John, so far as I recall, just about the only naturally monogamous creature is a rather dull type of vole. In fact, it’s quite reasonable to speculate that the institution of marriage evolved as a control mechanism to restrain the disruptive effects of heterosexual promiscuity. While there does seem to be evidence of a greater tendency to promiscuity among male homosexuals (this discussion over at the Volokhs would suggest that the data is less clear cut than is usually thought), that’s not really my point, although it does raise the rather intriguing question as to whether you might have fewer reservations about lesbian ‘marriages’.
What I’m arguing is that the absence of any legally recognized form of homosexual union means that we cannot really compare like with like when it comes to contrasting heterosexual and homosexual (mis)behavior. Indeed, it’s important to recognize that homosexuality itself was only recently (and imperfectly – check out the great sodomy debate) made legal. Fifty years ago homosexuality was outlaw conduct – that’s not the most conducive environment for developing more socially responsible forms of behavior.
Looking at this problem from a different angle, a number of readers have written in (almost always courteously – contrary to the usual slurs thrown in the direction of the ‘religious right’) challenging my assumption that economic obstacles (such as the death tax issue) are as important as I suggest. Well, I’m mulling this over, but it’s worth saying now that this is not an argument that can be made with any conviction by anyone who argued that the tax system’s ‘marriage penalty’ discouraged couples from wandering down the aisle.
More on this to follow, I’m sure (unless Kathryn shuts us down), but not until tomorrow. Rather appropriately, I’m off on a trip to, ahem, Canada.