Monday, July 20, 2015

The Revolutionary Nature of Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex marriage has become legal everywhere in the United States. I have actively supported the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples for over two decades, and supported LGBT rights in general for forty-five years. One of the reasons that I support marriage rights for same-sex couples is because as a sociologist I know that same-sex marriage has the potential to radically change the nature of marriage and families. 

I was recently reviewing the original lectures that I wrote fifteen years ago for Kentucky's first fully on-line introductory sociology course.  This was at least four years prior to the first state (Massachusetts) legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States. In that 15 year old lecture I stated the following: 
"Family is the most important agent of socialization in our childhood, and it is the place where we first learn gender. It is also the one social group in our lives in which all the roles held by individuals are "gendered." One is a husband or a wife (not a generic marital partner), a mother or a father (not a generic parent), a son or a daughter (not a generic child). "  [emphasis added]
Same sex-marriage has the potential to create generic marital partners and generic parents, and thus potentially substantially diminish stereotypic gender role socialization in children. This transformation is not automatic, nor will it happen quickly.   Some same sex couples, especially those involving transsexual individuals, often incorporate rigid gender-role stereotypes into their relationship with one person playing a stereotypical husband and another a stereotypical wife role. Moreover, research continues to demonstrate that parents still unconsciously treat male and female infants and small children substantially differently. These unconscious behaviors convey gender stereotypes to the next generation in ways that  highly resistant to change because they are unrecognized by those who engage in them.