Re-defining marriage

People talk about re-defining marriage as if it hasn’t been continually re-defined since, well, Adam and Eve. Let me define Marriage as it has been understood historically.  

  • One man and one woman (or many women, historically, but always just one man).
  • The couple’s parents were traditionally responsible for making the match (in order to control the line of inheritance).
  • Marriage between persons of different ethnic backgrounds are illegal, immoral, and contrary to the church’s teachings
  • The wife’s property (that is to say, the property her father gives her upon her marriage) is controlled by the husband
  • A married woman does not retain her status as a legal individual.
  • The wife does not work outside the home
  • The wife stays at home to raise children– and there ARE children unless someone is infertile
  • The husband is responsible for all decisions; for example, it is not a joint bank account

And let’s not get into the various abuses, including rape, which were not illegal or immoral because the man was married to his victim.

Then we can compare that to the modern definition of marriage (prior to gay marriage):

  • one man and one woman
  • who are in love
  • and commit to partnering together, as equals, for the rest of their lives
  • in a sexually exclusive agreement (usually…)

First of all, you can see the impressive gains that the women’s movement has given us. No longer are women property to be passed along so that her father can have someone help manage his accounts and pass on the family line. No longer are children a requirement or an expectation. Women often have careers outside their role as mothers. Women often manage their own finances or the household’s shared finances. Both men and women marry whomever they like without the necessary agreement of their parents. And since 1967, people of different ethnic heritage can marry one another.

What you’re seeing here is gender equality and the re-definition of marriage.

(It’s interesting, is it not, that the Republican party, ostensible proponents of individual rights, want to make laws about who can marry who. It looks suspiciously like they want people to have the freedom to run their own lives and make their own decisions– unless they make decisions they disagree with. But I digress.)

Now, gay couples have always been gay couples. They fall in love, set up a household together, raise children, share bank accounts, and very often spend the rest of their lives together in a monogamous relationship. It does not spell doom for the human race to admit this– not unless you honestly think strait people are going to magically turn gay and stop making babies together.

People often say that a marriage and a domestic partnership are the same thing. And while it is true that legally, in California, domestic partners are considered the legal equivalent of married couples (Family Code 297.5a et seq), it is not the same thing. Setting aside the point that in many states, this is absolutely not true of domestic partnerships or legal unions, think about the social implications of marriage. When you know another couple who are married, you actually know a lot about them. You understand that they have the unquestioned right to make medical decisions for each other, that they share rights over co-parented children, they own property together (like a car or house or furniture or a toothbrush holder), and they have rights to life insurance and social security benefits upon their spouse’s death.

When you marry someone, you send a message to the world: this is the person that I love and trust more than my family; this is the person who understands me and is sympathetic to my opinions, lifestyle, and wishes. We’re in love and we have shared goals. We’ve got each other’s backs without exception or need for an explanation: all you have to say is, “We are married.” Everyone gets it.

Married people have made an official, mature, public decision, and even the most unconventional couple is together because they want to be together. When you apply for a marriage licence, you don’t have to verify that you want children, that you will share a bank account, or any of those other socially-understood reasons to marry. We know you’ve got reasons to marry. So all you have to do, young couple in love, is put your names on the line. That’s it.

I got married in less than an hour; any man and woman can.

And then people have the audacity to say that another couple in love cannot marry because of their loved one’s gender.

Let’s stop pretending, shall we? If it looks like a marriage and acts like a marriage, it is a marriage. Quit with the prim euphemisms like “domestic partnership” (which no strait couple would choose over marriage) and leave your opinions out of it. You don’t judge the appropriateness of anyone else’s relationship– or if you do, you don’t actually try to take away their right to be married– so why do you take it upon yourself to judge gay couples?

Yeah, it’s the redefinition of marriage. Get over it.

Then, you might actually be thankful that we live in a country where women are not treated like property and adult people are permitted– expected— to make their own choices and do everything in their power to live happy, healthy lives. It’s no different than you expect yourself.



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