Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Straight Marriage Must Be Abolished

The gay marriage debate is one of many, many areas in which liberals have misunderstood the argument they're supposed to be making. The mere mention of gay marriage tends to send liberals into rhapsodic tales of "two people whose love the government refused to acknowledge, simply because their sexuality deviated from the norm." I can understand what you're doing there, but the fact is that two people's love is irrelevant. Much more relevant, from a legal and traditional standpoint, is whether they are capable of engaging in intercourse and procreation.

Don't think the marriage laws reflect this view? I'd urge you to take another look. An unconsummated marriage remains one of the only grounds for annulment in the United States today; to many citizens of your country, a marriage is an explicit agreement to have heterosexual intercourse for the purpose of reproduction. Keep in mind the definition of annulment: the marriage is not ending, it is considered to have never existed. No sex, no marriage: a childless couple are either victims of ill fortune, or perpetrators of a good-faith violation.

This seems like a totally ridiculous view to most secular liberals, who see marriage as a public expression of love. It's understandable, however, for many religious people and social conservatives (I'll do the former group the courtesy of not assuming they all belong to the latter) to assume certain things about marriage as a result of its history. We are, after all, probably in the first age of the world wherein secular life is even possible: separation of church and state was not a huge concern for premodern governments, most of whom had an implicit or explicit state religion. Whether marriage was a religious ceremony or not (and let's not forget - it almost always was), it existed within the social and cultural framework of religious life. Put simply: the word "marriage" has more cultural/religious connotations than secular, and liberals who think otherwise are kidding themselves.

The problem, of course, is that liberals almost all think otherwise. I recently watched an episode of "The Daily Show" where one of the correspondents was grilling an RNC delegate about gay marriage. "Gays already have the right to marry," he said calmly, "so long as they marry a person of the opposite gender." The audience laughed, jeered; how cruel the Republicans are. You have the right to do whatever you want, they say, as long as you do it our way.

Except they don't think it's their way; they think it's the only way, and there is absolutely no precedent for seeing it otherwise. What does it matter that you wouldn't enjoy exercising your right to a straight marriage? You have the right to set yourself on fire, and nobody thinks that's much fun. Almost never in history has marriage had anything explicit to do with celebrating love - in most premodern cultures, marriage for love was considered socially irresponsible and possibly immoral. Marriage is a cultural institution designed to legitimize procreation and divide family units according to social norms. Our social norms are religious, even the seemingly secular ones. Deal with it.

Deal with it how, you ask? Well, that depends on if you really want separation of church and state - don't forget, by no means has the nation agreed on that particular principle. If you do, however, there's only one way to eliminate all the confusion: get rid of civil marriage altogether. Stop allowing the government to legitimize a religious ceremony; divorce civil from religious union, and eliminate the legal basis for discrimination. The notion that the nuclear family is the basic unit of society became outdated decades ago; if you agree, fight to spread a new one.

Because, of course, we haven't; liberals have not fought to spread the notion that single parents, and adoptive parents, and gay parents are legitimate members of society. As usual, we have looked around us, seen nothing but other hippie progressives like ourselves, and concluded that the world has moved on - except for a tiny, yet puzzlingly influential group of Mean Little Men.

They're not tiny, their influence should not be puzzling, and they aren't all trying to be mean. History is not on your side; logic is. Stick with that.

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