As outrageous as it may sound, heterosexual families will become stronger and stronger as more states follow the New York gay marriage attempt, Iowa's gay marriage ruling and the Vermont gay marriage veto override. Gay marriage will reduce the number of divorces caused by fraudulent marriages, ensure that more orphaned children grow up in stable homes, raise the standard of living for children with gay parents, make neighborhoods safer for families, and boost the economies of struggling communities.
It's not the license to marry that will create these benefits; it's the massive shift in attitude that'll result from it. The more gays are accepted as equal citizens, the more stable heterosexual marriage will become. Why? Because there are an untold number of "traditional" marriages that break up because one of the spouses comes out.
Homophobia drives fearful gay men and women into fraudulent marriages. The pressure to conform, the weight of discrimination, the potential loss of cherished dreams (serving in the military, worshiping in church, getting job promotions, raising kids) propels many into marriages they otherwise wouldn't commit to. Like my friend Cooper.
Cooper is 64 and recently divorced. He was married for 38 years before he came out. He left behind him a woman whose life was shattered by a truth that tunneled its way out of the mounds of shame, hostility and hatred that society heaped on it. The woman is 62. What is she supposed to with her life now that he's found his?
Homophobia has a way of wounding gay and straight alike. It creates two classes of victims: People who are forced to lie and the people they lie to. As homophobia decreases, so will the pressure for gays and lesbians to enter into fig leaf marriages. Which in turn, prevents children from being hurt by divorce and helps heterosexuals, like Cooper's wife, create authentic, stable marriages.
Homophobia punishes heterosexuals, too. For every gay man and woman that gets punished by the legal system there are straight mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters who suffer with them.
According to my calculations (see box below), 57.6 million people are either directly or indirectly affected by homophobia. Since demographers believe there are only about 6.4 million self-identified gay people,* that means 89% of the people affected by discrimination against gays are heterosexual.
No matter how they feel about homosexuality, no parent wants to see their children hurt, no brother wants to see his sister in danger, no uncle wants to see his nephew suffer. One of the intangible costs of homophobia is the excruciating emotional pain felt by everyone related to the gay family member. Lessen homophobia, as gay marriage will, and you lessen the strain on millions of families.
6.4 million gays and lesbians
6.4 million siblings of gays and lesbians (assuming each gay person has one sibling)
12.8 million parents of gays and lesbians (assuming each parent is alive)
25.6 million grandparents (assuming two sets of living grandparents)
6.4 million uncles and aunts (assuming one per gay person)
Total: 57.6 million
How Gay Marriage Helps Your Neighborhood
Ferndale, Michigan's downtown, was once lined with abandoned buildings. After years of courting gays to live and start businesses there, it had a vacancy rate of less than 3 percent (before the recession hit).
Ferndale followed the theories in the bestselling book, The Rise of the Creative Class. Civic leaders across the country pay over $10,000 to hear the author, urban planner Richard Florida, talk about the best way to revitalize their communities. His thesis: If cities want to jump-start their economies they must attract the dominant economic group in America -- people who think for a living (doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and computer programmers). Dubbing them the "Creative Class," Florida points out they're the most dominant economic group, making up nearly 30% of the workforce.
Florida produced a number of indexes measuring characteristics of successful cities. There's a High-Tech Index (ranking cities by the size of their software, electronics and engineering sectors) and an Innovation Index (ranking cities by the number of patents per capita).
But one of Florida's most talked-about rankings is the Gay Index. He told Salon.com: "Gays are the canaries of the creative economy. Where gays are will be a community that...
- How "gay meccas" are economic engines for straight counties
- How demographers calculate the number of gay people in the U.S.
- Which Medical Associations are for gay adoptions
- How gay marriage improves the lives of straight children
For an explosively emotional website that helps conservative parents accept their gay children, go to familyacceptance.com.
Follow Mike Alvear on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mikealvear