May 28, 2002
10:32 PM   Subscribe

The author of this story argues that by disallowing same-sex marriage, social conservatives are actually working to undermine the function marriage plays in society "The last thing supporters of marriage should be doing is setting up an assortment of alternatives, but that is exactly what the conservatives are doing, and not only for gays." Interesting views i thought, not that i'm so pro-marriage.
posted by rhyax (15 comments total)
Interesting; I hadn't thought of that before. I always thought the reason conservatives were so anti-same-sex marriage was that they feared that, once homosexuals were allowed to be part of "respectful" society and held to the social bindings and rules of said society, that people would see past the chaos wrought by being excluded from such order, and see that the reason gay people are seen as lawless and rampant has a great deal to do with the fact that "polite" society won't let them into the fold, so to speak. After reading this article, however, it looks like we're taking a detour around such restrictions. Cool.
posted by Poagao at 2:23 AM on May 29, 2002

Hrm. I kind of agree except with:

"Cohabitation tends to be both less stable and less happy than marriage"

Maybe, but marriage doesn't have that great a track record, either, at least not that I've ever heard. Anybody know if the statistic of ~50% of marriages breaking within the first year still holds? Frankly, 50/50 odds are not the best thing to use as a standard measurement.

Otherwise, I think that the idea of marriage should just be abolished altogether from the vocabulary of the government. It's a religious function, and has no place there*. I believe the whole controversy is actually based around getting tax breaks and all the other goodies, not really around marriage. Let everybody who can prove a certain length of cohabitation/mutual dependence get the government benefits, and have them fight for the right to "marriage," which is really nothing more than a concept, with their respective churches, which shouldn't be involved in the other anyway. If they want to quibble over a word with a bunch of people who have no backing for their beliefs on teh matter than faith, then that's fine for them. Leave us heathens out of it.

The whole thing reminds me of a story I read about a priest whose church had moved. The previous one was eventually turned into a restaurant or somesuch, and his parishioners were upset about this. The church building had been decommissioned(dunno the proper word), and was no longer a holy place in the eyes of the church, anyway. This poor priest had to then explain to the people that their religion was based within themselves(duh, faith), and not any particular set of walls they happen to be sitting in. That's just sad.
I don't understand why some people feel the need to validate their relationship with a piece of paper, and if pinned down, they'd probably agree they don't. So it's basically a peer pressure thing(acceptance) + a tax break.

*I know, I know, let's just not get into how the US government really is based on Christian beliefs even though it's "not."
posted by Su at 2:25 AM on May 29, 2002

You really have to ask why it is that no matter what variations there may be throughout the world and its various conventions, and no matter historically how things have been why there has been marriage. That is, why have peoples always wanted that which we call marriage? It may not be working out these days as you believe it ought to, but the percentage of divorced people who remarry is sufficiently high enough to indicate that it is still wanted by most folks. As for gay, well, you can get at that issue when you tackle the issue I have raised.
posted by Postroad at 6:00 AM on May 29, 2002

Hmm - Well I guess I'm what you would call a conservative, at least in UK terms, and I see absolutely no reason not to recognise some form of gay partnership, although I would stop short of terming it marriage - it would cause to many religious issues.

marriage has functions that are useful to society. It tells you who is whose partner - vital in terms of wills etc. It regulates communal property division on seperation. It makes it difficult to split up - stable partnerships are good for society, and so on.

I can see no reason why these benefits should be denied to the gay community - particularly when they benefit society as a whole as well.
posted by prentiz at 6:19 AM on May 29, 2002

The 50% stat is of marriages ending in a divorce... at any time. In other words, 50% of marriages end when one of the spouses die.

In any case, I don't think same-sex couples have much impact on the view of marriage for the hetero majority. Last time I checked, it was "easy" divorce that had a devastating effect, and I wonder what all those "moral leaders" on their second or third spouses (while the first are still living) have to say about their own contribution to adding to the dissolution of marriage?
posted by meep at 6:54 AM on May 29, 2002

If religious conservatives want to stake their flag and claim dominion over the word and definition of "marriage" then so be it; I'm more than willing to cede that term over for the practical gains of property transfer, hospital visitation, adoption, insurance, etc.

It's not a compromise, really. "Marriage" has been floating around without a signifier for a while now. All that's really happening is a fight over what "marriage" means rather than what it does.

Fighting an emotional battle over the privilege of employing the term "marriage" versus "civil union" may be parallel to "separate but equal," but in the end, is it really the battle in which we want to engage ourselves? Aren't there greater dragons to slay?
posted by flumignan at 6:55 AM on May 29, 2002

Anybody know if the statistic of ~50% of marriages breaking within the first year still holds?

If you get married today, there is probably a 60% chance that your marriage will last for life. See here.

Otherwise, I think that the idea of marriage should just be abolished altogether from the vocabulary of the government. It's a religious function, and has no place there.

I think that the concept of murder should just be abolished altogether from the vocabulary of government. It's a religious judgement, and has no place there.
posted by gd779 at 7:09 AM on May 29, 2002

This is an interesting article because the conflict between the alternative lifestyle of homosexuals and conservatism is on full display. He advocates gay couples be let into the club so they can stand shoulder to shoulder with other conservatives and 'tsk-tsk' the people who are living in sin.

BS detector:
"Research suggests ". Without actual references or summaries of the research we are left with the impression that there is scientific weight behind the view that cohabitation while not bad, definitely isn't good (So it's neutral then? What does that mean?). These studies are almost always agenda driven bad science.

How do you undermine marriage by allowing or encouraging people not to do it? If anything this should strengthen marriage. The people who do it now actually really want to get married and are not doing it due to lack of alternatives.
posted by srboisvert at 7:19 AM on May 29, 2002

A lot of cohabitating couples are in a sort of "pre-marriage" stage - it's often the step before the big step, and of course sometimes they decide not to take the big step. But I would think living with someone before you commit yourself to them for life is a good idea. Of course I would think finding out if you're sexually compatible would be a good idea too, but I don't expect religious conservatives to agree with me there...

Anyway, perhaps some of the couples who live together would stay together longer if they were bound by law, but in modern society, we've come to think of marriage as bound by love, and if you're still in love, you won't need a contract to keep you together. Marriage used to be almost a selling of the bride by the father - in some cultures, the bride came with money and in some cultures the groom's family gave money to the bride's family, but it was very commonly a business transaction of some sort, towards the goal of extending the family line (if the bride was "barren" the marriage could be annulled).

But the word marriage is quite strong somehow - if it's just called "partner benefits" maybe you'd go sign up your unemployed roommate as a partner so she can have health insurance, just until she gets a job - but maybe you wouldn't marry her for the same benefits. Of course, it's entirely possible that the word is losing power and that plenty of people would do that. I dunno, I'm so bad with paperwork etc that I'm not sure I'd ever get married to someone i considered my partner. But I probably would have a ceremony : making a promise in front of everyone you love means more than a piece of paper to me.
posted by mdn at 7:52 AM on May 29, 2002

Marriage is a con propagated by society (esp. but by no means exclusively organized religions) for its own benefit, capitalizing on our innate desire to mate. Fortunately, it will soon disappear in its present form (which is relatively recent, in any case), to be replaced by new modes of interpersonal relating. I hope they prove more rewarding and in line with human nature.
posted by rushmc at 8:15 AM on May 29, 2002

Marriage is what happens when you don't trust one another to stick together through thick and thin with no strings attached. It's the tie that binds. Some folk need it. Others can do without it.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:18 AM on May 29, 2002

>>I think that the concept of murder should just be abolished altogether from the vocabulary of government. It's a religious judgement, and has no place there.<<

Well there is a fairly clear difference here. While almost all religions agree that murder is wrong and there are clear pragmatic reasons why murder should be punished, not even all Christian cults agree as to what constitutes a valid marriage and some Christians see state marriage as an excessive entaglement between Church and State. So which marriage should be codified into law? Old-style mormon polygamy, Quaker religious-only celebration, or Catholic prohibitions on remarriage?

Another big difference is murder is defined as a commandment while most Christian cults define marriage as a sacrament in the same class as baptism and communion. If you argue that the state should regulate marriage, when why not Baptism and Communion?

Of course this is one of the big reasons why the separation version of the first amendment was adopted rather than the accomodationist version. The willingness for the government to regulate the sacraments has historically been one of the quickest routes to civil war.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:19 PM on May 29, 2002

Your error is in assuming that the concept and ritual of marriage originated with the birth of Christianity, KirkJobSluder. It predates it considerably. The dowry slave trade (in numerous variations), for example, existed in many different cultures for thousands of years B.C. Like many other things, marriage (as a ritual, ceremony, and method of control) was simply co-opted by the various organized religions as they came along.
posted by rushmc at 6:01 PM on May 29, 2002

While almost all religions agree that murder is wrong and there are clear pragmatic reasons why murder should be punished, not even all Christian cults agree as to what constitutes a valid marriage

Well that's true. My point was pretty simple, actually: saying that marriage should be abolished merely because it has religious significance is clearly bogus.
posted by gd779 at 4:55 AM on May 30, 2002

The legal requirement for marriage -- ie. the government interference in people's private lives -- should be abolished, because marriage is a religious practice.

There is no need for the government to have a hand in marriage. All its functions can be fulfilled through legal contracts. The entire "marriage license" and "blood test" and bullshit is outrageously offensive.

You want to get married, go right ahead: no one wants to stop you. Get married in a religious ceremony if that's what turns your crank, or get married in a non-religious mega-party.

It's not marriage that's wrong: it's the government bullshit that is inappropriately attached to it that's wrong.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:46 AM on May 30, 2002

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