June 03, 2009

A definition....

So tired of the argument about "changing the definition" of marriage.

This excellent piece by Austin Cline puts that whole argument out of it's sad miserey. The fact is....we have ALWAYS been changing the definition of marriage. The idea that it has always had one single purpose and definition is a flat out lie.

Excellent, well reasoned, and THOUGHTFUL piece here....with, you know, FACTS backing it up.

What is Marriage? Gay Marriage Cant Be a Real Marriage
The Definition of Marriage Cant be Changed for Gay Couples

By Austin Cline, About.com

Some argue that marriage is defined narrowly as only being between a man and a woman, so gays can’t possibly marry.

The fact is, though, that the nature of marriage has changed in definition and make-up many times over the centuries. Marriage today isn’t at all like what it was two millennia or even two centuries ago. The changes in marriage have been broad and fundamental, so what are traditionalists really trying to defend? What is “traditional” about modern marriage?

Most of these changes have moved power in marriage away from the families and to the couples, as well as making women more equal. Let’s look at just a few of the most significant changes in marriage in the West over the past centuries:

Legalization of divorce
Criminalization of marital rape (and recognition that the concept even exists)
Legalization of contraception
Legalization of interracial marriage
Recognition of women’s right to own property in a marriage
Elimination of dowries
Elimination of parents’ right to choose or reject their children’s mates
Elimination of childhood marriages and betrothals
Elimination of polygamy
Existence of large numbers of unmarried people
Women not taking the last names of their husbands
Changing emphasis from money and property to love and personal fulfillment

It is worth noting just how many of these reforms directly benefited women. For a long time, marriage was not in any way a real “partnership” between men and women. Men were in control and women were often little more than property. It’s only very, very recently that people in the West began to treat marriage as a partnership between equals where both men and women had the same status in the relationship — and there continue to be many in America who object to even this idea.

Why was it acceptable in the past to make so many reforms in the nature of marriage that ultimately benefitted heterosexuals and women, but not acceptable now to make one reform that benefits gays? Is there any reason to think that all of these other reforms were somehow more “minor” or “superficial” than legalizing gay marriage? No — making women equal in marriage rather than property, eliminating polygamy, and allowing people to marry for love are all at least as significant as allowing gay couples to marry, especially since gay marriage is not unheard-of in human history.

The last change in the list above is the most important: throughout of Western history, marriage has been primarily about unions which made good economic sense. Rich people married other rich people in order to solidify political alliances and economic futures. Poor people married other poor people with whom they thought they could create a livable future — someone who was a hard worker, reliable, strong, etc. Love existed, but it was a minor consideration next to simply surviving.

Today, the relative positions of the two have switched. Economic issues aren’t totally irrelevant and few people rush to marry someone who appears unreliable and with no economic future. At the same time, though, romantic love has been made the most important basis for marriage. When was the last time you saw someone praised for marrying for economic considerations? People marry for love and personal fulfillment — and that’s what’s driving divorce, because when love disappears and/or one no longer feels personally fulfilled, they see little reason to continue the marriage. In the past, such changes would have been irrelevant given the importance of economic survival and familial pressures.

In 1886, a Judge Valentine ruled that two free-love activists, Lillian Harman and Edwin Walker, did not have a valid marriage even under common-law rules because their union did not fulfill the traditional characteristics. The “essentials” of marriage which Valentine listed included: life-long commitment, a wife’s obedience to the husband, the husband’s absolute control over all property, the wife taking the husband’s last name, the right of the husband to force sexual intercourse on an unwilling wife (that would be rape, by the way), and the right of the husband to control and have custody of any children.

Valentine's decision mirrors the arguments made by opponents of gay marriage today. His sincerity and conviction were no less than the sincerity and conviction of those who claim that a valid marriage, by definition, cannot exist for same-sex couples. The things which Valentine regarded as absolutely essential and indispensable to marriage are today unnecessary for most who marry. Thus it's not enough for opponents of gay marriage to simply assert that it would be contrary to the definition of marriage. Instead, they must explain why it is essential to the definition of marriage that a couple must consist of different sexes, and moreover why a change to include gay couples would be any less valid (or any more of a danger) than the changes we've experienced since Valentine's day.

Click here to check out Austin's fantastic blog...


Justine said...

Good article, actually, because it defines a key difference in our understanding of this issue.

Cline makes the assumption that everything on his list was a positive development, but I disagree with his assumption.

Years ago, I used to believe the myth that our civilization was always moving forward, that "progress" was always good. But someone pointed out to me that by studying history, one could not draw that conclusion. ALL civilizations that have risen have also fallen. I realized then that our civilization was following the same pattern. I have no idea where we are on the curve, but I have ceased to believe that every shift in our rule of law or societal customs is necessarily a good one, as Cline does.

Utah Savage said...

Just wanted to point out that there are still child brothels and children are still used as sexual object by adults. I was one and have run into many more over my lifetime. And the other point is that polygamy is alive and well here in Utah.

And sometimes I just want to smack Justine. Sorry, Justine, but your world view makes me want to scream. We are still a very backward country. We have yet to catch up to most of the civilized nations and some very backward nations. We still don't offer universal health care to all our citizens who need it. And until all our citizens receive their full civil rights we will remain a nation barely out of the dark ages. Remember this. We have been torturing people we picked up in our travels through their lands and brought them to a torture chamber somewhere near here and done unspeakable things to them in the name of peace and justice and the American way. We have a long way to go and a lot to make up for.

Justine said...

Sorry about making you want to smack me, Ms. Savage, but you know that'll just force me to turn the other cheek. :)

Seriously, though, I'm VERY sorry about any sexual abuse in the past. I'm sure that left you with deep wounds that are hard to recover from. Good for you for speaking out, which I'm sure gives other people courage in their own personal struggles.

Part of my worldview, the driving force behind it actually, is my knowledge that God is all good and all loving and that someday he will wipe away every tear. I know complete healing for all we've suffered in this world seems like a fairy tale that is too good to be true, but--you can believe it! It is true!

Justine said...

Question for the good people of this blog while Lemmy is away from the internet, clearly shirking his duty:

I know a man who lived a homosexual lifestyle in his youth who then denounced that life and now claims to be straight. He is married and has kids.

(When I say "married" you all assume that since he's a man that I mean he's married to a woman, because that's the traditional meaning of marriage no matter what Lemmy tries to tell you, but I digress...)

My question is, when the man believed he was gay, was he really gay? If so, now that he believes he is straight, is he really straight? Who are we to say that he was not gay if he insisted back then, and who are we to say that he is not straight now?

So, if we are to take him at his word, we would have to conclude that this man (who is a real man who used to own a business in downtown Steubenville) actually CHANGED his orientation. How is this possible, if our orientation is something we are born with?


themom said...

I find that example, the former Steubenville businessman to be slightly lame. There are many, many people who have "experimented" with different lifestyles, there are bi-sexuals also. This gentleman of whom you speak was probably testing the waters, as it were. Yes, I believe that one is born gay, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. I do not believe in your flowery representation of a GOD. God, throughout your book of passion was a notoriously mean and war mongering entity.

Yous state that your god is all loving and good - then why does he make children suffer excruciating and debilitating diseases? Why does he let those we love die horrible deaths from cancer and such?

I'm not going to get into any arguments here, but I am an atheist. I have been a member in the past of three different religions - all varied theology. How many gods are there then?

Justine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justine said...

You're talking about "The Problem of Pain" here, aren't you? That is, you wonder how can a God of love permit such things in His world as war, sickness, pain, and death? You conclude that either He is not a God of love and is indifferent to human suffering, or else He is not a God of power and is therefore helpless to do anything about it. I know that is a pretty big stumbling block to faith.

It's hard to answer that in a combox, but I'll give you two things to think about.

1. God has given us free will. That means, he didn't make us brainwashed slaves who do his bidding. We are free to choose good or evil every moment of everyday. Much of the evil in the world is caused by people choices. You yourself have probably hurt someone before with your free will--I know I have. I've lost my temper and said hurtful things to those I love, for example. Why do we do those things that we later regret? Why can't we be good all time? No one is perfect, they say, and it's true.

When you ask why God doesn't step in and smack around those who are doing harm to others, do you ask him to smack you around too? :) (Ms. Utah's gonna smack me, so He won't have to.) He doesn't step in now (he will at the end of time) because that would mean he would have to take away our free will, which is what makes us human. He allows us to decide for ourselves whether or not we will love Him. He only knocks at the door of our hearts, he won't break it down.

As for things like cancer, the world we live in is a fallen world. It's decaying, crumbling--even our bodies--and we all have to die. It didn't start out this way, but through a human choice, sin was brought into the world. The GOOD NEWS is, Jesus came to earth, suffered for all of our sins (yours, his, hers, and the really big pile of mine) and instead of giving us the smacks we deserve, he suffered hits, and whips, and nails through his flesh until he died.

Because he loves us. And that kind of love is almost so impossible to understand that it's sometimes dismissed as "flowery."

2. "The Problem of Good" is a bigger stumbling block to atheism. How can you explain why people fight so hard to live, if the world is so evil? Quoting from something I just read:

"There is so much goodness in the world, even among us poor and weak and will-bent human beings. So many daughters and sisters stay with elderly parents and nurse them through awful cancers and other torments of age, with great love and solicitude and generosity. If a mother runs into a burning home to rescue her three-year-old we don’t even think of it as special heroism, it is the sort of thing that mothers do. How much immense good there is. How much suffering is borne nobly. How much self-sacrifice there is … All these things make a suffering God seem credible to us. They point somehow to the divine."

3. Oh, and I almost forgot. How many gods are there? Just one.

Christine Gram said...

I believe that a simple way to think about this is that we are all bisexual and that we simply define ourselves as homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual by where we fall on that scale (and perhaps by how honest we are with ourselves).

Marriage belongs to families and couples who want it. It's born there and isn't ours to give or take away. The best we can do is to show some respect.

Justine said...

If we are all bisexual until we define ourselves, that means that WE make the choice and were not born that way. (Because we were all born the same.) Yes, it sounds simpler that way, but I'm afraid it ends up supporting those who believe our orientation is just a choice.

That concept that orientation is on a spectrum is contrary to scientific evidence. It has not been biologically proved in the natural world--there's only two kinds of genitals out there. ;) It is only the human brain that makes a person FEEL that they are not what their biological makeup says they are. I'm not arguing that they don't legitimately feel that way, but we need to realize that it is their brain, not their body that is registering the contradiction.

Lemmy Caution said...

That concept that orientation is on a spectrum is contrary to scientific evidence. It has not been biologically proved in the natural world-.

Not true.

And all of your religious straw grasping still misses the point by A HUGE MILE.

Marriage is a government sactioned institution with RIGHTS.

The government can't give rights to people and then deny them to other people based on gender.

That is discrimination no matter how you slice it.

Jesus hated discrimination and so should you.

Justine said...

I could find LOTS of examples throughout history (and today) of people who have no trouble with discrimination. (Just as you can find lots of people who think gays should be allowed to marry.) Why are you right about discrimination and they wrong?

I say your worldview has been shaped by your Christian upbringing, and the Christian influence in our country, whether you want to admit it or not. If you really want to shake off all vestiges of religion, you need to make sure you break all the 10 commandments without hesitation.

Lemmy Caution said...

I say your worldview has been shaped by your Christian upbringing.

You would be very very very wrong.

I was lucky enough to learn to think for myself.

you need to make sure you break all the 10 commandments without hesitation..

Which version? Why? The "ten commandments" have no bearing at all with anything in our culture, laws, or government. Yawn.

Justine said...

You shall not kill.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness
against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.

These things certainly DO have a bearing on our legal system. Some legal systems throughout history didn't (or don't) have laws that prohibit murder or theft or lying because some people don't believe those things are wrong. Thankfully Christians do and those beliefs were incorporated into our legal system.

You believe these things are wrong too, which means you agree with 40% of the ten commandments.

Lemmy Caution said...

Thankfully Christians do and those beliefs were incorporated into our legal system. .

They also believe these magical ten laws came from an invisible sky god who saw fit to pass these laws while also murdering innocent women and children at will.

The Bible has a complete and total lack of morality from front to back.

All you have to do is read it...as apposed to letting people tell you what it "means".