive than that of a man and a woman. Thus, if straight men see gay men marrying and still having sexual partners outside the marriage, they’ll want to explore “monogamish” territory themselves.

This may, actually, turn out to be true, though there would be no way to connect the dots between marriage equality and a relaxation of the expectations of monogamy and commitment. Regnerus’s implication is that it would be a bad change for the supposed “institution” of marriage, though that is a judgment based on values, not on the merits of such change.

Moreover, Regnerus may have put the cart before the horse. Society has long stigmatized the gay community, inherently discouraging monogamy among same-sex couples. It was easier for gay people to have secret sexual liaisons than build a consistent life with a person of the same gender that might out them. Over time, the gay community has sought out monogamy in spite of societal expectations, and Dan Savage’s “monogamish” structure may well have evolved out of these competing dynamics.

Thus, Regnerus is blaming gay people for how they adapted to being condemned by society to justify continuing to condemn them. Rather than acknowledge this tautology and instead promote marriage and monogamy for all couples, he continues to feed the feedback loop. Given that even opponents of marriage equality believe it to be inevitable, Regnerus is solving nothing by clinging to the past.