Thursday, June 30, 2011

Marriage has always been....

`~well, that part is right.  marriage has always been.  it's the next part that's tricky.  what, precisely,  has marriage always been?

  marriage has changed over the centuries, which is why it still exists.  i loved listening to mitt romney  proclaiming that marriage has always been between one man and one woman.  he, at least, should know better, since he is a member of a religion for whom marriage in the not-too-distant past was between one man and several women.  for many cultures at many times, that was the norm.

marriage has also been, in various times and places:

~an economic arrangement, with no concern about 'love.' or even 'like'. for women in particular it wasn't about choice.  your parents decided, for reasons having little to do with your personal emotions, who you were to marry.  marriages were often arranged before the betrothed had even met each other.  for men trapped in such marriages, there was at least the counter-institution of prostitution, which, as saint augustine and later thomas acquinas explained, was necessary to the family as the cesspool was necessary to the house.

~a transfer of possession.  the father 'gave away' his daughter, to her new owner.  like any slave, the woman was then given the surname of that owner.  the woman wore white because she was a virgin; men didn't like to buy used goods.

~an excuse to pay female workers lower wages than male workers, because she was being supported by her husband, or would be when she married.

~an assurance of a  man's ownership of the children he sired.

~an institution available only to members of the same race--if, indeed, the oppressed race was given the possibility of marriage in the first place.

those are a few of things marriage has been over the millenia.

none of this is new information.  in itself, it's not a good argument for or against gay marriage.  its relevance to that issue is only that the lie about the immutable nature of marriage has been used to argue against gay marriage.  i suppose you can't blame the homophobes for using it, since  there really isn't any sensible reason to ban gay marriage, and they have to say something more convincing than 'i think it's creepy.'

nor, by the way, do i think it necessarily proves the contention of the few of us who would like to see marriage as a legal institution be abolished--although it's a pretty good start.

it's just that it's always good to base one's arguments on truth.  call me old-fashioned, but i'm pretty fond of honesty.  

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