The Sanctity of Marriage

This phrase is the oft-used argument of the opponents of gay marriage. Many people see gay marriage as a black-and-white kind of issue; they see the liberals being for it, conservatives being against it, and no middle ground available. Unfortunately it’s not nearly that simple. There are plenty of liberals out there who are against gay marriage, most notably among them Bill and Hillary Clinton (Bill gave us the Defense of Marriage Act, remember?). And there are conservatives out there who are for gay marriage despite otherwise being politically conservative. So what’s all the fuss about?

When I was a teenager, I understood it perfectly. In my pious mind, gay people were tearing down American society. They didn’t need special rights. Then I became a part of “them,” and I started to think. I’ve been thinking non-stop for six years. One can come up with a lot of ideas in six years.

The big argument from ALL of the people who oppose gay marriage, both conservative and liberal, is that it would undermine the sanctity of marriage. How, exactly? How has American society not already undermined the sanctity of marriage? Take a good look at Britney Spears and tell me that marriage is still a sacred institution. Yes, there are plenty of people out there who do see it that way. It’s not the norm anymore, though. I know precious few people who have never been divorced, especially among those I know who have been married more than ten years. Marriage vows such as “for better or for worse” and “til death do us part” don’t mean anything anymore. People go into marriage these days with a flippant “oh well, I can always get divorced” kind of attitude, essentially nullifying the power of those vows. When those vows carry no weight, the “sanctity” no longer holds.

I don’t see how allowing gay and lesbian people marriage rights is going to do any more damage than has already been done. 24 hour wedding chapels in Las Vegas? Please. I don’t mean to undermine the seriousness with which some of the people in my life take their marriages, but when you look at the reality, how can so many people argue for the sanctity of marriage? Case in point: I used to go to church with a little family in Houston whose entire life was disrupted when dad was in a horrible accident at work. He was badly injured. The church rallied around them and gave all they could to help make sure that the loss of income didn’t disrupt their lives. The happily married couple and their daughter, who went to school with me as well, seemed to recover quite well. Then, unexpectedly, dad announced they were getting divorced. He’d met someone else and felt he’d be happier with her. That man today still has the patent nerve to argue that gay marriage would be the downfall of society as we know it.

On the other hand, if we allow gay marriage, where does it really stop? There are moral implications that we can’t ignore. If we allow same-sex marriage, how can we stop incestual marriage? Some would say, “incest? That’s just wrong!” Well, we’ve been saying that about gay marriage for decades, and look what we’re discussing now. I don’t believe it opens the door to bestiality or marrying children–those are things that cannot possibly be reconciled with the law. But if we’re arguing that marriage is merely a contract between two consenting adults, then what’s to stop brothers and sisters from arguing the same?

Another argument brought up is that if gay marriage were to be allowed, there would suddenly be lawsuits against churches that refused to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples. This is a very valid fear. The lawsuit against eHarmony.com proves that would be the next step, regardless of the fact that any church reserves the right to refuse to marry a couple even now. Given the right to marry, would we be willing to accept protections in the law for churches and ministers who exercise their freedoms of religious expression and speech in refusing to marry same-sex couples? To some it may seem like a no-brainer, but there are plenty who would scream bloody murder at such a concession.

Some who are against gay marriage say they’d support civil unions. Okay…if we allow civil unions that grant the same basic rights and breaks as marriage does, in effect granting marriage rights under a different name, again, how can we stop that from applying to incestual relationships? 95% of our society agrees that incest is disgusting and wrong, but there are those out there who see it differently. The only answer to that seems to be to allow marriage to remain as it always has, but the fact remains that I cannot love the opposite sex and someday want to settle down and share my life with a nice girl whom I’d like to be able to exchange vows with.

I admit I don’t really know what the answer is to this quagmire. Marriage is not a Constitutional right, nor is it a “human” right. Our emotions may tell us otherwise, though logic demands otherwise. For now, marriage is out of reach. Civil unions seem to be the best answer (or at least the most diplomatic one). I do know that we’re going to have to spend more time working out exactly how we intend to really make this work. Until then, it will be an impossible sell.

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5 thoughts on “The Sanctity of Marriage

  1. I catch a lot of crap for this. So here goes. Fire away.

    I am a person of faith. I happen to be Christian. if I were Jewish or Hindu I’d put the some into that as I do in my current faith.

    For me, Marriage is a sacramental rite made by two people before the God they choose. It is a sacred act. Christians don’t have the monopoly on it. Notice how I stated the term “before the God they choose.”

    A civil “marriage” in my opinion is not a marriage. It’s the filing of a legal contract between two adults. The license issued is evidence of that contract.

    I favor a system where legal Marriage is conferred by houses of worship and Civil Unions are performed by secular organizations.

    In the U.S. there are plenty of houses of worship that will marry same sex couples. I belong to one that does with open arms.

    This I believe is the solution. It may smack of separate but equal. But I don’t believe it is. Under separate but equal people did not have choices. You went to the school based on your skin color. You drank from the water fountain that was for “your kind”. There wasn’t any choice.

    I don’t see the big angst people have over what something is called. If one thing is called two different names yet they are both the same AND you can choose which one of those two things you want, then who is being abused by that?

  2. I’m with John on this one.

    But further, I do not think gay marriage is the slippery slope that many make it out to be. Gay marriage does not lead to legalizing polygamy, because there is legitimate societal interest in preventing polygamy. It is a fact that in those societies which practice polygamy women are reduced to the role of chattel. There can be hemming and hawing and argument, but the argument is false.

    In the same vein, society has a vested interest in protecting our gene pool from becoming inundated with the results of inbreeding. This is not eugenics, because as any breeder of anything can tell you, inbreeding causes horrendous problems – human problems you can see demonstrated in places like Afghanistan.

    So, I’m all for the “state makes legal unions, churches make marriages” solution. Works for me.

  3. “So, I’m all for the “state makes legal unions, churches make marriages” solution. Works for me.”

    Thank you. I catch a lot of crap because legally religions don’t own marriage. But, maybe they should. Having same sex marriage is a big change in America. So why not other change(s) to accommodate that?

  4. As someone who has been divorced twice I ‘d like to say there that my attitude toward marriage was NEVER *well if it doesn’t work out I can just get divorced*.

    What I think is more indicative of a portion of the population is that there are so many immature men (and women) out there- who were so spoiled by their parents or were not raised right by their parents, that they’re not really functioning members of society, nor do they want to be.

    Now that isn’t to say that there aren’t people out there, that are both selfish, and believe that marriage is 50/50 as opposed to 100/100 but with so many divorced parents, or unhappily married parents, what are kids to learn? I’m fortunate enough to have parents that are still married (34 years now) and set a good example for me. I know what a marriage should look like, and I still haven’t found a man that cares about that.

    I’ll also second john and afw’s ideas on marriage/civil unions.

  5. I agree with you, John. I’ve touched on the “marriage in the church/civil unions in the government” thing before, too, and I think it’s a fantastic idea. But, as you also mentioned, there are too many out there who decry it as “separate but equal.” That’s our biggest challenge to passing that sort of system.

    AFW also brings up a good point, that arguments about polygamy and incest also have valid societal and medical reasons for being banned. I agree with this, too, but we still have to lay it all out there: WHY those things are bad, and HOW it’s not going to be the next step after gay marriage or civil unions. We need to be a step ahead.

    SDCowgirl, I agree with you there, too. A large part of it is kids being spoiled. That’s where the whole, “oh well, I can just get divorced” idea comes from (mostly).

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