Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Question About The State Sanction Of Marriage

Disclaimer: Nothing in this post should be construed to indicate support of or opposition to marriage between a man and a woman, marriage between and man and another man, marriage between a man and a transgendered individual, a woman and another woman, a woman and a transgendered individual, or two transgendered individuals. IT'S MERELY A QUESTION I SERIOUSLY WANT ANSWERED.

I know I'm not the first to think of this question, but I've never seen an answer. I hope that someone provides one in the comments.

Some Christian denominations consider marriage a sacrament; others consider only baptism and communion sacraments. I have idea how the various strains of Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam consider marriage. I don't know if thoses faiths have anything that they or others would consider sacraments.

I have no doubt that the state has a vested interest in protecting family units. I do wonder, however, if codifying the term "marriage" doesn't in some tangential way constitute the establishment of religion by codifying something that some consider a sacrament while others do not consider that same act sacramental. Shouldn't the state rename all of its "marriage" laws "civil union" laws?

HT: I've considered this question several times while traveling the grand prairie north and west of Pierre on trips to visit my mother, but the following PNR sentence in this post caused me to ask it on the blog.
Other sexual arrangements may be permitted in law - multiple partners, homosexual partners, even cross-species partners.


Anonymous said...

Is it not just a matter of semantics anyway? Are not all marriages outside of religion already civil unions? In many States a couple can deem themselves married just by virtue of living together and the State will recognize that union.Outside of Religion the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman is a cultural distinction and we are in the midst of watching culture change.

Troy Jones said...

Marriage is an institution that is universal. It was practiced, protected, and nurtured in societies forever (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, pagan, atheist, polytheist).

The fact it is valued across religions (or no religion) should not be discarded. G.K. Chesterton called it the "Democracy of the Dead"- a principle that tradition has proven itself over time to have value. A society that discards tradition easily belies an arrogance that affirms its lack of wisdom and should be ignored.

Regardless of one's views on the morality of homosexuality, the concept of same-sex marriage has only been discussed for really 20 years. Maybe in a few hundred years after observing the impact in a few states should we entertain the wholesale re-organizing of probably the longest single institution in the history of mankind.

LK said...

I think semantics matter here. The common law example strikes me as the prime example of something that should be called a civil union rather than a marriage.

I am finding myself more and more of a first amendment absolutist. Churches should have the "free exercise" to not marry whomever they choose. Having the cohabitation recognized by the state being known under a different term might help diffuse some tensions.

Troy reminds me that I need to read a little more Chesterton.

His comment reminds me of a quotation from Swift's "A Modest Proposal" Swift satirically contended that eating the children of the Irish poor would "be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise nations have either encouraged by rewards or enforced by laws and penalties. It would increase the care and tenderness of mothers toward their children, when they were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in some sort by the public, to their annual profit instead of expense. We should see an honest emulation among the married women, which of them could bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as fond of their wives during the time of their pregnancy as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, their sows when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of a miscarriage."

I know I'm not original in this view, but it does seem to me that heterosexuals have done great damage to the institution and a large part of any discussion of marriage or civil unions or licensed cohabitation needs to examine include a discussion of that abuse of the institution and its traditional functions

troy said...

No matter the problem in society, it hasroots in the breakdown of the nuclear family. And, in practice, related to the worship of the new Trinity of "me, myself, and I ."

Marriage at its core is a total giving of oneself to the other to become a new being where 1+1=3. This is possible because of the complimentarity of male and female. Gay unions are inherently 1+1=2.

And to your point, marriage that is not the total giving to the other is also a cheap imitation of the real thing.