Why do we get married, anyway?

Introducing the third man or woman into the same-sex marriage debate.

Community expectations

Why did you get married? If not yet married, why would you get married? Why would a same-sex couple get married?

You may answer, “to be with the one I love.” Nice answer, but you could just live with the other person. Why not? “But her mother wouldn’t like it.” “My parents wouldn’t approve.” “I’d feel weird around her churchy relatives, wondering what they may be thinking.” “She might feel vulnerable if there isn’t a certificate and the obligations that go with it.” “The local priest or minister wouldn’t approve.” “Besides, we want to have children.” “What would we tell our workmates?” Some of these things go through people’s minds. So the basic reason people get married is actually to meet community expectations. This is all very old-fashioned. If you took away community expectations entirely, how many men and women would actually get married?

Young people have increasingly been rejecting such ideas. But while ‘community expectations’ still have a significant influence on the thoughts of young men and women, young gay couples have no such community expectations imposed on them – gay couples actually have complete freedom to do what they like. Leaves a question. Why do they want to get married?

What is the most boring part of any wedding? It’s the signing of the register. That’s the only part that actually comes under the Marriage Act. Most people would happily skip that.

Marriage places rules on couples

Until quite recently, the rule of society has been that if you wanted to live together and share a bed together, you had to get married first.

Marriage has always been a restriction on the freedom of the two people coming together. In societies all over the world the obligations that go with marriage are there for a purpose. The reasons are differences in power between the sexes, legitimacy of heirs, inheritance and so on. All the laws about who gets what depended on the certainty provided by a state-recognized marriage. It mainly served the rich. Poor people often just made their own arrangements.

The relative powerlessness of a woman in times past meant that rules were needed to ensure that marriage provided her protection, but at the cost of subjugation to her new husband. Laws and amendments to laws in the last two centuries have gradually given women equal status within marriage. Today, the moral strictures are also more lenient than in the past. If an unmarried girl has a baby today she is no longer forced into marriage or onto the streets. Even in the last half-century the morality has changed dramatically. Today, we pay young girls who have children outside marriage and we’ve abandoned the idea of providing the children better opportunities through adoption. The moral burden has switched and is now on the young woman to keep her child and on society to support it.

Marriage Acts

When the first British laws of marriage were passed about two-hundred and fifty years ago, they replaced church law and common law. The original reason these laws were passed was actually to make it harder or more time-consuming to get legally married. If an unfortunate marriage was found to be illegal it could be annulled. I would guess that the possibility of having his daughter elope with the footman or having the young Earl seduced by a chamber-maid was mainly on the mind of each of the gentlemen passing these laws.

The laws we have today basically reflect the thinking of a century ago. The Australian Marriage Act is very dry, mainly about who is qualified to perform ceremonies and such-like. It was amended about a decade ago to be restricted to man-woman marriage, only because it had never been necessary to spell it out before.

Religious and common law marriages

Long before there were any acts of parliament (in England, say), the recording of marriages and performing wedding ceremonies was within local parishes and the ceremonies were often similar to the older ceremonies that preceded Christianity. Not everyone was Christian so in that case they could just follow their old pagan ceremonies. Outside Christianity and around the world there have been a multitude of ways for men and women to get married based on tradition, but very rarely any tradition for same-sex marriage. Why would all these wedding traditions have arisen in every society on earth? Consider the Australian aboriginal tribes. They had far more complex arrangements than we do today. They tried to match husband and wife base on ‘skin group’ which they inherited from the combination of the skin groups of their respective parents. The rules were probably there to eliminate in-breeding and maintain the health of the tribe. There was also a ceremonial aspect. Because every aboriginal language group had their own variation on these laws, it’s logically possible to say that their traditional different-sex marriage customs must be at least 60,000 years old and those traditions had come with them when they arrived in Australia.

Today’s demands for same-sex marriage.

It seems to me there is no long-standing tradition of same-sex marriage in any culture, past and present. Homosexuality is just part of the nature of certain individuals and a civilised society must treat each member as unique yet equal, while according everyone the same dignity, respect and compassion. If gay couples are being treated with disrespect, being victimised or mistreated then we should have, and I believe we now do have, laws to redress that.

Amazingly, it was our laws as recently as 30-60 years ago, that used to take away gay people’s dignity or even put them in prison. It was these laws that forced young gay men and women into the closet. Now a change in the law is being demanded to again apply rules and regulations on the behaviour of young gay people in relationships, this time coming from the gay people themselves. That seems pretty ironic, but that is what gay people say that they want.

The lack of an historical precedent in tradition raises a big question. If, even before there were laws, even before there were powerful religions, there never developed a sustained tradition of same-sex marriage, where has the extremely strong movement for change that we see today come from? And it is quite a phenomenon considering it will eventually affect a small proportion of a small percentage of the population. Why so strong a call for this change? Why are those who question the idea treated so disdainfully and classified as hate-speakers and homophobes? I could only speculate.

Could it be that people who have a deep concern for the welfare of gay people have decided to put their resources behind such a change in the law in order that gay people regain their status in society? That doesn’t really seem necessary as there are openly gay ministers in government, CEOs, TV hosts, journalists and respected judges who don’t seem to suffer from being gay in the first place. If they are in a long-term relationships there is no public outrage. Stats show that gay couples have higher incomes than their straight counterparts. Would redefining marriage to include them in ‘marriages’ make their lives better? I can’t see it.

But surely everyone would be for ‘marriage-equality’? If you aren’t for marriage equality then you are stealing hope from every young gay person who wants to find acceptance in a world full of prejudice. If you aren’t for marriage equality then you are denigrating the value of each gay person’s relationship, implying they are second-rate. These are highly charged words, very emotive.

And then there are the children

What about the children? At first, I never saw this as an issue because there wouldn’t be any. Traditional marriage has principally been about having children although unfortunately, not all are given the gift of a new life and not all parents do a good job.

When I first heard about same-sex marriage I imagined two people living together and sharing their childless lives. But why on earth would a gay couple go through an unnecessary process that restricts their freedom? Why not just continue to live together? But I keep hearing references to children. Adoption is already happening without marriage. But this is where it starts to get weird. There are many childless couples in different-sex marriages who already have trouble adopting babies. Where will the children come from for this new group? If means are found for each same-sex couple to have children to raise then that seems to open the door for some creative procreation. Such experimenting with human life and young children would definitely be a travesty of the highest order. The children would be the ones to suffer from such arrangements, many of which would be illegal anyway.

Conclusion

After thinking this issue through, I feel I haven’t really nailed why same-sex marriage is something that the nation should support. I really want gay couples to be happy. If a ‘yes’ vote and eventually changes to the marriage laws, make them happier then that would be great. So that’s why I’m voting ‘yes’? No. Laws are rarely made to make various groups in society happy. On the other hand, our laws should not make people unhappy. Am I aligning myself with the nasty, conservative, gay-haters? No. Such a group doesn’t exist in the world I mix with, I don’t know any of those people or listen to them on radio. Of course, just a handful of those can do a lot of damage. But I have also seen a man being pilloried on social media after putting forward a polite and well-reasoned case for ‘no’.

So here is how it lines up.

  • I really have a feeling that the same-sex marriage debate has been hijacked by others (basically extreme left wing socialists) to achieve other aims, partly by breaking down a traditional pillar of our society, the traditional family.
  • I feel that it’s illogical to restrict the freedom of same-sex relationships by applying to them an old tradition that is inappropriate to their needs. Is there a better solution?
  • It also seems premature to introduce two new groups to the very old tradition of marriage at this time. Different-sex couples waited over 60,000 years before their relationships were controlled by Australian law. (That’s around 2500 generations!) Let’s move slowly and without so much angst towards a solution that meets everybody’s needs.
  • If same-sex couples are really desperate that the government becomes the third man (or woman) in their relationship then what we need is new tradition that recognises their legitimate and loving relationship. But it can be a strictly civil arrangement that doesn’t complicate things by upsetting a large minority to satisfy a very small minority.

 

 

 

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Margaret Court’s comments provoke predictable responses

I don’t like much of what Margaret Court has been saying lately, but my earlier blog predicted the reaction to it (21/9/2016.) You can’t express an opinion on some subjects without invoking a fury of indignation and reprisals. Her opinions are out of the mainstream now but they were well inside the mainstream when she was a champion tennis player. I applaud her for sticking her neck out.

In this world, people have beliefs based on what they have been taught or grown up with. Other people have newer, more fashionable ideas. Who’s right? Are we making progress or going around in circles? Once we took half-caste children from their mothers and took children from their unmarried mothers. We thought it right then, but we think it wrong now no matter how unsuitable the parents prove to be.

It’s a very strange world today in many ways. In recent times you have seen the anguish of victims of molestation at the hands of Catholic clergy and other institutional abuse – young people put into harms way by the institutions that were supposed to protect them. But if someone would now question the right of gay couples to adopt children they would be hounded down as homophobic! They would be the worst kind of bigoted, narrow minded, reactionary troglodytes.

Recently my employer’s homepage was actively promoting a gay male couple who were raising a pair of boys. Of course, a pair of loving gay men can raise two boys without harming them, but then we once thought that priests were beyond reproach, too.

Today, people have the right to live their lives fairly freely without the law interfering. Consenting adults can do anything, which is the way it should be. But children, who gives consent for them? Why is it always children that we choose to experiment with?

 

Unwarranted pressure

I feel pressured by those promoting marriage equality. I find their arguments are fallacious and their attitudes condescending, intolerant and judgmental. One argument is the government should change the law to allow people to live with the person they love. That is not the issue. In Australia today people are free to be with and live with whoever they want. There is no law against it.

I am getting the feeling that those proposing “marriage equality” are merely trying to divide the country. They seem intent on labelling those who would not immediately jump on the bandwagon, changing thousands of years of tradition, as being homophobic and bigoted. Even starting a discussion is enough to get one attacked by the head-shakers.

So I have come to the conclusion that the only reason there are so many people pushing this issue is not actual concern for gay people in relationships but rather a way to get in the face of religious leaders and conservative politicians. This issue-of-the-day will one day be replaced by some other issue that serves the same purpose when it suits them. Their aim is to undermine the establishment by whatever means they can find.

Let’s just revisit the matter of marriage laws. Marriage laws were enacted only within the past 500 years or so, to regularise practices that had existed in tradition and religious observance for thousands of years. Those traditions and ceremonies were exclusively related to man-woman relationships. Any exceptions are so rare and short-term as to be irrelevant.

Civil marriage laws became necessary because of several things, mainly the inequality of wealth and power of men and women, legitimacy of offspring, succession and inheritance of titles and wealth and the division of wealth at the time of divorce. Little of this, aside from divorce, is relevant to same-sex relationships.

Those arguing for same-sex marriage are therefore saying that we should overturn thousands of years of traditions, to change what was exclusively man-woman to include man-man and woman-woman relationships under the label of “marriage equality.” I’m all for equality, but we must always acknowledge that while we may wish for equality some things can never be “the same.” A homosexual relationship is not the same as a heterosexual relationship. There is no pretending that they are the same. Heterosexual relationships result in babies in most cases. Babies come from heterosexual relationships in all cases. Without wanting to sound elitist that is a big difference.

So, if not the same, where does “equality” come in? One argument I heard concerned the wish to use the term “next of kin” after a long-term relationship. If so, we can change whatever law concerns “next of kin.” In recent years, many laws have been changed to ensure that partners in same-sex de-facto relationships have equal rights to hetero relationships, whether or not de-facto or official.

Some heterosexual relationships never proceed to marriage. The partners choose not to go through the bother of a ceremony. They live together, have children and continue their lives. What is different to a traditional marriage? Not much.

So my unfortunate opinion is that we are all being taken for a ride by those who seek to undermine society as we know it and that those gay couples who impose on their relationships the rules of marriage are wasting their time.

Same-sex marriage

No one wants to be seen to be against same-sex marriage. That’s the main reason why I say I’m in favour of it. But, in fact, I can see only two good reasons why we should introduce same-sex marriage – because it will make people happy and it will stop all this nonsense about it. To give those people whose preferred partner in life is of the same sex a feeling of acceptance and legitimacy is surely worthwhile.  This is the sentimental argument.

But does it really warrant a change in the law? The only argument about gay marriage that stands up to scrutiny is basically the sentimental one, because if you get away from the emotional argument there is no real justification for the government to pass laws that extend marriage laws to encompass same-sex unions.

The first thing a lawmaker would want to be sure of when passing a law is whether it is necessary, and you can easily argue that there is no need for a government to have laws about how people live their lives in their own homes and with people they love. This is one area in which we have very few laws for good reason.

Laws restrict what we can do.

Try to think of any law that permits behaviour or gives freedom. Any spring to mind? Come on. there must be one! Actually, no. Normally we start with freedom and then we pass laws to restrict it. Today, people have the right to live their lives freely with whoever they like precisely because we removed discriminatory laws. There were laws about gay relationships fifty years ago, and they were not very nice. Thankfully they have been removed. The justification for removing those laws was that the law should not interfere in people’s private lives. The same applies today. People can live their lives freely without any laws, what purpose do the laws play?

But we do have laws for heterosexual marriage. If there is no need for laws about gay marriage why do we have marriage laws at all? Good question, and in fact, many young couples eschew actual marriage and just live and have children with their sexual partner. That choice has become possible  because the original factors that led governments to make marriage laws are often no longer relevant.

I was reading about marriage laws and they have been around for a few hundred years. Before that, people did not have legally enforcing state laws about marriage but they did have traditional ceremonies to celebrate unions and people were expected to abide by their choice and generally stay with their chosen partner. In those days, women had little power, and went from being dependent on their families to being dependent on their husband. With no power of their own, women were given by their family to another family and their original family wanted some assurance that their daughter was to be looked after. It was the inequality of power that made traditional marriage such an important ceremony. Marriages were a key part of maintaining social coherence by the continuation of family lines through legitimate children and subsequent inheritance of wealth and titles.

Every ancient society had marriage ceremonies but there were never any gay marriage ceremonies. They would have been pointless. The fairly recent laws about marriage merely codified what society had been doing for years. But the laws don’t mention anything about love – far from it.

The main reasons for laws around marriage were because of the inequality of power  between the sexes,  the legitimacy of offspring and the inheritance of wealth and titles and divorce.

So the basis for supporting gay marriage laws is very tenuous. The first two reasons are completely irrelevant. If the sexes are the same then the sexes are equal; if the sexes are the same then there are no offspring; if there are no offspring then legitimacy is not a question and the inheritance of wealth and titles is likewise redundant. Of course, there is divorce. You can see that serves a purpose for the division of community property. So the only non-sentimental reason for gay marriage laws is divorce. Is that what people are fighting for? Ask Stephen Fry whether his recent marriage had a prenuptial agreement and you will see how the last surviving valid reason also falls.

One argument is that marriage laws that exclude gay marriage are unfair and discriminatory. This argument is also fallacious. I may have a licence for my dog but I can’t have a licence for my cat . Is this discriminating against cats? Since no one is stopping gay people living together, is a law that binds them together legally relevant?

So my unfortunate opinion is that gay marriage legislation is pointless and an unnecessary restriction on the lives of gay people who choose to undertake it. In ten or twenty years from now there will be no gay marriages because those undertaking them will realise that they are really taking on the burden of regulating their lives according to a set of rules designed for other people in other circumstances with no relevance for their own lives.