Marriage: What are we going to replace it with?
Blogged by James Preece on 28th January 2013
I've got some questions...
Once upon a time Marriage was used as a social institution between couples and the society in which they live in order to ensure that children have the best possible shot at growing up in a stable loving home with a father and a mother.
So for example, couples were forbidden to have sex outside of a permanent, stable marriage for the benefit of any children who might be born but also for the benefit of the surrounding community who could do without gangs of parentless youths running around the place getting up to no good.
The rules have varied dramatically from one culture to the next (in some places men marry several woman and so on) and Marriage has taken on forms that have been unquestionably wrong (forced marriages, women being sold etc) but the basic goal has remained the same - an expectation that the 'act' which by produce children be handled responsibly.
In return, those people who did commit themselves for life and to work for free bringing up the next generation and securing the future of the community.. those people got a certain amount of respectability and even tax breaks (gasp).
Over the last few decades years that's all changed and to many people Marriage no longer means any of those things. It started when the divorce laws said that Marriage no longer had to be permanent and continued when contraception and abortion said that sex Marriage outside of Marriage would no longer lead to babies.
For many people these days, Marriage has nothing to do with children. Marriage is a public expression of love between two people who want to show commitment until such time as they choose to get divorced.
When Marriage as an institution was built around heterosexual (e.g. potentially fertile) sex, it made sense to restrict it to heterosexuals - it makes no sense to forbid homosexuals from having sex until they are ready to support a child. Now that Marriage is seen simply an expression of commitment, many people see no reason to restrict things to heterosexual couples.
Which leads me to my question(s)...
Firstly, if Marriage no longer fulfils that role in society - why do we still have it? What is it for? Surely my love life is a private matter? If I want to tell my friends how much I love my other friend and how we are going to stay together for, oh, a while.. then I can put it on Facebook surely?
Secondly, if Marriage is no longer the institution that protects the rights of children - what is? Should we have one? Do we have one? What does it look like? What do we call it?
Perhaps your answer to the second question is that everybody should feel free to have sex with whoever they like so long as they use contraception? You might call it "responsible sex" or something? But consider this.. how are you going to encourage people to actually do it?
At the end of the day, whatever you do, whether you offer a carrot or a stick... how are you going to make it "equal"?
You're not homophobic are you?