I mentioned in my last post that I oppose same-sex marriage for a whole host of reasons, so I figured now would be a good time to explain what exactly they are. First, we need to make a distinction between civil marriages and religious ones. See, if we’re talking about religious definitions of marriage, I’m definitely opposed. But in America, we generally separate religion from law so long as no one gets hurt (and the Christian values of not murdering etc. also happen to be secular values). So opposition to same-sex marriage really needs to be about more than what various religions say it should be.
Has anyone else noticed how everything seems to be a “right” these days? We have a right to drive a car, own a house, and even governmental assistance on occasion. But what people perceive as rights are often actually just privileges. Not everyone can or should drive a car. Beyond people who do stupid things, blind people can’t drive either. It just doesn’t make sense. Not everyone can afford a house, and there are plenty of other living situations that fulfill people’s needs just as well.
Nor is marriage a right. Now, this isn’t just my belief. Marriage has very careful boundaries, and even some heterosexuals are barred from marriage. Every state has various laws barring certain relatives from getting married, though some are more strict than others (think Kentucky). Now, why is that? Mostly, because everyone thinks it’s icky. But the chance of genetic deformities isn’t that high–just look at how the royal lines throughout history married. Plenty of what we would consider incest. But let’s say for a moment that it’s a high priority to ensure that no incestual children occur. Even if a couple is sterilized, they’re still not allowed to marry if they’re related. Additionally, we have defined marriage to be between two people and no more. Polygamy has a history of abuse, but it seems possible that three people could really and truly love each other without that sort of abuse. Yet, they are still barred from marriage.
So, what is the purpose of marriage in the civil sense? Surely it isn’t about recognizing a loving relationship between two people, because that’s just nonsense. What right (or really need/want) does government have to go about judging people’s relationships? If civil marriage was about recognizing love, then the aforementioned cases shouldn’t be banned. But, that would be ridiculous. We don’t get certificates for having committed friendships. Civil marriage has to be about more than just recognizing love, otherwise we should just get rid of it altogether.
If the purpose of civil marriage isn’t to recognize love, what is its purpose? After all, there are a number of financial benefits for marriage, which means that it’s costing the government money. There needs to be a pretty good reason for the government to offer that, some benefit that marriage gives back to society as a whole. Procreation seems like a pretty obvious answer, especially if you look at the laws that govern marriage. And it is in the best interest of the government that procreation occur (if the rate is debatable), because otherwise we’ll all die out. And children raised in optimal settings will decrease costs for government in the long run, so it makes sense that government would seek to promote optimal settings.
If we take that view of the purpose of civil marriage, then same-sex marriage doesn’t make sense. Homosexual relationships aren’t ordered toward procreation. That’s not to say they can’t raise families, but they’re just not ordered towards it. Now, not every heterosexual couple is capable or even interested in raising a family. But I think most are, and infertility is difficult to legislate out of marriage simply because it would be too taxing to prove.
And we’re talking about optimal settings for raising children. Having a mother and a father provides a child with constant role models of either gender. This isn’t to say that homosexual couples or single parents can’t raise children well because they can. But there seems little reason for government to promote these arrangements.
So we’re left with two options: remove all the benefits and legal recognition of marriage (because why is the government passing judgement on love?) or strengthen marriage as currently defined. The first wouldn’t be difficult to do. Make taxing apply to everyone equally (maybe keep some incentive for anyone with children, regardless of marriage) and then for other benefits allow them to be applied to one person of their choice. This would apply that benefit to everyone, eliminating any kind of discrimination. People who still wanted to commit themselves to another could have their own, non-legal ceremonies at a church or wherever (for those who are non-religious).
Or, strengthen marriage. Too often today, marriage is seen as temporary or just not taken seriously. If a person is going to receive benefits for being married, that carries some responsibility. You shouldn’t be able to just wake up one day and decide to get married. Marriage isn’t easy, so getting married shouldn’t be either. Some sort of waiting period and mandatory premarital counseling seems appropriate. Maybe if people took marriage more seriously there would be fewer divorces.
Personally, when it comes to the legal definition I’m not picky about which way we go. But the state needs a darned good reason to be involved in marriage, and if it wants to offer benefits that turns marriage from a right to a privilege. Love whomever you want. Just don’t expect the government to pass judgement on your relationship.