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A good argument for gay marriage

Gosh, I actually agree with this:

If marriage is just the emotional bond "that matters most" to you — in the revealing words of the circuit judge who struck down California Proposition 8 — then personal tastes or a couple’s subjective preferences aside, there is no reason of principle for marriage to be pledged to permanence. Or sexually exclusive rather than "open." Or limited to two spouses. Or oriented to family life and shaped by its demands.

Isn’t it true already that marriages are often not permanent?

The marriage breakup rate in America for first marriage is 41% to 50%; the rate after second marriage is from 60% to 67% and the rate in America for 3rd marriage are from 73% to 74%.

Also, less than half the households in the country are husband-wife pairs, and of all households, less than 30% have children. So isn’t it a little weird to define all stable relationships by a minority’s preferred lifestyle? It’s about time we faced the fact that personal relationships are complex and diverse, and it’s not just to demand that a marriage always involves sexual exclusivity, or children, or just two partners, or partners of different sexes. By one of those requirements, I’m currently unmarried!

The authors of that article are lawyers and right-wing think-tank trolls, though, and they’re actually arguing against gay marriage. This is their bizarre conclusion:

Redefining marriage would, by further eroding its central norms, weaken an institution that has already been battered by widespread divorce, out-of-wedlock child bearing and the like.

But by their own admission, marriage is a decaying institution, yet they can’t blame that on gay marriage at all — that’s a recent innovation, while traditional marriage has long been a bastion of state-supported abuse, casual transience, and ungodly decisions by the partners to not have children.

Maybe recognizing the different forms marriage can take, rather than trying to shoehorn people into roles they may dislike, would actually revitalize the institution.

But what would I know. We had our 33rd anniversary this last weekend; maybe the only thing holding it together has been the formal and traditional requirements of our heterosexual wedding vows?

Nah, I don’t think so.

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve become very accustomed to hearing about why I shouldn’t have had the right to marry, as we’re childfree. I’ve been hearing about it for over three decades now. I’ve also heard, on too many occasions, that being bisexual, I really shouldn’t have been able to marry either, ’cause you know, that means I’m a lustful sex fiend who can’t be trusted.

  2. marcus says

    If marriage equality did nothing but make right-wing bigot’s heads explode it would more than enough reason for me, but on top of that there are a bunch of really good reasons (as noted here and elsewheread infinitum).

  3. says

    One of the operative definitions of “insanity” is: Doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different result. When a social institution such as marriage is failing, you cannot save it by insisting that it remain exactly the same. Then again, no one has ever accused the opponents of marriage equality of being sane.

    @Caine #1 – According to a bi friend, being bisexual means being twice as depressed when you sit home alone on a Saturday night.

  4. says

    But
    But
    But
    Wasn’t marriage redefined when interracial marriage was legalized?
    Wasn’t marriage redefined when women were no longer treated as property (though given the rampant sexism in society, and how often women are objectified, it could be argued that women are still treated as property by many men)?
    Wasn’t marriage redefimed when polygamy was made illegal?

    Then there are the multiple forms of marriage in the bible…

  5. says

    Gregory:

    According to a bi friend, being bisexual means being twice as depressed when you sit home alone on a Saturday night.

    It can sure as hell operate that way, instead of the way Woody Allen said (Being bisexual doubles your chances of a date on Saturday night.)

    Tony:

    Then there are the multiple forms of marriage in the bible…

    Yes, such as raping a woman as a prelude to marriage.

  6. roro80 says

    It’s kind of sad that the only thing they think is good about marriage is that God Said So. People who believe that marriage is good for society in general — stability, family, someone to split the bills with, someone to take care of you when you’re sick, someone to cry with when in pain, someone to work when you can’t, someone who gets to make decisions for you when you can’t — should not have a hard time understanding that all these things totally apply to LGBT couples as well. Marriage is good for those who want to be married to each other, and it is good for the community as a whole when those people are married. It always has been, which is why we have this thing called “marriage” that the government has an interest in encouraging.

    And none of that has anything to do with god.

  7. willym says

    My wife and I fall into a subset of defilers of matrimony: one of us isn’t of European heritage. My father refused to attend our wedding. He rescinded his self-imposed shunning a few years later. We were wed 45 years ago this month in a Unitarian church in Berkeley, CA. We haven’t been disappointed by our decision to wed – ever. We have no children, by choice. We have a mixed group of friends from all nationalities and income levels, and mostly not religious.
    So hang in there; marriage is more than just a contract between two people and a fictional sky fairy. The most honest thing about our ceremony was our pledge to love, honor, and cherish each other through all of life’s travails and fortunes. We have done so.

  8. jameskinney says

    By one of those standards you are currently unmarried? Let me guess.. the exclusivity one? Has the temptation of the sweet, sweet octopus loving been too much for you? (Yes, I know the correct answer.. I was just looking for an excuse to reference sweet sweet octopus loving. I guy has to have a hobby.)

  9. bgsd4332 says

    My husband & I have been together for 24 years now. We live in California & were married in the short 6 month window back in 2008. It hurts to know the Feds think of us as complete strangers in all matters medical & monetary. Our hope is that in June…

    1) DOMA be overturned
    2) PROP 8 be overturned
    3) Right wing wackos go ballistic

    Cheers,

    -Billy

  10. The Mellow Monkey says

    I saw some argument against marriage equality saying that if we “redefine” marriage to allow two people of the same sex to marry, then there’s no reason to bar two consenting, sterile adult siblings from marrying. I agreed; let them marry, too.

    Seriously. What’s it matter to anyone else? I don’t see any reason why marriage should be about any specific type of relationship. Asexuals can have romantic partnerships. Platonic friends can be lifelong partners without ever having a romance. Opposite sex couples can be partners without ever having children. Multiple people can be partners without monogamy. If they want to have a marriage and have the legal recognition of such, who gives a shit?

  11. Crip Dyke, MQ, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Marriage was completely redefined when Henry 8 decided that God could not deny him a divorce.

    What?

    Being married meant having a relationship sanctified by the Catholic church. Now just people of any religion can get married? But Shintoists and Atheists could get married – married, with no Christ to sanctify the marriage!! How can it be called marriage at all?? ???

    Total redefinition, much bigger in the 1500s than is being proposed today.

  12. The Mellow Monkey says

    Marriage was completely redefined when Henry 8 decided that God could not deny him a divorce.

    Henry VIII is also responsible the addition of “and obey” to women’s marital vows, as that came from the Anglican church. The funny part is when confused Catholics want to add it to their vows to be traditional, thinking that its absence in Catholic vows today is the act of some ebul feminists.

  13. cyberCMDR says

    It’s all about mutual consent. If two people of legal age want to get married, whatever their orientation, that is their decision. Some consider the plural of spouse to be spice (Heinlein: Time Enough for Love); nobody else’s business as long as everyone is happy with the arrangement. Marriage should be about making people happy, and safeguarding the children if present.

  14. RFW says

    Crip Dyke:

    Marriage was completely redefined when Henry 8 decided that God could not deny him a divorce.

    And the marriage that H8 redefined had itself been redefined earlier to be a sacrament that required the involvement of the church. Before that, though viewed by the RCC as sacramental in nature, marriage was a private sacrament not needing church involvement. (Wikipedia)

    Oddly enough, googling “when did marriage become a sacrament” doesn’t cough up the answer one would expect, a certain year when the Grand Papa made a pronouncement. The Google results include a lot of bafflegab about Church fathers that only muddies the waters. It seems that around 1200 CE, church involvement became mandatory, but there’s also a statement that the Council of Trent in 1547 had something to do with the process. If anyone with a real zest for historical research is reading, please tell us something more specific.

  15. RFW says

    The resistance to same-sex marriage is almost certainly driven by nothing more complicated than irrational fear and hatred of gays and lesbians. All the reasons offered are just so much B.S., somewhat similar to the cloud of ink P-zed’s beloved cephs are wont to spew to hide what they are doing.

    It appears that the anti-marriage equality folks, both men and women, are obsessed with sex (that is, they have very dirty minds), and with gay sex in particular, giving rise to an internal conflict between repressed urges to indulge in same-sex sex and the ick factor. You wouldn’t believe the detailed contemplation of male-male anal sex that some of the haters engage in as they twist logic until it breaks trying to justify their opposition. (Those wishing to read more are directed to the joemygod blog on blogspot.com.)

  16. Portia says

    For all the trouble academic philosophy causes, this sort of thing was one of my favorite parts of majoring in it. We were challenged over and over to examine our biases and to really figure out why we thought something was immoral or should be illegal. So often it came down to “I think that’s icky”. It was the same way when I took Sex Crimes in law school. We talked about incest as a crime, as well as sodomy laws. We sussed out the difference between incest as it usually happens (statutory rape, illegal for good reasons) and incest more broadly, like sterile sibling marriage* mentioned by Mellow Monkey. I wish more people would hold their beliefs up to the light like that, because after you do, you usually find that a lot are based on that “ick factor” wrt to stuff that’s absolutely none of your business.

    *For some reason, I seem to recall a hypothetical anecdote about a brother and sister having sex with full contraceptive protection. Not a single nose was unwrinkled that day.

  17. mythbri says

    @Portia

    I think that is a really important point. Just because you, personally, don’t understand/don’t like something doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be legislated against.

    People need to respect the right to privacy.

  18. Portia says

    @mythbri

    Exactly: the right to privacy. The most common constitutional argument for full equality in marriage rights is the Equal Protection Clause. That makes a lot of sense and maybe it is the strongest basis, but the right to privacy gets overlooked quite a bit.* (Possibly because it’s, ya know, unenumerated.) The SCOTUS has recognized a fundamental right to conduct your family life as you see fit, including things like cohabiting with family and parenting rights. A state government can’t withhold a marriage license for failure to pay child support, for instance, because conducting your family affairs is a fundamental right. This is intertwined with and sort of based on the right to privacy. So, tell me again, conservaturds, why there’s no full right to marriage in this country? Oh, right, it’s your ick factor.

    *Interestingly, I believe it was Justice Ginsberg who believed that the right to an abortion should be grounded in Equal Protection, not the right to privacy, because it’s a much stronger argument. Regulations challenged under EPC can usually get a higher standard of scrutiny.

    /lawgeek.

  19. Ysanne says

    I don’t see any reason why marriage should be about any specific type of relationship. [...] Platonic friends can be lifelong partners without ever having a romance.

    Basically THE point that had my mum realise that there’s no actual reason to oppose gay marriage — her argument was “But then really stuff could happen like your grandma and the old lady next door marrying each other, even though they’re just friends, and that’s not really the point of the state offering an institution like marriage for prospective parents with tax benefits and stuff.” So I pointed out that right now, grandma could easily marry any old guy from the old people’s club where she plays cards, with exactly the same zero romantic involvement or chances of having kids… and as for the state rewarding marriage for the parental aspects, the solution is to give the benefits to actual parents instead of using “marital status” as a proxy.

  20. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Uh, why sterile siblings? When did eugenics become a good thing?

  21. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    (Let me rephrase: why do people keep enumerating a restriction to sterile siblings).

  22. says

    Azkyroth:

    Uh, why sterile siblings?

    Because of the high result of very bad birth defects in cases of close blood relationships. That’s why some places allow 2nd cousin marriage, because those defects go down at that distance, but prohibit 1st cousin marriage altogether, or unless the people are past childbearing age or otherwise sterile.

  23. Azuma Hazuki says

    Am I considered traitorous for not caring so much whether it’s called marriage or civil union? So long as my lover and i have the same federal, state, etc. rights and benefits as any given m/f couple, so long as I can visit her if she’s sick, I don’t care what it’s called. “Civil union” is fine.

    Sometimes I think the cause of equality is damaged by unintentionally treading on cultural landmines. “Marriage” means something very specific to a lot of people, whose definition includes in itself bonding a woman and a man explicitly. Attacking that, even if that’s not our intention, might be putting a lot of potential allies or otherwise unharmful people off.

    And let’s take the moral high ground: no church should be required to perform a ceremony it doesn’t agree with. It’s best to let them slide into irrelevancy as they are doing anyway; I have a bad feeling we’re prolonging their baleful influence and radicalizing them by giving them something to rail against honestly.

  24. says

    Azuma:
    Nah. Not traitorous in the slightest.
    It is your choice to call your relationship what you want. Just as important though is the right for others to do the same. Marriage has never been solely ‘one man, one woman’. It has been redefined so many times that it has come to mean many things to many people. No one has the right to demand everyone else follow their definition because the concept of marriage has no owner.

    Note too, that attitudes in the United States, wrt to marriage equality have become more and more favorable. In other words, more people are being convinced. If we were turning away so many people that support for marriage equality diminished, your point might have merit. At present though, I do not feel it does.

    Also, speaking only for myself as a gay man, I have encountered exactly no one who wants to force any church to perform ceremonies for same sex couples. Not that such people do not exist. I am sure they do.

  25. thumper1990 says

    If marriage is just the emotional bond “that matters most” to you — in the revealing words of the circuit judge who struck down California Proposition 8 — then personal tastes or a couple’s subjective preferences aside, there is no reason of principle for marriage to be pledged to permanence. Or sexually exclusive rather than “open.” Or limited to two spouses. Or oriented to family life and shaped by its demands.

    Um, yes. Nicely spotted. This is a statement of fact, and I fail to see how anyone could somehow turn it into an argument against gay marriage. Oh I see, those things are all bad, are they? Oh. Why? Because they “just are”? Oh, I see. Well, I’m convinced.

    … Jesus but these people are idiots.

  26. thumper1990 says

    @Azuma Hazuki

    Not at all. You have the right to call your relationship by whatever name you please. But that’s the point; there are some same sex couples out there who do want to call their relationship a marriage. And they should have the right to do that too.

    I think you may have a point with your second paragraph; however as far as I’m concerned no one has the right to tell anyone else how to define their relationship. I’d be pissed off if someone did it to me, as I’m sure anyone would be, so I’ll be damned if I’m going to lend even tacit endorsement to anyone doing it to someone else. That does piss off a lot of bigoted people, and it does piss off a few more moderate people who want to preserve “the institution of marriage”. However, those people are wrong, and I am right, and if that pisses them off that’s their problem. I have no truck with people who want to give others some freedom, but not complete freedom because [insert emotional argument about the sanctity of marriage here].

    Your third paragraph I agree with completely. I have absolutely no respect for anyone who hides their bigotry behind a Bible, but I’m not going to force someone to do something they don’t want to. But I will try and make them see how wrong they are, and if that fails then I will mock them for being a bigoted dinosaur and rejoice that their backwardness is dragging down the very institution they are trying so desperately to defend (by which I mean the Church. Everyone who makes the “sanctity of marriage” argument is really arguing that the Church should maintain control over it).

  27. borax says

    @23, I have to disagree. Couples who have had a child with cystic fibrosis are allowed to continue having children, even though each child has a 1 in 4 chance of having the disease. If a brother and sister in a consensual relationship want to marry and have children, I can’t deny them that right. I may think it creepy and not understand it, but everyone should have the right to marry the one they love. I also have no problem with polygamy as long as the relationship is consensual. For the record, that does not include groups like the fundamental LDS. A coerced relationship often involving minors is not consensual.

  28. Portia says

    Uh, why sterile siblings?

    What Caine said, and even moreso: it grants that argument that the state has legitimate cause to restrict reproduction between such close relatives. It signals with one word that you’re conceding that point with whoever has said “Yahbut then siblings will be able to marry! And that’s Bad™!”

  29. truthspeaker says

    The GOP really misjudged this one. It’s a lot easier to convince the American electorate their tax dollars are being used to subsidize lazy, drug-using non-white people than it is to convince them same-sex marriage is wrong.

  30. says

    From here:

    Since New Jersey’s civil union law took effect in February 2007, many employers across New Jersey have refused to recognize civil unions as equal to marriage, and therefore do not grant equal health benefits to partners of employees. Employers and hospitals say that if the legislature intended for the civil union law to be the same as marriage, the legislature would have used the same name.

    Because these employers and hospitals don’t recognize civil unions as they would marriage, many same-sex couples go without adequate health insurance – a horror in this economy. And because of the real-world disparity between civil unions and marriage, some hospitals do not allow civil union partners to make medical decisions for one another, or even to visit one another in the emergency room.

  31. dianne says

    Redefining marriage would, by further eroding its central norms, weaken an institution that has already been battered by widespread divorce, out-of-wedlock child bearing and the like.

    You say that as though it were a bad thing.

  32. Esteleth, stupid fucking starchild Tolkien worshiping douche says

    The difficulty with the “civil unions with all the rights of marriage, but not the name” is the number of people/places/institutions who respond to

    “Civil union” shall mean “equivalent in every way to marriage, with all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges pertaining thereto”

    With

    But it isn’t marriage, so we don’t have to treat it like marriage

    Incidentally, my employer has a form that you can fill out if you are in a same-sex marriage (legal in my state) whereby your income is raised enough to cover the “hole” caused by you and your spouse not being able to file federal joint taxes. I boggled at this. Apparently the amount of the “raise” you get is carefully calculated, because of course you have to pay taxes on that extra income…

  33. borax says

    Elteleth, 100% agreement. I think that as a society we should stop religious institutions from being allowed to conduct legally binding marriages. A marriage is basically a legally bonded contract bringing rights and responsibilities. A marriage should (in my opinion) only be legally conducted by a judge or JOP. If a couple wants to have a religious bonding before their god, that should be a personal decision that is without legal standing.

  34. fastlane says

    It’s about time we faced the fact that personal relationships are complex and diverse, and it’s not just to demand that a marriage always involves sexual exclusivity, or children, or just two partners, or partners of different sexes.

    No!! lalalallalalalaa can’t hear you.

    What you’re talking about here would entail actually acting like, you know, adults. Can’t be expecting that from a bunch of people who still have imaginary friends.

  35. roro80 says

    re: the importance of the word “marriage”.

    Religious people — and specifically those living in English-speaking countries existing today — don’t get to own the word “marriage”. It’s a word that is a translation of a translation of a translation (etc) from the beginning of time, before Jeebus was born, before the Buddha said “om”. Every culture since the beginning of civilization, in every remote corner of the world, has had some way to go from “part of my parents’ family” to “part of a family that includes someone I have sex with”, and in every one, you’d translate that into modern English as “marriage”. The rules surrounding marriage have varied dependent upon the cultural norms in that place and at that time — one man w many women, one man and one woman, daughter sold for goats to man, two men, two women, in some cases one woman and many men — and of course the traditions and the rituals surrounding it likewise are dramatically varied. Still either explicitly called “marriage”, or some other word that translates as “marriage’.

    The religious who want to claim the word also don’t own my marriage. My marriage, like those described by others here, was not performed by a religous person, was not held in the church, was not a sacrament of any kind, and was not entered into with any implicit promise to some higher being. It belongs to me and my husband, and neither God nor gods get to claim it.

    Different story: the county of San Francisco gave me the licence, and the state of California and the federal government do require and promise certain things from/to me due to my marriage. These responsibilities and privileges were given to me and my husband, and are not given to LGBT people in the same way, and that’s a violation of equal protection, plain and simple. These local, state, and federal governments could theoretically make up a different word for that set of responsibilities and privileges (civil union, or domestic partnership, or whatever), and apply it to all people currently married and who will be married in the future, but that’s stupid. We have a word for it, and that word is “marriage”.

  36. footface says

    already been battered by widespread divorce, out-of-wedlock child bearing and the like.

    So one thing that has damaged the institution of marriage is people who aren’t married having children? And another thing that will harm the institution of marriage is more people (well, the gay kind) getting married?

    Boy, marriage is a delicate institution, huh?

  37. left0ver1under says

    The only “arguments” against or “threats” that gay marriage pose to straight marriage are these:

    (1) Gay people will use up facilities where straight people want to have marriages.

    Gay people are outnumbered by about 9:1 in the population. The only way gay weddings would prevent straight weddings is if gays get married en mass at the same time. Even if that did happen, it would be a temporary phenomenon because of the smaller population of gays versus straights. And if it did happen, it would permanently free up all such facilities for the straights, ending the “threat”.

    (2) Gay people will use up all the marriage licenses, leaving none for straight people.

    That only has merit if cities and towns have a limited number of marriage licenses they are permitted to sell in a year. Since there is no such limit, it’s nonsense. Cities will profit from the additional revenue of gay marriage licenses.

  38. =8)-DX says

    demand that a marriage always involves sexual exclusivity, or children, or just two partners, or partners of different sexes. By one of those requirements, I’m currently unmarried!

    My immediate thought was @8

    sweet sweet octopus loving

    Made my day..