The PJ Tatler

Gay couple that overturned CA's marriage laws now getting...divorced. Ooops!

Feeling anemic? Maybe you need a megadose of irony:

Gay couple who were the leads plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led the state Supreme Court to overturn Prop. 8 are now getting divorced after only three years

Robin Tyler and Diane Olson saw their shared dream come true in June 2008 after years of fighting for marriage equality.

In January, they saw that dream dissolve when Tyler filed for divorce after more than three years of marriage and 18 years of living together.

“It wasn’t a light decision,” Tyler told NBCLA. “It’s very sad.”

The couple pushed for the reversal of Proposition 8 in 2009 by renewing their vows and were lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led the state Supreme Court to strike down the same-sex marriage ban that year.

“We have a right to civil rights, and we don’t have to say, ‘If you give it to us we’re going to be perfect … we’ll try harder than anybody,’ ” Tyler told NBCLA. “We’re just like anybody else.”

On the surface level, this is all very amusing and ironic.

But on a deeper level it speaks to what many “traditional marriage” advocates secretly (or not-so-secretly) believe about the whole gay marriage movement — that most homosexuals either aren’t really interested in getting married or don’t have the personalities for long-term committed relationships anyway. And that the real goal of the movement is to weaken or belittle the concept of traditional marriage, by changing the essential definition of it.

Now, I’m not saying that I myself necessarily think this critique is true, but I’m quite sure that many others think it is true. And even though I myself back in 2008 voted against Proposition 8 (i.e. I voted in favor of gay marriage), since that date I have often second-guessed my vote and now I’m conflicted on the issue. On one hand, my libertarian streak tells me to “live and let live” and “Why should I care who or what you marry? Knock yourself out.” But on the other hand, the more I read essays and manifestos from the early gay movement in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the more I become convinced that the modern “gay marriage” movement is a very clever attempt to bring an end to marriage altogether.

Back then, the activists were overtly anti-marriage. They felt that traditional family structure was the main pillar of “normative sexuality” and that true sexual liberation could only be achieved through destroying the institution of (straight) marriage itself.

But that didn’t go over too well with the mainstream. So after many behind-the-scenes strategy discussions, a shift took place: The goal of destroying marriage remained the same, but the method of achieving it changed from overt to covert. How to end the concept of marriage? By rendering it so unrecognizable that the former defenders of marriage will themselves call for its dissolution. That is to say, the new goal would be to get traditionalists to say, “We’d rather abolish the concept marriage altogether than allow it to become a stamp of approval for things we disapprove of.”

And indeed, I have already seen the beginnings of such an attitude among some social conservatives who are beginning to adjust to the reality that gay marriage is making serious inroads into American society. And this “destroy the camp rather than let the enemy capture it” attitude is exactly what the gay activists want to hear — in fact, eliciting that reaction is the whole goal.

My suspicions are confirmed not only by today’s news story about the rapid divorce of the very people who overturned Prop. 8 (i.e. did they only “get married” to prove a point?), but by other observations in recent years, most of which I unfortunately can’t write about openly.

An example I can discuss was a scene in a documentary I saw a few years ago praising the beginnings of the gay marriage movement (I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the film, unfortunately). The filmmakers were interviewing two elderly gay men who were considered among the leading pioneers of the gay rights and gay marriage movement. And they described how they got “married” in an unofficial ceremony back in the ’70s. And the film presented them as heroes. But then…as the interview continued they discussed how they “stayed married” even as they both had frequent and transitory sexual relationships with other guys. And that this proved “just how strong our marriage is.”

Without going into details, this exact same behavior pattern has been evident in people I know personally. I’m not noting this because of any personal outrage or disapproval on my part (really, it doesn’t matter to me what you do in your personal life), I’m just noting that it is true: some gay men who are friends and relatives of mine declare themselves to be in long-term relationships, but in every case they are “open” relationships which allow outside partners.

I have no statistics about how common this is, nor do I believe that any reliable statistics could ever be generated on the subject. But from my own personal observations throughout my life, I get the impression that it’s not uncommon. And from what I hear and read from other people (including other gay people), a lot of other folks also feel that it’s not uncommon. Yes, some straight married folks cheat on each other and/or have “open marriages,” but those are regarded as failures or exceptions, rather than the norm.

So this brings us to the real question of what defines marriage. The raging argument these days is over whether marriage is a formalized relationship between (according to the traditionalists) a man and a woman, or instead between two consenting adults of any gender (according to the gay marriage proponents).

But I think that’s the wrong argument.

The actual dispute we’re having is over whether marriage should be defined as either a legally recognized monogamous sexual relationship between two faithful adults or instead an essentially meaningless legal label linking two adults with no expectations of sexual fidelity.

I have the feeling that many “traditionalists” would not object to gay marriage if they truly believed that marriage would lessen the perceived promiscuity in the gay community. But they don’t believe that. They believe that gays (gay men, in particular) tend to have “open relationships,” and that the marriage label won’t change that. So that extending the label of “marriage” to gays will instead do little except to diminish the significance of the term.

In short: The argument is more about sexual fidelity, and not so much about sexual orientation.

I know this is a taboo subject, but in the interests of making implicit assumptions explicit, I think it’s a useful discussion to have, considering the brouhaha over yesterday’s court ruling overturning Prop. 8.