The Christian tradition has always imagined same-sex marriage- at least for men. Men have always been able- if not required- to play the bride to Christ's groom, for "all human beings- both women and men- are called through the Church to be the 'Bride' of Christ" (John Paul II). Why then should same-sex marriage be so troubling for the Christian churches, when it is what Christian men have been doing all along? The answer is contained in the latter clause of the question. It has to do with (men) falling for a male deity, and is in this sense a christological problem.
Recent work in queer theology and theology of sexuality is often characterized by this- in my mind very promising- attentiveness to traditional patterns of theological orthodoxy. You'll find a lot of it in Eugene Rogers too, particularly tying in to pneumatology. I think that if there is any hope for presenting a compelling theological defense of homosexuality as a graced relational situating, it will have to be along these sorts of lines. While the "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" argument of traditionalists is often ridiculed, it is really a very good theological case of complimentarity, and it is very much the same case that Loughlin presents above, or others present elsewhere. The point is the fittingness of God's creative goodness and how an attentiveness to such patterns, orders, or leitmotifs help us to better understand sexuality or any other topic of moral import. Explaining what an "ought" is requires an understanding of what "is" is, even if the complexity of moral reflection has moved us past any naive assumptions about the relationship between"is" and "ought". Here Loughlin attempts to explain a sexual ought by way of a christological is, and I think this is a rather productive route to take.
Doing so need not present us with a natural theology; indeed, Eugene Rogers has presented his case precisely as unnatural. What "is" doesn't underwrite the "ought" in the sense of "natural theology" or "orders of creation", then. But even in conceiving homosexual relation as "against nature," a redemptive pattern is being employed... a redemptive "is" is being used to make sense of sexual goodness.
I say that these theological attempts are good, but (unsurprisingly), I don't think that any such attempts have yet presented a compelling case for the goodness of homosexuality as relational identity. Loughlin's case made above seems especially shoddy, and it's a shame because the striving to reinterpret sexuality within the conditions of theological patterns of orthodoxy is so helpful as a methodological impulse.
Loughlin argues that "Men have always been able- if not required- to play the bride to Christ's groom, for "all human beings- both women and men- are called through the Church to be the 'Bride' of Christ" (John Paul II)." The inability to accept same-sex marriage in the church is thus "a christological problem."
The reference to John Paul II and 20th century Catholic nuptial theology is especially ironic (and yet rather pervasive amongst certain theologians... there's almost a sense that an imprimatur of some sort is being sought to anchor progressive reflection). But does John Paul II really talk about men "playing the bride"? Of course not! Loughlin himself has offered the reason why his interpretation is wrong: men and women both "are called through the Church to be the 'Bride'". It is not any particular Christian man or woman who is a bride, but rather the Church. Loughlin's re-interpretation of this christological marriage depends upon a deeply problematic individualism that atomizes salvation and leaves little room for ecclesiology to breathe.
Really, Loughlin is making the same argument commonly offered by traditionalists against women priests. Because the priest represents Christ to the congregation and especially in the administration of the sacraments, only males (it is argued) are able to accomplish the representation. Yet neither of these christological structures- the ecclesial Bride or the priestly "Christ"- depend upon the people who fill the office, but rather upon the identity of the office itself. Priesthood qua priesthood or Church qua Church are male and female structures set in christological relation, but they are the new identities of the Christian life. They inform human relation rather than vice versa. The Church is the bride of Christ as a community, and the priest as representative of Christ is husband of the Church (female) and also father of the individual congregants (both male and female). This is true of the office regardless of the office holder, of the body regardless of the sexual diversity of its members.
Interestingly, Gavin Hyman continues in his article to make much the same point that I've made here, though with quite different intention. The point of his article is to argue that "postmodern theology has something positive to learn from modern liberalism". Of Loughlin, he continues,
But what gives rise to this displacement of one [heteronormative] reading of orthodoxy for another [Loughlin's]? Is it plausible to see it as being generated purely from within? Could it be the case that secular liberalism, which has been in the vanguard of the affirmation of homosexuality, may have had a part to play in calling theological orthodoxy to a new self-understanding?
Setting aside the glaringly unjustified leap Hyman makes in assuming that a "reading" of theological orthodoxy is in fact necessarily theological orthodoxy's "self-understanding" (rather than simply an unorthodox reading of orthodoxy), I'd say yes. He's exactly right about Loughlin and modern liberalism. And while I would agree with him that we have a lot to learn from modern liberalism, I think in this particular example we are hindered rather than helped by its influence. Loughlin's commendable attempt to re-interpret structures of theological reasoning falters rather fatally on an extreme appeal to individualism, otherwise his idea that men "play the bride" to Christ remains nonsensical.*
Many "traditionalists" like myself are eager to listen and dialogue about issues of sexuality... we really are, and we really do seek to faithfully receive a true and good way forward on the question of homosexuality. There are obviously Christians who seek to be genuinely faithful within a homosexual lifestyle, and while I do not agree with this, it is still plain that they are not seeking to do violence to the faith but rather to simply understand it rightly. That said, it is not acceptable for them to do so in a way that offers a violent re-reading of the redemptive structures of the faith. This is what I think is presented by Loughlin, and I have not yet found a defense of the goodness of homosexual relational structures that avoids these problems (though I don't claim to be familiar with all of the pertinent theologies of sexuality).
*That may not be exactly true. I'm not well-read on Christian mysticism, but bridal mysticism may present a case where an individual is interpreted as "bride of Christ", short-circuiting the typical ecclesial matrix within which this relationship is understood. That said, the case of mysticism is exceptional, and so must be interpreted and re-applied with special care. There is often an attempt to use mysticism in theology more broadly, and I think that this can be dangerous precisely because the mystic as ascetic or hermit withdraws him or herself from the community. Presumably a faithful interpretation of mysticism should follow such a withdrawal and recognize its non-communicable nature. Also, mysticism as Christian practice is informed by the same christological structures that have been discussed above, and not vice versa. It is christology that makes sense of the mystical ascent, and not the mystical ascent that stands over christology as an interpretative framework.