Protecting Marriage --- From What?

By: A.R. Schaffer




   In recent weeks we have heard a lot about gay marriage. We are now being told that we need a constitutional amendment to prevent gays from getting married to protect the sanctity of marriage. One has to wonder about the hypocrisy of such statement.  And, the deeper question becomes do we really want the government regulating people’s love life?


    To begin this discussion let us ask what the state of marriage is today?

    Over the course of human history marriage has meant different things.  In the past it was a religious/social contract, often arranged and having nothing to do with love, where women became property thus protecting the blood/property line for the aristocracy.  As we Americanized it and moved into the 20th century it became supposedly more romanticized with love entering the picture.  Out of this love men and women married for life and out of this bond families were formed.

    But the state of marriage today in its reality, is no longer sacred; nor, has little to do with love or family as is claimed. Such may be the ideal, and there are those who are out there; but it is not the societal reality.  Marriage has been reduced to a contract that protects the property rights of the parties involved and offers certain legal and social benefits.  

    While it is claimed that marriage is a sacred institution and the hub of family, with the divorce rate at 50% and children being passed back and forth between parents, the reality of this claim becomes hypocrisy at best.  This is without mentioning the portrayal of marriage in entertainment where cheating spouses are often the central theme, or women compete to marry the rich guy.  And recent surveys show that cheating spouses are epidemic in our society; is such art imitating life or the reverse?  While there are many in our society who may see and adhere to the sacredness of marriage, for the state to involve itself anymore than it already has is completely absurd.


    It would seem that if the government were truly worried about the state of holy matrimony in our society it would be much more concerned with the divorce rate and the spousal cheating as being the major threat to marriage, rather than the idea of two same sex people committing to each other in a union of love.  Divorce divides children, often putting them in a terrible psychological dilemma. Divorce often leaves a single parent household creating hardship for one particular spouse.  

      And, if one wants to talk about  threats to the institution of marriage and family ideals, one only needs watch the show “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire”. Or, watch any soap opera where cheating, lying, and dysfunction are the norm.  The sit-coms also poke fun at marriage reflecting bickering couples with dysfunctional families as the normal state. Entertainment such as this is not only in poor taste, but plays on the greed and shallowness of our society incorporating such into this so called sacred institution. Our cultural institution of media degrades marriage by cheapening its value.  And, the blame does not rest totally with the media, for television and movies only reflect what viewers choose to watch.  Do we need a constitutional amendment banning such entertainment?  Would there be much support for a constitutional amendment banning divorce.


      The idea that gay marriage would somehow threaten marriage is ridiculous.  Exactly what is the threat?  Are we somehow afraid if we allow gays to marry that everyone is going to turn homosexual?  That does not seem likely!  Is the idea of two people of the same sex committing to each other in a monogamous relationship less appealing to society than the stereotypical image of the promiscuous gay lifestyle?  Are heterosexual marriages in any way threatened by the fact that two people of a minority orientation choose to commit to each other?

     Mounting a podium and shouting we need to protect the institution of marriage from gay unions is ridiculous with the other social economic problems that often turn marriage from a joyous state into a nightmare. Loss of employment, lack of family medical coverage, the lack of time for parents to spend with their children: are all far more of a social threat to the sacred institution than homosexual marriage.   It is a case of projection of reality, instead of dealing with the social and personal problems that truly threaten marriage, let’s blame someone else’s life style for the mess.  It’s analogous to the stupidity of blaming immigrants for job loss, or lack of prayer in the schools for juvenile crime.


    Here again, when we examine the situation, this whole issue is really about people telling someone else how to live, when the reality is that it does not effect them in the least.  It is about amending the constitution to adhere to religious beliefs.  Even if one finds homosexuality sinful because of religious beliefs, that choice is really between the individual and God  --- maybe we just should let God deal with gay couples who decide to commit to each other in love.  Again, in reality, there is no personal threat to an individual’s religious concepts.   When any society begins regulating the freedoms of their citizens because of religious beliefs there is grave danger, and marriage as it is being defined by the right is a religious concept.  Like abortion protestors, the issue is used to obscure the real problems; while they fight this issue, children starve, are beaten, and brought up in homes without love. 

    We have a right to pass laws to protect our individual rights for the common good such as against murder or theft.  But such a law to define marriage goes right to the heart of civil liberties, and discriminates against a great many people.  Historically speaking we have had all kinds of laws about marriage in the past, for example at one time in our history a black could not marry a white.  Over the years the idea of marriage has evolved, lest we forget that at one time women who married became subject to their husband’s rule and had very few rights for themselves.  The patriarchal society of that time fought hard to resist any changes on women’s rights in a marriage using biblical based arguments to support their claims.  Do we really want to base our social order on the ideas spouted in the Old Testament?  Women in particular would have a lot to fear from that.

    And, the idea that marriage is only about family and having children begs the question: what about barren couples?  Should we also deprive them of getting married?

    And, what of this idea of a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage?  The Constitution of the United States is a document designed to spell out the function of government and protect the rights of the citizens.  Prohibition was an amendment that tried to regulate the rights of individuals constitutionally and it was a miserable failure.  It is a disgrace to the idea of freedom to think we would use the Constitution of the United States to discriminate against a portion of our citizenship.  Once again the leadership of this country is calling for setting up their personal convictions as the law of the land.    

      In recent days this whole issue has become a political hot potato. It is hoped with so many real issues in the world that effect the lives of people directly, such as war, economic strife and health care; we do not use such a personal value oriented issue to overshadow the bigger problems.  The president stated recently that he was very “concerned about this gay marriage issue”; perhaps, he should be more concerned with the loss of American lives due to the misinformation that sent us into an unnecessary war  --- or maybe more concern about the Americans without employment or healthcare. The reality is this issue is trivial compared to the problems facing America today; and, if one can fault the gay community for anything, it is for pushing such an agenda at this time to inject this matter into the election debate. 

    People may not be supportive of a homosexual lifestyle, but there are many things we are not supportive of that flourish in a free society.  People often do not like other people’s religions, or lack of religion, but we would not think of laws or amendments to ban them.  Our appetites differ, our politics differ, our appeal of entertainment differs --- but only a very small minority of people would think of regulating such freedoms.  What we fail to see here is that our sexual preferences and behavior is one of the most personal aspects of our nature, more personal than even our religious beliefs --- why would we open a Pandora’s Box of regulation on such a personal freedom.  Of what real concern to a society is there about what two people do in their beds --- so long as it is adult, consenting, and causes no infringement on the right of the other?  While it may be natural to fear what is different, laws should never be written based upon fear alone --- and, what other logical, non-religious, reason might one have for banning gay marriage?


    The real problems marriages face today are in our not being able to see the forest through the trees. Marriage, first and foremost should be about love.  Love is forever, not until we get tired of one another.  Love is about people working out their problems, sticking by each other in difficult times, and has little to do with contracts, constitutional amendments, or law.  These are really cop outs for the individual’s ability to commit true love to one another.  Marriage is threatened today from the cultural acceptability of divorce and the ease with which individuals are willing to throw in the towel.  Marriage is threatened today by the cavalier way in which people take their vows, seldom taking the time to contemplate the seriousness of the commitment they take.  There is often more thought given to the wedding day festivities than the reality of a so-called life long commitment.  

    The threats facing marriage today are not really from without --- they are within, in the individual’s inability to stick to the commitments they make. Marriage is not about what the law says it is, it is about the individual commitment two people make to one another.  In reality, marriage is not about a contract despite what our social criteria states; marriage is about personal commitment --- and that has everything to do with personal freedom.  In many ways it is an absurdity that people need a license to commit their love to one another! 







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