Gay Marriage

The Myth of 'Traditional Marriage'

Conservatives shouldn't think of gay marriage as a repudiation of the past. They should think of it as starting a new tradition.

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Gay marriage
G. dallorto

In the battle over same-sex marriage, opponents are strongly in favor of deferring to the wisdom of our ancestors. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence uses the prevailing formula when he says, "I support traditional marriage." The Christian Coalition of America urges its friends to "Say 'I Do' to Traditional Marriage."

They have friends on the Supreme Court. In arguments over a California ban on gay marriage, Justice Samuel Alito expressed reservations about abandoning time-honored arrangements. "Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years," he said, while same-sex marriage is "newer than cell phones or the Internet."

Invoking age-old customs has not served to convince the American people, most of whom now favor letting gays wed. But then Americans have rarely rallied to the idea that we should do something just because that's what was done in the time of Henry VII or even George Washington.

Ronald Reagan was fond of quoting the 18th-century American pamphleteer Thomas Paine's ringing declaration, "We have it in our power to begin the world over again." Beginning the world over again does not imply a slavish attachment to olden days and olden ways.

America has always been trailblazer of the future, not custodian of the past. So opposing same-sex marriage on grounds of tradition is a chancy proposition.

But this approach has another major flaw: What conservatives regard as traditional marriage is not very traditional at all. It's radically different from what prevailed a century or two centuries ago. And if you want to talk about "thousands of years," you'll find that almost everything about marriage has changed.

The biblical King Solomon, after all, was a dedicated polygamist, with 700 wives. Monogamy has always been the norm in Christianity, but not as part of a marriage of equals.

The 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone explained, "By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in the law; that is, the very being or legal existence of a woman is suspended, or at least incorporated or consolidated into that of the husband, under whose wing, protection, or cover she performs everything."

Women generally couldn't enter into contracts without permission from their husbands. In legal status, they were a notch above sheep and goats. In America, it was not until well into the 19th century that states began to grant married women something resembling full property rights.

Even then, marriage had attributes that traditionalists would like to forget. Husbands who forced themselves on their wives were not guilty of rape, since they were legally entitled to sexual access. Contraception was forbidden in many states. Only in 1965 did the Supreme Court decide that such laws "violate the right of marital privacy."

The ideal of marriage enshrined in the 1950s reflects a myopic nostalgia for a phase that didn't last. The 1960s brought no-fault divorce, which allowed wives as well as husbands to dissolve their bonds without proving some terrible transgression by the spouse.

This was an earthquake, causing unprecedented numbers of unions to collapse. A writer for the conservative Family Research Council said that under no-fault divorce laws, marriage became "nothing more than notarized dating." Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage said their effect was nothing less than "the abolition of marriage."

In a sense, she's right. But you don't see many conservatives trying to repeal no-fault laws in the name of "traditional marriage." Gallagher misses the more fundamental point: This institution is not something passed down unaltered from generation to generation, like the family silver. It is continually in flux, taking forms that would surprise our forebears.

Marriage, like transportation, has always been a part of human existence. But riding a donkey is very different from flying in a jet, and modern marriage has only superficial similarity to what went before. Just as we embrace each new mode of travel that enhances human welfare, no one should mind adapting marriage to the needs of modern people.

Extending matrimony to same-sex couples advances the same interests cited in support of heterosexual marriage: encouraging stable commitments, offering a framework for procreation and upholding the interest of children in a legally protected family. If male-female marriage is good for straights and society, it's hard to see how same-sex marriage can be bad for gays and everyone else.

Conservatives shouldn't think of the change as a repudiation of the past. They should think of it as starting a new tradition.

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187 responses to “The Myth of 'Traditional Marriage'

  1. If male-female marriage is good for straights and society

    That’s a big if.

    1. Not really. It’s a mechanism for passing of security, wealth and education from one generation to the next. So far, it’s proved to be the best one. With modern birth records and easy access to records and communications, that importance is certainly diminishing. Statistics show it’s a long way from gone, though.

      1. 1. It hasn’t proven any such thing.

        2. At the best its simply ‘proven’ that contract between two people who plan to set up a life together (in effect create a quasi-partnership) and (potentially) have children (yes, even gays can have children) is effective in protecting and the signatories – nothing about whether those signatories have to be opposite sex.

        3. Parent-directed marriages have proven far more efficient at safeguarding the transfer of wealth between generations.

        4. There are several competing marriage systems out there that do well enough compared to our two-person, opposite sex standard (polygyny, for example is popular).

        5. Experimentation needs to be allowed to find out if there is an even more efficient solution.

        6. Freedom to choose non-optimal solutions to problems!

        1. I believe you misunderstand me. This is likely my fault, so seriatem:
          #1. Contains no arguable content.
          #2. I merely assert that M-F marriage is good for straights and society, as that was the text of the quote. I do not assert that M-M and/or F-F marriage would not serve the same purpose as well or better.
          #3. I do not assert anything about how they were “directed.”
          #4. I have no problems with plural marriage concepts, except I don’t believe I’m personally built for it.
          #5. Experimentation among consenting adults is great.
          #6. Agreed. Ironically, non-optimal solutions often tend to produce better results. Something to the effect that a good plan now is better than a perfect plan next week.

        2. I believe you misunderstand me. This is likely my fault, so seriatem:
          #1. Contains no arguable content.
          #2. I merely assert that M-F marriage is good for straights and society, as that was the text of the quote. I do not assert that M-M and/or F-F marriage would not serve the same purpose as well or better.
          #3. I do not assert anything about how they were “directed.”
          #4. I have no problems with plural marriage concepts, except I don’t believe I’m personally built for it.
          #5. Experimentation among consenting adults is great.
          #6. Agreed. Ironically, non-optimal solutions often tend to produce better results. Something to the effect that a good plan now is better than a perfect plan next week.

          1. Actually, all studies show that the best reason for trad marriage is for raising kids.

            And experimentation has been “allowed” for tens of thousands of years.

    2. So you are gay?

      1. Feeling chipper! You?

        Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh… Not my thing. Sorry to disappoint.

  2. “The 1960s brought no-fault divorce, which allowed wives as well as husbands to dissolve their bonds without proving some terrible transgression by the spouse.

    This was an earthquake, causing unprecedented numbers of unions to collapse.”

    Which has been a mixed bag result in the best light. A social disaster which is the cause of many society’s pathologies and poverty when the rose colored glasses come off. There is no evidence that that the recent progressive innovations in marriage enhance human welfare and plenty of evidence that it actively harms it. That such a negative change in marriage is what Chapman uses as the example of the fluidity of marriage is telling. The progressive attacks on traditional marriage have nothing to do with advancing the interests of human welfare as a whole.

    “Extending matrimony to same-sex couples advances the same interests cited in support of heterosexual marriage: encouraging stable commitments, offering a framework for procreation…”

    In a situation where procreation within the confines of the marriage is impossible by definition under circumstances which are suboptimal for children’s welfare. What societal interests are advanced by SSM again?

    “But you don’t see many conservatives trying to repeal no-fault laws in the name of “traditional marriage.”

    Just as you saw the US going on the offensive at Guadalcanal in 1942 rather than the Philippines. It is not logistically feasible, and where the battle is at now.

    1. advancing the interests of human welfare as a whole

      Freedom can be messy. Suck it up. Most of your post, if I read it right, is all Utilitarian claptrap. Bah…

      1. So the solution is for same sex partnerships to willingly charge into the exact same trap of allowing the court system to define the limits of their personal, social, and financial relationships.

        Which may be egalitarian, but it has little to do with promoting freedom.

      2. I’m a utilitarian and I see nothing utilitarian about his medieval nonsense.

        1. As opposed to your post-modern nihilistic nonsense?

          1. I’m a minarchist who thinks some government is legitimate so I don’t see how i’m a nihilist.

      3. Chapman framed his argument as utilitarian, take it up with him if you don’t like the issue talked about that way.

    2. A social disaster which is the cause of many society’s pathologies and poverty when the rose colored glasses come off.

      I hate it break it to you, but a lot of those folks weren’t married to begin with.

      Jus’ sayin’

      1. Exactly – people think that making divorce legally possible in the 60s caused marriages to break up.

        Marriages broke up all the time before that. The man just went and lived somewhere else, maybe took up with another woman. Maybe even went ahead an married another woman.

        No-fault divorce laws were simply acknowledging reality.

        1. But you see, it made a difference. People may have gone off to live with other people, but if the previous marriage was registered it was still in effect as regarded inheritance, etc. If the law made no difference, same sex marriage wouldn’t be contentious now.

    3. “The progressive attacks on traditional marriage have nothing to do with advancing the interests of human welfare as a whole.”

      Or it could be argued that progressives who generally support the gay lifestyle simply want the government (which is where progressives always turn) to endorse their expanded notions of marriage.

      I’m not sure why you would view this as an ‘attack’. If they were attacking marriage I’d wager the results would be a push for outright governmental rejection of marriage.

      1. “In a situation where procreation within the confines of the marriage is impossible by definition under circumstances which are suboptimal for children’s welfare…”

        So if two people who are incapable of conceiving on their own want to raise kids that were unwanted by their biological parents, what’s the harm in that? By making the tired old “they can’t procreate” argument, you run the danger of offending infertile man-woman couples and adoption agencies as well. That narrative’s so full of straw the Big Bad Wolf should be blowing it down. Children are gonna be produced, no matter what. And so what if the birth rate is slowing? Weren’t we paranoid about overpopulating the Earth a few decades ago?

        And why should only the optimal situation be legal or be the only situation eligible for the benefits and privileges? That reeks a little bit of totalitarianism to me.

        1. “So if two people who are incapable of conceiving on their own want to raise kids that were unwanted by their biological parents, what’s the harm in that?”

          The harm is to a child which is denied role models of both sexes, deliberately. Second, we are going to the suboptimal situation as a last resort, we are going making it indistinguishable legally from the optimal situation.

          “By making the tired old “they can’t procreate” argument, you run the danger of offending infertile man-woman couples and adoption agencies as well.”

          People who are infertile because of disease or disaster are a different situation from a couple which is infertile together because of biological incompatibility. The inability to make that distinction is a failure of postmodern philosophy.

    4. advancing the interests of human welfare as a whole.

      What societal interests are advanced by SSM again?

      Needs more collectivism.

      1. +1 It Takes A Village

      2. Take it up with Chapman, that’s his turn of phrase advocating for SSM.

    5. Why do you hate homosexuals?

      1. Welcome to hell, teh gaiz

    6. What societal interests are advanced by SSM again?

      Societies don’t have interests. But individuals who desire non-arbitrary government policies do, which is why marriage 1) should not be a state concern and 2) should always be rubberstamped regardless of race, gender, or poly status so long as it is.

      That’s not the way the special-interest state works, of course, so instead we’ll continue to have an intrusive, ad-hoc state that affords a shit ton of cutouts to politically favored groups.

      1. But delivering non-arbitrary gov’t policies has been best done in the long run by common, i.e. customary, law, which emphatically is not a rubber stamp. The common law of marriage is that a couple was married if people they had to deal with had more reason to believe they were married than reason to believe they weren’t. Public statements of the couple were of course of paramount importance in deciding that fact?which is what a wedding is for?but the people they had to deal with also might have to take into acc’t other facts, such as whether in their understanding it was even possible for them to be married. In most people’s understanding, “married to each other” was a condition applicable only to persons of opposite sex. It’s what the words meant.

    7. By the way, do you know what the laws on divorce were in ancient Egypt? They were lax even by today’s standards, but the societal disaster that you mention didn’t ensue.

      1. “should always be rubberstamped”

        By the state, which shouldn’t be involved?

    8. There is no evidence that that the recent progressive innovations in marriage enhance human welfare and plenty of evidence that it actively harms it.

      So, could you provide an example of one of these harms and the evidence to back that up for someone who just doesn’t see any?

      1. No-fault divorce has made marriage riskier.

        1. Not for women. All risk has been transferred to the male. With the biases of the courts, women get child support, alimony societal approval. Society (govt) has supported the female hypergamic reproduction strategy at the expense of the male.

          therationalmale.com

      2. There is a rather strong correlation between single motherhood and poverty. It is something that is discussed a lot in the threads addressing the Left’s new obsession with income inequality. No fault divorce has made single motherhood easier for frivolous reasons and made marriage a riskier investment for men.

        Do you live under a rock?

        1. Funny how single FATHERHOOD doesn’t. Seems that single fatherhood correlates almost exactly like two parent families with stuff like teen pregnancy, poverty, drug use, delinquency, criminal behavior.

          therationalmale.com

        2. Oh, and women instigate between two thirds and 90% of divorces, so any resulting poverty of them or later their grown offspring is mostly the fault of the females.

    9. Progressives are not responsible for people wanting to get divorced (which happens at a higher frequency among conservatives since they tend to wed younger), and no-fault divorce is certainly not the fault of gays.

      Given the existence of the 14th Amendment, I think you should have to explain what social interest is advanced by denying gays equal marriage rights.

      1. divorced (which happens at a higher frequency among conservatives since they tend to wed younger)

        You might be right about this for all I know, but my experience is quite the reverse. I know a woman who just married for the fourth time last summer. As she’s a self-described “Poison-Fanged Liberal” I’m surprised she marries at all.

      2. Homosexual relationships are not functionally equivalent of heterosexual ones therefore there are no such animal as “equal marriage rights”. The 14th amendment is moot.

        “Progressives are not responsible for people wanting to get divorced…”

        No, they are responsible for making it easier to get divorced for frivolous reasons, impoverishing all involved.

  3. This was an earthquake, causing unprecedented numbers of unions to collapse. A writer for the conservative Family Research Council said that under no-fault divorce laws, marriage became “nothing more than notarized dating.”

    Except for part about paying alimony for 20 years.

    1. See, also, “palimony”.

    2. Aaaand the total disparity of child custody and child support.

  4. Oddly enough I’ve run into more than a few proponents and partakers of gay marriage who are outraged over the idea of poly marriages. Where would that lead? To mothers marrying sons or dogs? I think tradition as it relates to culture leads to orthodoxy and narrow-mindedness and I suppose this disease is appropriate within anything called an institution.

    1. for my entire life, marriage has rested on three pegs: it consisted of two people of opposite sex who were unrelated. With the middle component increasingly becoming a dead letter, you can be damn sure someone will challenge the other two.

      Proponents of SSM who take issue at the polys or at cousins are the same thing they accuse opponents of gay marriage of being. Funny how they wave the “equal protection” flag when it suits them, but burn it when it does not.

      1. It seems marriage is a vehicle for functional fixedness due to its proximity to spirituality or the silly wizardry of the soulmate. Remove this nonsense and relational arrangements become less a concern of society/religion/butthurts and more a function of how people wish to commit to each other within their own fluid lifestyles.

      2. Cousin marriage was pretty normal for a very long time. Why do you hate traditional marriage?

      3. for my entire life, marriage in this country has rested on three pegs: it consisted of two people of opposite sex who were unrelated

        FIFY. Worldwide, it’s mostly the other two pegs that have taken a beating.

      4. Prior to the 20th century, way back in the halcyon days when most of the world’s population lived the life of subsistence farmers in rural areas, cousin marriage was the norm, mainly because populations had no turnover and the small population of neighbors quickly became related after a generation or two.

        But the idea of “traditional marriage” is itself weird given that most marriages in human history have been arranged and that the concept of romantic, voluntary love is about half as old as Christianity. The socon version of marriage is just another example of the tyranny of should absent any understanding of history.

        1. Excellent point, Knarf.

          I have always argued to those defending “traditional marriage” that part of the actual tradition was that marriage was always arranged. Why do they not support that today? It is because they do not actually support “traditional marriage.” They only support what they like at the moment or what they have known in their relatively short lives.

          1. I think you’re mixing up categories here. I may like traditional music, i.e. its content, but that doesn’t mean I like it as it was traditionally served, i.e. in a drafty firetrap of a hall with bad furniture.

            The contents or description of a marriage is a separate issue from how that marriage came about or was delivered.

            There is a lot to be said, however, for being part of a society wherein marriages are arranged rather than spouse-selected. It’s probably not the best circumstance in a society with as much literal and figurative mobility as exists in much of the world today, but it did perform a leveling function and did not impose the burdens that spouse-selected mating does.

      5. Cousins marrying, yeah, squicky but as long as they’re legal age, I’m not stopping them.

        Parents marrying their kids? That would only be for perversion’s sake (or just for the shock value), since they already have their legal privileges by being directly related.

      6. I don’t mind other people engaging in polyamory but incest creates inbreds.

        I can’t help that i’m attracted to the scents put off by the same sex.

        1. Saying incest creates inbreds is like stating sex creates children when neither are necessarily true when precautions are taken.

    2. There is no argument for gay marriage that isn’t also an argument for plural marriage.

      A good test of whether the proponent of gay marriage is principled, or engaged in special pleading.

      1. What do you mean by “plural marriage”? If you mean by it, “a single marriage of more than 2 persons”, then I agree with you. If you mean simply polygamy, then I disagree. The issue of what collection of persons a marriage is possible for is one thing; the issue of how many marriages one person is allowed to be in at one time, something entirely else.

        1. I meant polygamy, but I fail to see why the arguments in favor of gay marriage don’t also support allowing people to be in multiple marriages at one time.

          1. The argument over same-sex marriage is one over what constitutes “married”, “spouse”, etc., while that over polygamy regards how many marriages one should be permitted to be in at a time. It’s the difference between “can” and “may”.

            A commonly-used set of rules for American football defines clipping as throwing one’s body across the back of the legs of an opponent other than the ballcarrier. The rules say you are not permitted to clip, but also that you cannot clip the ballcarrier. The definition of “clipping” makes the latter impossible; it has nothing to do with permission.

            1. while that over polygamy regards how many marriages one should be permitted to be in at a time. It’s the difference between “can” and “may”.

              Not following. A polygamous marriage is a single marriage that has more than two members. So its not an argument that you should be allowed to have multiple marriages at the same time (although, again, one wonders why not?).

              Its still all an argument about what the word “marriage” means. It used to mean one man and one woman. We’ve thrown out the “man” and “woman”; why not throw out the “one”?

              More importantly, what arguments against the “traditional” definition don’t apply equally to both the number and the gender of the spouses?

              The definition of “clipping” makes the latter impossible; it has nothing to do with permission.

              Why can’t I say that there is no functional difference between a rule that excludes the ball carrier in the definition, and one that excludes the ball carrier in the body of the rule? What’s the diff between

              “Clipping is hitting a non-ballcarrier across the legs”

              and

              “Clipping is hitting any player across the legs, but is not a penalty if the player has the ball”

              1. Polygamy is more traditional than monogamy.

                I don’t mind others engaging in polyamory, but it’s not my thing and i’m attracted to scents put off by the same sex.

                Lumping sexual orientation with how many partners one can tolerate at a time is lazy. They’re too different things.

              2. A polygamous marriage is a single marriage that has more than two members.

                That’s a very rare conception of it. Almost everyone conceives of polygamy as the condition of more than one marriage. It’s inherent in the etymology, wherein
                poly=many
                and
                gamy=mating condition. Also consider that a person commonly engages in bigamy by first already being married to someone, and later marrying someone else while the 1st marriage is still in force. Polygamy is hardly ever conceived as A, B, and C each being married to the others in a reciprocal relationship, but rather is conceived as A being married to B and A being married to C, without B being married to C.

                As to the football example, those are alternate ways of meaning the same thing, so, yeah. The thing is, football is an artificial situation with manufactured rules that you can take or leave, while marriage is the result of spontaneous order, resulting in language and laws that necessarily apply society-wide or they are useless.

                1. However, the form of plural marriage you postulate would necessitate same-sex marriage, since there are only 2 sexes and you’ve got at least 3 people there.

  5. people are entitled to define a word as they see fit. Not that long ago, gay meant something totally different from what it means today. I am sure of this much – if you beat people over the head with your point of view, couching it as though disagreeing makes the other person evil or something like that, you won’t do much convincing. And still, no one asks THE question – why govt has the power to say no when consenting adults choose to enter a contract.

    1. And still, no one asks THE question – why govt has the power to say no when consenting adults choose to enter a contract.

      …other than a simple “I’m bigger than you” of course.

      1. Or the ever-popular “FYTW”.

        1. FYTW is like the Divine Right of Kings. It only works if you have the weight to back it.

    2. Not if they want to be taken seriously.

    3. people are entitled to define a word as they see fit.

      SCOTUS approves.

      1. Fucking legal definitions, how do they work?

  6. The belief that a marriage is a union of a man and a woman is rooted in hatred of homosexuals. Believe it or not, but the concept of opposite sex marriage was originally created because of hatred of homosexuals. The only possible way for someone to prove that they do not hate homosexuals is to endorse same sex marriage. Otherwise you hate homosexuals. Because it’s all about hatred of homosexuals.

    1. because being tolerant means not tolerating the intolerant, right?

      1. Why do you hate homosexuals?

    2. Is that true, Sarc? Certainly an interesting proposition. I always presumed that it was more about power over the individual by the institution ‘blessing’ the arrangement, and the peer pressure associated with belonging to that group with the state happy to at a minimum turn a blind eye if not outright support it as it contributes to ‘stability’ as well as produces additional population to expand the power of the state and provide a larger tax base.

      1. Why do you hate homosexuals?

        1. Because they are fa9s?

    3. I hate the LA Lakers because I secretly love the LA Lakers. I long to be a Laker but am afraid to come out of the closet.

    4. What a silly and sophomoric ramble.

      1. He thinks acting like Rick Santorum is cool and edgy.

  7. Same-sex marriage is gay. There, I said it.

  8. Just when I forget how idiotic Chapman is…. he reminds e.

  9. er… Me. Sorry for the typo.

  10. The decision to marry, and to whom, is a very personal decision. Every individual will pay the price or reap the benefit of their decision, there is no way to mitigate that.

    Because of the profound effect on a person’s life that this has, no person has any place dictating to another that they should or should not marry, or to whom they may. At issue here is the right of free association and free conscience. In a way, the opponents of SSM are attempting to tell me what I like.

    Once you start down the road of ‘societal good’ you open the door for dictates about other sorts of contracts. Should society as a whole be able to tell you what business you must go into, and with whom? Once you enter into a contract of any kind, should you be unable to terminate that contract for any reason, or only narrowly defined specific reasons?

    I will associate with whomever I deem in my best interest, under the terms we agree on. I will abide by the terms of that contract until it is no longer in our mutual interest. Society and human well being can go fuck itself.

    1. That’s a recipe for Somalia if I’ve ever seen one. How can people seek happiness and freedom if their betters aren’t able to tell them what to do and think?

    2. How is the govt (asopposed to society) telling people whom to marry?

    3. In a way, the opponents of SSM are attempting to tell me what I like.

      This depends on the opponent and how they are telling you.

      I actually pretty sure the benefits of marriage are wholly acquired on license from the gov’t.

      I wouldn’t tell you who you should and shouldn’t marry. I would tell you my/our gov’t shouldn’t license it as though it’s to yours/my/others benefit.

      There’s plenty of unwed heterosexuals with kids that I’d extend social benefits to before I’d extend them to homosexuals with no kids… if I thought the gov’t handing out social benefits was a decent idea.

      1. Stupid C&P:

        “I’m actually pretty sure the benefits of marriage are not wholly acquired on license from the gov’t.”

  11. A ‘then’ between ‘interest’ and ‘society’ would have been interesting. 😉

  12. Just as we embrace each new mode of travel that enhances human welfare, no one should mind adapting marriage to the needs of modern people.

    Sure. And if it were still illegal for gays to live openly, that would be relevant. But since the debate is about the ability of gays to use the force of law to coerce other people into recognizing their marriage, that argument doesn’t apply here.

    1. Well, we use the force of law to coerce others into recognizing straight marriage.

      Sure, I’d *prefer* no government acknowledge of marriage beyond general contract protections – but if we’re gonna have a law, let’s see it applied equally without regard to race, sex, religion, uh, mumble mumble mumble.

    2. The debate is about equal treatment under the law. But given your views, presumably you are not and have not ever been married.

    3. But since the debate is about the ability of gays to use the force of law to coerce other people into recognizing their marriage

      I just want to let you know how homophobic that makes you sound. If that isn’t your intent, you may wish to consider a different argument, or at least a different phrasing.

    4. The Lew Rockwell version:

      If it were still illegal for interracial couples to live openly, that would be relevant. But since the debate is about the ability of interracial couples to use the force of law to coerce other people into recognizing their marriage, that argument doesn’t apply here.

  13. You know what they mean. Come on. One penis and one vagina. Traditional marriage.

  14. The 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone explained, “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in the law;

    And it may be an inconvenient truth, but that’s what family jurisprudence is about: the treating of 2 as 1. Obviously this is awkward for the law, which is usually a bulwark of individualism, leading to problems alluded to above such as marital rape, so there’s been a lot of refinement as to which circumstances to treat the 2 as 1, and which to treat them as individuals, in. The law pays this awkwardness price because the alternative of having no legal recognition of families made things worse. Family law was the lesser of evils, because kids.

    But you don’t see many conservatives trying to repeal no-fault laws in the name of “traditional marriage.”

    They’d like to, but see it as hopeless under present conditions where the battle has moved on to the next line. “No-fault” introduced another distortion in family law, vaulting over the libertarian possibility of treating marriage as possible to terminate via mutual consent, to a different doctrine of making it conditional on the continued consent of each individual who entered into it. Divorce was costly for the law as marriage was, but was again viewed as the lesser of evils, so divorce was made difficult; but no-fault, at the opposite extreme, introduced evils of its own.

  15. It is very interesting that for the most part, the Continent of Africa (at least the Sub-Saharan part) seems to be adamantly opposed to Gays in general. I hear a lot about this when Gay rights worldwide is discussed. However, the reasons for the anti-Gay stance of Africans are rarely stated. There must be some reason (no pun intended) for this. I’m thinking of AIDS. Any opinions on this?

    1. Christianity, of course. Same as here, only more so.

      1. Okay, how about Iran?

        1. The question was about Africa, but the presence of fundamentalist Abrahamic religion in general seems to coincide with antigay attitudes.

      2. Or Korea?

      3. Or China?

      4. So lets blame the Christians for the world’s ills. That’s a new idea.

        1. Haven’t you ever heard of the vast right wing conspiracy?

        2. If you wanted to blame one thing for the world’s ills you could do a lot worse.

          1. Okay Tony,

            Who’s worse, the Christians or the Jews?

            1. The Christians, duh.

          2. Let me know when Christianity runs up a nine-figue body count, like various flavors of State totalitarianism has in recent times.

            1. Let me know when somebody here advocates totalitarianism.

              1. Ah, but we have. We advocate forcing people to recognize a class of contract they already do anyway. Evil, it tells ya!

              2. Let me know when somebody here advocates totalitarianism.

                We were talking about the one thing to blame for the world’s ills.

                You nominated Christianity.

                I nominated state totalitarianism, because of the body count.

                Your response, predictably, is a non sequitur.

              3. Let me know when somebody here advocates totalitarianism.

                Advocating or emulating?

                Because they usually start by championing equality for the people and demonizing errant (usually religious) belief systems.

                1. I’d be more afraid of going too far right than too far left, especially in this country. At least communists mean well.

          3. If I had to pick, it would be the tendency of people in general to pick one thing to blame all of the world’s ills on.

        3. I blame all beliefs in supernatural nonsense.

      5. Also Islam of course.

    2. “It is very interesting that for the most part, the Continent of Africa (at least the Sub-Saharan part) seems to be adamantly opposed to Gays in general.”

      As opposed to Africa north of the Sahara? I’m not seeing much love for teh ghey in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, et al. either.

    3. Christian missionaries and the black version of national socialism.

      Africa is backwards. Period.

  16. Again. Why is Chapman a featured writer at Reason?

    1. CATO traded him to Reason for…uh….

  17. The Myth of ‘Traditional Marriage’

    As if there aren’t a whole host of myths surrounding Gay Marriage on both sides.

  18. The phrase “traditional marriage,” as you note, is not very traditional at all. The phrase operates as a concise way to frame the issue that appeals to those for whom tradition is important.

    “Biblical marriage” is even more problematic, since we in the West follow the tradition (there’s that word again) of Roman marriage, not Biblical polygamy.

    What these words try to capture is the idea of biologically based marriage. Evolution has resulted in two genders for the reproduction and rearing of viable offspring. Men and women engage in sexual intercourse, reproduce, and form extended kinship networks based upon consanguinity. Homosexual do not. So ssm opponents ask, why should marriage and family law recognize those non-traditional (oops) relationships?

    Issuing a call to stand for “Biologically Based Marriage” does seem to appeal to those sentiments that move citizens to political action.

    1. er . . . does NOT seem to appeal . . .

    2. Perhaps because the concept is ludicrous.

      Unless perhaps some major catastrophe occurs, we don’t need government policing our reproductive habits. This is not the Middle Ages.

      The assumption that human pair-bonding, or even sex, is exclusively about reproduction is just wrong, especially when you define reproduction as involving only the gestation period. (Humans are social animals, largely because of the extraordinary length of time it takes to rear children.)

      Gay people exist, have always existed, tend to pair off, and occasionally even raise or help raise children. Evolution has resulted in that too.

      Which is, of course, all entirely beside the point, which is equal treatment under the law.

      1. The only reason you can say that sex is not about reproduction is that you are expanding the definition beyond regular intercourse. That’s fine, but it’s not evidence for your point anymore than if I were to say that food is about more than just maintaining life and growing because I like to take baths in bacon.

        1. Sex is emphatically not only about reproduction. Otherwise, why would people do it so often without expecting or wanting offspring?

          My point is that it’s irrelevant to this discussion since the only thing at issue is whether gays are granted equal rights.

          1. There is a difference between desire and results, but if you knew that you wouldn’t be a progressive.

            1. Not sure I follow. What happens in nature is, by definition, natural. The vast majority of times people have sex, it is not for the purpose of making offspring. For gay people, it’s never about that. Sex is, therefore, not just about reproduction. We, like certain other mammals who possess a neocortex, have sex for pleasure and social bonding as well.

              But we’re way off track. Gays are gonna keep having sex whether they can marry or not.

            2. I’m attracted to scents put off by both the same and opposite sexes.

              Left-handed people exist but they serve no special purpose when compared to the vast majority who are right-handed.

              1. Hence no whining about ‘left-handed marriage’.

        2. There’s a good analogy in that. Just as you don’t want the government requiring you to eat a Spartan diet, or banning sodas and trans fats, I don’t want the government telling everyone they MUST conform to one lifestyle of only man-woman couples marrying and raising kids.

          Hmmm… would foodies be like bisexuals?

          1. If my government were going to support a diet. Offer legal protections, special contractual obligations, and tax incentives to a diet, I would want it to be a spartan diet. As spartan as possible.

            I could equally go for supporting all diets to the fullest, but that makes plenty of room for false notions of (in)equality and government scope-creep.

        3. if I were to say that food is about more than just maintaining life and growing because I like to take baths in bacon.

          Who wouldn’t? No calories that way, no sodium intake, and it’s even kosher. (Not halal, though, alas.)

          Just make sure that if it’s cooked, it’s well drained and not too crisp (ouch), and that you have a good drain sieve. Don’t need no air freshener in that bathroom!

      2. tend to pair off

        This is a myth.

      3. “policing” is a bid over the top. We do live in an organized political society that enforces laws for the common good. The state might have an interest in marriage and reproduction since that is the primary way that new citizens arrive.

        I agree–marriage should not be reduced simply to biology. I did not mean to convey that reductionist viewpoint.

        Yes, homosexuals have always been here and they raise children–derived of course, from “unnatural” heterosexual sexual pairing.

        @ Equal treatment under the law–that precisely is my point. I support equal treatment under the law–for equals. My contention is that homosexual unions are not equal,for the reasons listed in my previous post.

        1. I didn’t say equal treatment of couples. Equal treatment of gay individuals. They should have the same marriage rights as straight individuals, and there needs not be a reason other than that the 14th Amendment demands it. As this has worked its way through the courts, it’s been repeatedly found that there is no rational, secular reason to make this exemption to equal protection, and “biological marriage” or whatever you’re trying to argue hardly changes that.

          1. As individual, ss couples can do whatever they desire. They can walk down the aisle of a church, make mutual pledges of love and fidelity, and be pronounced . . well, married. And no one can (or should) stop them. I am no lawyer, but it seems that in seeking legal recognition for ssm, we are entering the realm of voluntary associations–and which kinds the state will recognize. (This most recently was headlined in the controversy about IRS and non-profit groups.) As to the courts not finding any rational/secular reasons, maybe no one gave any. I have not followed the arguments—my guess is that most courts heard dubious arguments about tradition, the bible, theories of child rearing. Your appeal to the force of law does kinda shut down discussion–and renders null any reason for Reason to publish Mr./ Chapman’s piece. Well, I have to go off to work so that I can do what I can to reduce the national debt nay future grandchildren will no doubt inherit. I enjoyed exchanging views with you–and all in a mutually civil tone! I will look back later should you reply.

          2. “They should have the same marriage rights as straight individuals,…”

            Why? You have straight out said you do not believe in rights as a moral concept. Why do rights exist here?

            “As this has worked its way through the courts, it’s been repeatedly found that there is no rational,…”

            Judge’s have ruled that way, saying that’s “found” i.e. proven is stealing an intellectual base.

        2. How does state approval of a pairing assist in procreation?

        3. We do live in an organized political society that enforces laws for the common good.

          I’m trying to decide whether that sounds better with a German or a Russian accent.

          1. Russian. The “for the common good” part is less necessary in German.

          2. It sounds best with a Greek accent–Aristotle’s to be specific.

      4. we don’t need government policing our reproductive habits. This is not the Middle Ages.

        Actually, this is a myth too.

        1. This is the Middle Ages?

          1. This is the Middle Ages?

            No, that some sort of policing of taboo habits was somehow rampant in the Middle Ages or that any policing of sex during the Middle Ages by fiat was any more effective than it would be today.

      5. Gay people exist, have always existed, tend to pair off, and occasionally even raise or help raise children. Evolution has resulted in that too.

        Evolution? You mean genetic biologic evolution? WTF?

        1. Well they weren’t dropped onto the planet by aliens running a social experiment, far as I know.

          1. So you’re just making the trivial statement that everything people do is done by people, and people are living things, so biology in some way accounts for the Mona Lisa, blackened swordfish, and no-deposit, no-return bottles?

            1. Does it not?

              I’ll help you. You could compare homosexuality to genetic-level pathologies, which are maladaptive yet manage not to get eradicated.

              The problem with that is that homosexuality isn’t considered a pathology, and there is plausible genetic math that you can to do show how the presence of homosexuals actually is adaptive (more offspring from the women relatives of homosexuals, etc.).

            2. I’d like to point out at this point the theory that homosexuality could be an expression of some genetic trait that makes the carrier attracted to men generally, and the evidence backing it that the sisters of gay men in Fiji have significantly more children than other women in the same region (Fiji was picked because there’s some sort of cultural acceptance of gays, whom they consider like women and have some word for it, or something like that)

    3. I can’t help that i’m attracted to scents put off by both the same and opposite sexes. Left-handed people exist but they have no special purpose.

  19. Jesus Christ. Plenty of heterosexual couples can’t reproduce because one of the partners is infertile. That shouldn’t bar them from enjoying the legal benefits of “married” couples. I don’t see why two people of the same sex should be barred from the legal benefits of a legal “married” relationship. If you’re hung up on the words used, just argue for changing the legal term from “marriage” to “civil unions” for heterosexual and homosexual couples who wish to engage in that legal association with each other.

    1. And I don’t see why the existence of infertile heterosexual couples or couples who choose not to have children somehow compels the state to recognize ssm. Let’s see . .

      1. Marriage and family law recognizes/regulates relationship between a man and woman and any offspring that might potentially be produced by that relationship.

      2. Some men and women cannot produce offspring.

      3. Therefore, the state should apply marriage and family law to ss couples.

      Don’t they call that a non-sequitur?

      1. You said: “Evolution has resulted in two genders for the reproduction and rearing of viable offspring. Men and women engage in sexual intercourse, reproduce, and form extended kinship networks based upon consanguinity. Homosexual [sic] do not. So ssm opponents ask, why should marriage and family law recognize those non-traditional (oops) relationships?”

        If “reproduction and rearing of viable offspring” defines “marriage” for you, then you should not support infertile couples who are incapable of that wanting to be “married.”

        Let’s not get sidetracked from the real issue. I don’t give a flying f*** about what you want to call “marriage.” The issue is this: I don’t think homosexual couples should have to jump through any different hoops than heterosexual couples for the same legal privileges/relationships solely because of their status as heterosexual or homosexual. Do we agree on that or not?

        1. I agree on that. Right there’s the heart of the matter.

          Give the gay couples the same privileges and the easy access to them. Argue the semantics over “marriage” all you want. Or just remove “marriage” from the constitutional language altogether, like some guys in Oklahoma are trying to do.

        2. “I don’t think homosexual couples should have to jump through any different hoops than heterosexual couples for the same legal privileges/relationships…”

          They are not the same types of relationships.

          1. OMG! You’re right! Homosexual couples have two people of the same sex while heterosexual couples have two people of the opposite sex! I didn’t realize THAT before. Now I’ve changed my opinion and don’t support gay marriage because they are in fact different relationships.

            Come to think of it, interracial marriages are not the same type of relationships as uniracial relationships. Interracial marriage should be outlawed.

            Sarcasm aside, why should homosexual couples who want the same legal rights as heterosexual couples not be granted them? If it’s related to reproduction, consider outlawing marriage between infertile couples and any couple where the woman has had menopause. If it’s just because one couple is heterosexual and the other is homosexual, WHY is that a good reason?

    2. And there is another name for a ss relationship with at least some legal benefits: power of attorney.

      1. The only aspects of marriage that require a state license are those that the state requires you to have a license for, and boil down to taxes and welfare.

        The self-licking ice cream cone strikes again! The state has created a problem by doing X, so the only possible solution is to have the state do X and Y. Rinse and repeat.

    3. Plenty of heterosexual couples can’t reproduce because one of the partners is infertile. That shouldn’t bar them from enjoying the legal benefits of “married” couples.

      A Canadian court reviewing about 15 yrs. ago the subject of same sex marriage (pretty good analysis, wish I had a link saved) pointed out that until fairly recently, infertility was sufficient reason to annul a marriage.

      1. Annulling a marriage and entering marriage are entirely different things. THAT is a non sequitur.

        Again, should infertile coups be barred from entering marriage together? If the answer is no, then reproduction has nothing to do with why you don’t support homosexual couples getting the same legal privileges. Do you just not like gay people?

  20. Don’t forget too that “appeals to antiquity” (the context which traditional marriage often is argued) is a rhetorical fallacy.

  21. *pokes head up*

    Nope – looks like six more weeks of derp.

    *retreats to shelter to wait out derp storm*

  22. It seems to be a very tenuous position to argue that societal “norms” can be advocated and protected by the government to benefit that society. That doesn’t leave people who choose to use government force for this advocacy on very solid ground should the “norms” they cherish become passe. What happens if the same people who argued for this government sponsored enforcement are suddenly persecuted for their religion, sexual choices or number of children they have? They can’t legitimately state they did not empower government to these kinds of actions if they advocate for state sponsored “normalcy”today.

    1. In fact, you would think that “natural laws” and “ancient social norms” wouldn’t need the force of government to keep them in place.

  23. This is yet more nonsense about marriage. FACT is that at the time of the Constitution, marriage was part of canon law (Church of England) not secular law. Indeed, marriage was THE reason the CoE was created. Between Henry and 1830, there was ONE law passed by Parliament re marriage – to ‘establish’ it (eg Catholics/Jews/dissenters were also required to get married in the CoE – just like Anglicans). Marital disputes were handled like any other dispute – by common law not civil law. The emphasis there is DISPUTE – not marriage.

    It is a clear 1st Amendment ‘establishment of religion’ issue. States were, back then, allowed to ‘establish religion’ or ‘prohibit the free exercise’ because the Bill of Rights did not, legally, apply to them then. And so that’s what they did – created laws re marriage. By 1947 (when the Supremes issued – STOP in the name of #1) everyone had forgotten that the source of state authority over marriage was – establishment of religion.

    Until such time as the 1st Amendment is amended to read – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibit the free exercise unless the law is popular and the people are stupid – then all federal laws (and now all state laws too) are unconstitutional.

    That means any laws which grant goodies to people – any laws which force licensure – etc.

  24. Great article iterating government interference in the private act of sexual cohabitation. Certainly, sexual cohabitation among consenting heterosexual adults has developed and changed over time — sometimes moving forward and sometimes moving backwards. But the reason married women had few rights at one time was not because of “marriage” but because of government laws favoring or disfavoring one or more partners in a sexual union. What history tells me is that the government should get out of legislating “marriage.” Change all the laws based on “marriage.” Treat individuals equally under the law regardless of sexual cohabitation status. “Homosexual marriage” is just dancing around the problem while ignoring the solution. For example, why do homosexuals want what they call equal treatment under all the laws related to “marriage” status but deny equal treatment to polygamists? Remove government, and all the noise goes away.

    1. Exactly, this is a problem caused by government that will not be resolved by approving government issued marriage licenses to gay couples.

  25. The concept of marriage also predates any recorded human history, and is just another thing the Christian Right in the US likes to hijack and claim as their own, no one else’s. That action goes well with the rest of their myopic worldview.

    1. It’s not just prehistoric, it’s probably pre-human. A what point in the human line of descent it changed from instinctive to cultural, I don’t know, but well before H. sapiens at least, probably before homo.

  26. How can we consider ourselves free if adults need to get permission from the government to form a personal relationship.

    There should be no such thing as a government marriage license. Treat everyone equal as individuals, no special rights and privileges based on relationship status. As for inheritance rights those are legal issues. Write a will, put assets in joint ownership when you are alive or give it away before you die. The inheritance issue does not justify the government intrusion into personal relationships.

    1. Well said, but how to get there?

  27. Seems pretty simple to me

    Just because I think that homosexual sex is morally wrong (and I do), the government should NOT deny benefits to homosexual people that it provides to heterosexual people. Duh. End of story.

    Oh wait, you mean I am to be ostracized for my belief because it isn’t the morality of the day? Government neutrality isnt enough, I’m supposed to just change my faith principles cause it isnt cool anymore? My bad.

    1. You should change your bigoted opinions because you should want to be seen as a mature and reasonable human being in the modern world, but nobody’s advocating for the government to force you to change your thoughts.

  28. Because Solomon had many wives does not mean that he was right. Jesus tells the Pharisees that Moses only granted divorce to the Israelites because of their hardness of hearts, but that it should not be that way.

    Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Mark 19


    Even polygamy includes at least one man and one woman. I do not believe it forward-thinking or trailblazing to change this. When you say that marriage must be adapted to “the needs of modern people”, what you really mean is that society must change its morals to adapt to the unnatural wants of a few (the percentage of people who are homosexual usually hovers around the 2 – 3% mark).

    As for your statement that “Extending marriage to same-sex couples […] offers a framework for procreation” – are you kidding? Gays cannot have sexual intercourse (coitus). But you are right, in that procreation is a fundamental, defining characteristic of marriage.

    It isn’t just conservatives who are against gay marriage. Many gays are as well. Many gays took part in the 1.6 million strong march in France to protest against gay marriage – http://www.c-fam.org/fridayfax…..riage.html

    1. You said “procreation is a fundamental, defining characteristic of marriage.”

      If that’s the case, infertile couples and couples where the woman has experienced menopause should be denied marriage. They cannot procreate.

      1. But those couples can in *principle*, as Alan Keyes points out –

        —-

        The word “principle” means, relating to the definition of; not relating to particular circumstances. Human beings reason by concepts and definitions; we also make laws by concepts and definitions. And if you don’t know how to operate with respect for the definitions, you can’t make the law. An individual who is impotent, or another who is infertile does not change the definition of marriage in principle.

        Because between a man and a woman ? in principle ? procreation is always possible. And it is that possibility that gave rise to the institution of marriage in the first place. But when it is impossible, as between two males or two females ? you’re talking about something that is not just incidentally impossible, it’s impossible in principle. That means that if you are saying, ‘that is a marriage’, you are saying that marriage can be understood in principle apart from procreation. You have changed it’s definition in such a way as, in fact, to destroy the necessity for the institution, since the only reason it has existed in human societies and civilizations is to regulate, from a social point of view, the obligations and responsibilities attendant upon procreation.

        So if you start playing games in this way, you are acting as if the institution has no basis independent of your own arbitrary whim.

        —-

        1. Go have your debate in church or wherever you freely associate with those who share your moral philosophy. Let’s get government out of the marriage business altogether so we can move onto more important topics.

    2. “…what you really mean is that society must change its morals to adapt to the unnatural wants of a few (the percentage of people who are homosexual usually hovers around the 2 – 3% mark).”

      Society doesn’t have to have one set of morals that everyone must conform to, other than don’t take anyone’s life, liberty or property. The other details, since they harm no one directly, can be left up to the individual or any associations the individual belongs to. And the old “marriage-is-only-for-procreation’s-sake” ship has sailed already. You’re free to find a community of like-minded people and follow your own special set of rules. But you can’t impose those rules on all Americans. And if someone in your group breaks those victimless rules, the worst you can do to them is banish and ostracize them – no jailing, no death penalty. (Got that, Muslims?)

  29. //But you don’t see many conservatives trying to repeal no-fault laws in the name of “traditional marriage.”

    A) this is in part because the American people are stupid, they either don’t think about it, or don’t care, or assume that marriage laws are somehow binding in some way
    B) Actually, you DO see this to some extent. Various states have alimony reform proposals in their legislatures, and certainly MRAs write about the horrors of modern marriage law.

    The more I think about the whole thing, the more I realize that it’s impossible to have a culture- and/or religion- neutral government. Muslims even have laws about banking! How can we have one-size-fits-all laws and not end up stepping on SOMEONE’S toes?
    The ONLY way to TRULY have a neutral government is to entirely leave issues of marriage, child custody, alimony or whatever (really this is part of marriage) and other related things to private individuals and organizations, with the government simply enforcing ( to a reasonable extent) their decisions

  30. I have absolutely no problem with gays and lesbians marrying. Gay, straight, traditional, non-traditional, polygamous, whatever. As long as everybody involved is a consenting adult, it’s no my business. But with that said, I will be voting against the gay marriage initiative on my state’s ballot come November because I am 100% against any type of government involvement in marriage. Rather than punish gays and lesbians by forcing them to purchase a marriage license and all of the other costs involved with government-sanctioned marriage, let’s work towards removing those regulations for straight people.

  31. Trash can the traditional definition of marriage, and every crazy lady who wants to marry a llama — every Saudi or Somali who wants to show up with their four wives and get tax credits for them — every piece of trailer trash who wants to marry his own niece and *call* it marriage will be in business. And our society will continue to unravel.

    Civil union was a great way to get in pair-bonding gays without destroying traditional marriage. But as with all else on the soft-fascist left, it wasn’t good enough. It never is. This is not about civil rights. It is about power and control.

  32. I remember when I got married I was required to jump through government’s hoops to get a license and whatnot before the deed was done. I certainly was NOT looking for government’s approval. I would actually like to know if any married commentators here on this website were. Maybe you were, who knows? I’m no foe of SSM but I can’t help but feel a lot of the efforts by Gays to be included in the laws and statues covering marriage stem from a desperate need for some official stamp of approval. Sure, the government can say yes or no to this or that, fine. However, no one is entitled to someone else’s approval. It’s really kinda sad when you think about it. I can’t help but think that marriage may be the perfect example of government insinuation into a area it never had any business.

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