Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is marriage a right or just a rite?

A major argument for same-sex marriage is that it is a family value that conservatives ought to be happy to encourage.  But that argument is as silly as opposition based on what the Bible says. Face it: LGBT people want the same rights as other people, and opponents of same-sex marriage think that homosexuality is immoral. It seems to me that both views ought to be respected. But why on earth is marriage the arena in which notions of equality and morality are fought?

A long time ago, many progressive people scoffed at the notion of marriage. They asked how can either a civil or religious ceremony bind two people who should be able to live together as long as they both shall love? Now, many of these people say the marriage act is essential for two people in love, as long as both are gay. The argument seems to be that everyone is entitled to equal protection of the law, which now favors married couples at the expense of singles. It makes sense to me, but why on earth are married people getting breaks in the first place? The only reason I can figure is that the state, for whatever reasons, believes marriage is important.  But what I can’t figure out is why the legal framework for marriage is up to the 50 states (or any level of government, anyway).

I don’t care how two people (or three or four; or gerbils or hamsters) choose to amuse themselves in private. Why should the state care? If there is a social good behind the institution of marriage, it seems to me it is because children thrive when their parents are married, and historically the more children a marital unit has, the more hands there are to work and to make up for infant mortality (neither of which is a big problem right now.)

If one is to argue that the purpose of marriage is to procreate, the question arises regarding couples who are infertile, those who choose not to repopulate and those who marry past the age of fertility. Should they be prevented from marrying? Of course not. Nor should anyone else. But, again, I ask, why should they marry in the first place? And, more important, why is it any of the state’s business to approve or disapprove of historically notorious promises of love and fidelity.
As the old gag goes about why marriage is important: "Why fight with strangers?"

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