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Chuck Colson: “Gay marriage will inevitably undermine all marriages”

by David Badash on July 13, 2011

in News

Post image for Chuck Colson: “Gay marriage will inevitably undermine all marriages”

Editor’s note — 07.14.11: Since Dan Savage isn’t really good at reading or writing, I hope you’ll read my response to his “Confidential to David Badash” post: Monogamy: Dan Savage Calls Me Out.

Virulent anti-gay activist and Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson, Nixon’s former “hatchet man” who became a Watergate felon, wrote Tuesday, “‘gay marriage’ will inevitably undermine all marriages.” Colson bases this idea on the misplaced rambling of gay activist Dan Savage, whose New York Times interview last month was widely quoted. Savage, sadly, said in the Times that he has been unfaithful nine times in his marriage, and feels his infidelity has strengthened his marriage. Savage, who is also a sex-columnist, told the Times,

“I acknowledge the advantages of monogamy, when it comes to sexual safety, infections, emotional safety, paternity assurances. But people in monogamous relationships have to be willing to meet me a quarter of the way and acknowledge the drawbacks of monogamy around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.”

Of course, radical gay-haters, like Colson, twisted the already circumspect statement into this:

According to Savage, while monogamy has its “advantages,” it’s not for everyone, because, he says, monogamy leads to “boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.”

So Savage counsels a more flexible ethic. According to him, the “unrealistic expectations” of fidelity “destroys more families than it saves.”

Savage practices what he preaches: He admits to nine “extramarital encounters,” which he insists have been a “stabilizing force” in his so-called “marriage.”


Colson, author of dozens of books, including his latest, Born Again (photo), makes a wild accusation, that “marriage is unlikely to change the habits of gay men.” Really? Because Dan Savage is unfaithful?

Colson ends with this:

There’s nothing “unclear” about this at all. The evidence Oppenheimer [the Times author] cites and Savage’s own counsel make it very clear that marriage is unlikely to change the habits of gay men. But, as Oppenheimer notes: Savage believes that heterosexual couples will learn from gay couples’ example. So “gay marriage” will inevitably undermine all marriages. That is very bad news for our culture.

No wonder Oppenheimer admits that Savage’s views and actions, will give “ammunition to all the forces . . . who say we had better stop [gay marriage] before they ruin what is left of marriage.” So the next time you hear friends question what harm gay marriage will do, why not talk about the Times article-and ask them whether they think fidelity, “forsaking all others,” is an essential part of marriage, stable families, and a healthy society.

For those of you who say its none of Colson’s business how same-sex couples conduct their marriages, you’re right. But those same-sex marriage activists who enter into marriage might want to think about the fact that they are the ones who will be looked at as setting the standard.

Oh, and by the way, Dan Savage does not speak for me, or, I imagine, for the vast majority of same-sex couples who hope to one day be able to be married.


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bgryphon July 13, 2011 at 11:38 am

While I can understand how gleefully rabid right-wing fundamentalists will quote (not necessarily fully or accurately) Dan's comments I fully support his right to hold those beliefs, to share those beliefs, and to live his life following those beliefs. It would be a great shame if he was stifled or attacked in the name of "the greater good" of queer rights or some form of political correctness.

I fully support his right to determine the rules and limits of his relationships, just as I demand that the unique characteristics of my relationships be respected; full equality can not happen so long as queer people are stigmatized for not wanting the largely-mythological "perfect family life" that television likes to tell us once existed.

Clearly Dan does not speak for you- to go beyond that to "the vast majority of same-​sex couples who hope to one day be able to be married" is, at best, presumptuous. It will be, to me, a sign of this movement's maturity when all relationships are valued, not just the ones that conform to any one stereotype.

bgryphon July 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm

I suspect Dan is smart enough to know some people see him as speaking for the LGBT community- I leave it up to him to say whether he is ignoring that in the hopes of disabusing them of that belief, or hoping to expand support for his argument within and without LGBT folk.

Again, while some people in the LGBT community may be fighting hard to convince our enemies that they desire a monogamous lifestyle, it is not their place to try and convince the world that all LGBT people do- nor would it be accurate. Dan does not speak for all LGBT folk; neither do supporters of monogamy.

David Badash July 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm

"I'm a sex therapist. I happen to have accidentally become a voice for the LGBT community, I don't speak for all LGBT couples, nor am I an icon for the community. I want you to know that while my husband and I believe that dalliances outside of our marriage make us stronger, it's not something we advocate for everyone. Every couple, married or not, needs to figure out what their needs are and how they can best-support each other and their relationship."
THAT'S what I wanted Dan Savage to say. Pity it's not what he said.

bgryphon July 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm

In the NYT piece it says "Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage" — this is an old concept and conversation for him; not sure he has adapted to being seen as a 'new speaker' on the subject for many people.

"Savage believes monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest" to me addresses the last line of your preferred script.

I agree he could have said some things differently- but the reality is that to rabid right-wing fundamentalists (religious or otherwise) it wouldn't matter. Words will be twisted around, expressions will be analyzed, silence will be seen as guilt or consent.

Last thought- amazing how many people are jumping all over his comments as being 'bad for our (their) image' while not recognizing that tearing him down does the same thing. So it had best be a major moral issue at the heart of the attack. It is, after all, the apparent self-destructive internal hatred within the neo-cons that gives many progressives a giggle.

Brian Stroup July 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Yeah it's irritating, but Dan's job is to give realistic advice on sex and relationships, not to read from a set of politically-sanitized talking points. Are we in such a hurry to prove how just-like-them we are that we abandon the reality of our relationships to get a marriage license? I worry how the public sanitizing of gay relationships in the quest for marriage equality will affect the expectations of LGBT youth, especially young men. Wasn't there a time where we valued honesty over conformity?

sfbee July 14, 2011 at 7:52 pm

"But those same-​sex marriage activists who enter into marriage might want to think about the fact that they are the ones who will be looked at as setting the standard."
I hope people do look to Dan and Terry's marriage as the standard. Like Dan, I happen to believe the standard for marriage should be honesty, love and respect, and these do not always correlate to sexual "fidelity". Last time I checked, there's a whole lot of non-monogamy (honest and otherwise) going on in the straight world too, and it's about time for everyone to drop the act, regardless of orientation. "Everybody hide your kinks and pretend to be "normal" so we don't scare the Christians! We just have to live by the rules they don't even follow, and then they'll let us get married too!" If you think you'll get equal rights by waiting for acceptance, please don't hold your breath. Conformity will not result in equality, my friend. Dan Savage may not speak for you, but I would be proud to have him speak for me. Dan's advocacy goes beyond marriage equality; he is a representative voice for all of us who are fed up with a puritanical–and delusional–minority controlling the discourse of marriage, sexuality, gender, and reproductive rights.

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