Friday, November 21, 2008


Before all this hoopla, the institution of marriage was on its way out anyway. (Maybe it still is.) The women's movement mortally wounded it in the 70s, and it was dying a natural death, being replaced by a variety of family structures. We all know the statistics: most marriages end in divorce, almost half of children are born to unmarried women (whether single or co-habitating with the child's father). As "alternative" families became the norm, there likely would have been a shift in public policy regarding families. Marriage could not have held onto its privileged status forever, because it no longer reflects the reality of most family arrangements. We should have let marriage die. Instead, we've spurred a national marriage revival.

It would have been much easier to work for stronger support of domestic partnerhips. We would have had as allies all the people whose families are left out when marriage is privileged. Domestic partnership was already an idea most people were comfortable with. We could have let people who want traditional marriage have it, but fought to extend to all families the privileges that marriage now receives.

The tragedy is that, now that the gay establishment has made so much noise about marriage, it's too late to turn back and try something else. The traditional marriage people have dug in their heels. The very people that the gay marriage advocates think should be their natural allies -- social conservatives who believe that marriage is the backbone of a stable society -- are the people most dead set against them. You will always hit a brick wall with those people. The gays say, "But don't you understand? We want to be respectable, just like you," and the God-people reply, "I'm sorry, you can't. It's against the Bible." And there it sits.

(Did I already post this? Pretty interesting group of signatories.)

And Another Thing...

I guess the real nut of what bothers me about government privileging marriage over other family structures is that it attempts to regulate sexual behavior. Only if you have this narrowly proscribed type of sexual relationship (or at least profess to) do you officially exist as a household. Anything else is invalid.

Stripped (rightly so, because they are also the things that made it oppressive, mostly for women) of all the things that made it meaningful as an institution for community stability -- the strict gender roles, the more or less compulsory children, the near-impossibility of divorce -- there's nothing left of marriage except the being in love part, the sex part. And that's what bothers me about the same-sex marriage campaign, that it is based on the sentiment that everyone should have the right to marry the person they fall in love with. Why? Maybe we should have the right to marry the person or persons we commit ourselves to nurture and support unconditionally forever. Maybe. But the person we fall in love with? Why?