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Protecting Marriage

The Goddess of Giggle Speaks:

To all of those who accuse the gay, lesbian, bisexual, polygamous, and polyamorous communities of trying, either knowingly or unknowingly, to undermine the sanctity of marriage, I must ask you. What is marriage? Is marriage all about the ornate certificate sent to you by the state recognizing your union? Is marriage the acknowledgement of your status by the federal government’s Internal Revenue Service? Is your marriage only valid to you in light of the words “By the power invested in me by the state of ___”? If tomorrow, by some act of nature or war, our government was destroyed and we were left in a state of anarchy, would you no longer be bound by the tenets of marriage? If the gay neighbors are allowed to marry, will you then be leaving your spouse? And if marriage is no longer a function of government, will you be freed from your vows?

One would hope that the answer to these questions is “no.” But recent opinions proclaim that the dissolution of state marriage would destroy the stability of family which begs the question: Is the stability of such families so fragile that their dedication is dictated solely by the mandates of state law? One has to wonder who is actually maintaining these marriages. Is it the husband and wife, or does the government decide which marriages are good and which are bad? Why are these unions so instable that only a state-defined, cookie-cutter contract can keep them from spinning out of control? This is a very fatalistic view of marriage.

So, what is marriage? Marriage is a contract, but it is more than that. Marriage is a deep commitment of personal intent to unify lives and (in some cases) raise families. Most importantly, marriage is an agreement whose terms must be decided by the persons involved. Whether they are consciously choosing to abide by some default set of agreements that have been handed down generation after generation, or they are making the rules for themselves, persons entering into marriage have chosen to commit to those agreements. Is the stability of American families so fragile that these commitments can not be upheld independently of the law? And if some marriages remain intact solely because of the government pressures to do so, they hardly seem like healthy places to raise families.

Too many people go into marriage without any idea of what this commitment means. It has nothing to do with the gender or number of the persons involved. This ready-made contract with pre-decided rules-of-conduct and the social expectation that one should marry make it easer for a man and woman to leap into an arrangement without full knowledge of its ramifications.

Let’s just say for a moment that the United States government eliminated all control over marriage. It would be insane to suggest that marriage would cease to exist. However, it may be that marriage would become a more carefully planned process during which the participants would be required to draw up a marital contract themselves. It may well be that in doing so, they become more intimately aware of the criteria to which they are obligating themselves in marriage. With full knowledge and consent, they will be giving themselves in marriage with guidelines that they have personally taken part in creating. Those that would be discouraged from marrying by this process are probably not committed enough to do so. These same persons, however, might have readily married under the prewritten, state controlled, nuptial arrangement. Those marriages which usually end in messy divorces may be avoided entirely, or at least reduced in frequency.

Now, let’s get back to the real world. In the real world, there is a divorce each year for every two marriages. And this is in a world where gay and polygamous marriages are not legally recognized! Already, we are seeing that the sanctity of marriage means very little in American society. The argument could be made that removing the government from marriage may actually save it.

There are some that find the idea of gay or polygamous marriages an offense to their religions. This is understandable and should be dealt with accordingly. Specifically, they should not conduct gay, lesbian or polygamous marriages in their churches, synagogues, or temples. The state, however, is not your church. This is not a Christian nation, nor is it a Jewish one, or a Muslim one, or a Buddist one. This is a secular nation founded on the principle of freedom. One of those freedoms is the freedom of religion. Your religion should be respected and honored. In fact, you should be given complete autonomy to worship as you see fit. But it can not infringe upon the rights or freedoms of others.

What about the children? The cries are being made all over the nation about the potential for harm to the children. What about them, indeed? Today’s children are more and more being brought up in single parent homes. As a result, those children are receiving less direct parental care. Were it possible for any combination of individuals to join in a union that includes child-raising, perhaps we might find more cohesive family units. This isn’t about sex. Sex is something that healthy parents do behind closed doors, not in front of the kids. This is not to say that gay, lesbian, or polygamous (polygynous or polyandrous) families are immune to ill health. There are, of course, dysfunctional families in any demographic. But stating that their lifestyle choice is the cause of the family instability is no more valid than stating that monogamy and heterosexuality are the cause of unhealthy nuclear families. There are plenty of monogamous and heterosexual couples out there with poor parenting skills, and plenty of gay, lesbian, polygamous people who have great abilities to raise kids.

The real end result of abolishing state marriage would not be the undercutting of the American family, but a resurgence of marriage value and a deeper understanding of commitment. Yes, it will mean living alongside gay married couples and polygamous groups, but if that threatens the marriages that already exist, then there are deeper problems with those marriages that should be addressed. Marriage is a conscious bond initiated by and made between the parties involved. It is a commitment of time, energy, and (presumably) emotion. Marriage is a contract of devotion and mutual support, both practical and intimate. If a marriage can not stand on its own in this fashion, then it is nothing but a decorative certificate with a state seal. If this is truly the case, then we’d all be better off without it.

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