What is traditional?
Marriage has never been quite as simple as one man, one woman and a desire to procreate. Across cultures, family structure varies drastically. Early Christians in the Middle East and Europe favored monogamy without divorce. Some Native American tribes practiced polygamy; others, monogamy with the option to dissolve the union. In some African and Asian societies, Coontz said, same-sex marriages, though not seen as sexual, were permitted if one of the partners took on the social role of the opposite gender.
Inuit people in the Arctic formed co-marriages in which two husband-wife couples could trade partners, an arrangement that fostered peace between clans. In some South American tribes, a pregnant woman could take lovers, all of whom were considered responsible for her child. According to "Cultures of Multiple Fathers: The Theory and Practice of Partible Paternity in Lowland South America" (University of Florida Press, 2002), 80 percent of children with multiple "fathers" survived to adulthood, compared with 64 percent of kids with just one dad.
Increasing globalization has erased many of these traditions, but some persist. In America, Mormon splinter groups practice polygamy. In Hui'an China up until the 1990s, many married women lived with their parents until the birth of their first child. And in the Lahaul Valley of India, women practiced polyandry until the most recent generation, marrying not just one man, but all of his brothers as well. The tradition kept small land holdings in the hands of one family and prevented overpopulation in the remote valley…
Emotion and ideology
Some of those ideological debates still echo in today's debate over same-sex marriage, but research shows that there is no scientific reason to deny marriage rights to gays, said Sharon Rotosky, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky. A June 2008 study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that children with lesbian parents actually did better on many measures than children of straight parents. Other studies have shown very similar outcomes between kids with gay parents and kids with straight parents…Read complete article: