Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bigot (part 2)

In my previous post, Bigot, I spoke about the lack of evidence of any "rights" that are denied homosexual couples under current law, and therefore the lack of a reason to change the definition of marriage. In this post I intended to talk about reasons not to change the definition of marriage, but it occurs to me that I should first ask the question "why marriage?".

I was going to start with Merriam-Webster again, then discovered that they recently changed their definition from
mar·riage noun \ˈmer-ij, ˈma-rij\
1 : the institution under which a man and a woman become legally united on a permanent basis
mar·riage noun \ˈmer-ij, ˈma-rij\
1a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage
which is a poor definition for reasons that will become clear later in this post (not the least of which is that a dictionary is supposed to record the definition of a word as commonly used, not attempt to introduce new usage). So for now let's start with the Oxford dictionary, which has not changed its definition.
marriage :/ˈmarɪdʒ/ noun
1 the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife:
So, my question about this definition is "why?". Why does the law recognize this union? What interest does the state have in who I hang out with, or live with, or sleep with?

My pro-SSM friends will argue that it has to recognize this union for the purpose of property rights. However, I find this unconvincing. First off, the state recognizes shared property rights without a marriage. Secondly the state doesn't intrude in property rights for partnerships other than marriages. It is pretty clear from looking at the structure of family court that the state's interest in marriage is ensuring that children are cared for. And that's a noble goal. After all, children are human beings.

Children have rights, and one of those rights is the right to their father and mother. The father and mother, in turn, have the responsibility to care for and educate their child to produce a citizen. In recognizing marriage, the state recognizes an institution that is far older than itself, and in fact is the basis of society and government; the family.

In other words, marriage is an institution not for the "rights" of parents to have children if they want, but for the rights of children to have their own parents care for them. This is common sense. Clearly marriage is not necessary to get together and have children. But it is a commitment to stay together to raise those children.

The Catholic Church has always recognized this, and indeed every religion and government recognized this throughout all of history until the last century. I won't get into how and why this changed for some organizations because that would be another entire series of posts. But let's look at the Catholic perspective on marriage.

If you wish to be married in the Catholic Church you are required to post banns of marriage - that is, state your intent to marry publicly for a period of time. You must receive instructions on what marriage is. You must promise that you will have whatever children God gives you. You must promise to raise those children and educate them in the Catholic faith. These are requirements for marriage.

What about people who don't want to have children? They should not be married, and in fact cannot be married as Catholics. What about people who can't have children? They can be married. Isn't that a contradiction? No. Nobody can predict what will happen, we can only say what we want to happen and what we promise to do in that situation.

Why is the Catholic Church so hung up on sex? We're not. We're hung up on life. Marriage is about bringing life into the world, and the Catholic Church is one of the few organizations that not only talks the talk but walks the walk.

But what about same sex couples? Can't they have children and raise them and educate them? No, they can't. If you have read a biology book (or even if you haven't) you should realize it takes both sexes to produce a child. Hence no need for marriage, because they are not going to produce children with each other.

What about adoption? Adoption exists again not for the "rights" of adults to get children they want, but for the rights of children to get the parents they need. It is not a matter of "ownership" of a child, but of meeting the needs of children. If a child loses one or both parents for some reason (including abandonment), adoption gives that child the benefit of a mother and father (and usually brothers and sisters as well). Adoption by two people of the same sex does not give that child any benefit. Two "mommies" (or two "daddies") does not make a mother and father, regardless of what role playing goes on.

Of course, many pro-SSM people will disagree with this definition of marriage. To them I offer the following observation and question. First off, whether they like it or not, this is the definition of marriage by the Church today and by everyone since before recorded history. I did not invent this, and neither did the Church. Secondly, if marriage is something else, what is it that makes it distinct from any other thing (such as a contract, for instance)?

Next, see Bigot Part 3.


Excellent - good explanation of marriage (or not) on many levels.

Excellent Mike. I'm going to have to point folks to this when I argue with them.

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