October 7, 2009

Marriage Is a Social, Procreative Institution

Justin Katz

In the current issue of The RI Catholic Fr. John Kiley has a worthwhile counterpoint to the pro-SSM event that I covered last night. Unfortunately, Fr. Kiley's essay doesn't appear online, but the he captures the gist in the following:

... Nowadays marriage has become almost entirely a matter of personal relationships. Marriages are supposed to be romantic affairs, or so most of Western society would like to believe. Yet love as the sole basis for marriage is fairly new in history.

As the popular musical "Fiddler on the Roof" testified, it was the matchmaker who drew couples together in peasant villages. Elsewhere it was parents and property and inheritances and religion and nationality that largely guided the marital destinies of young people.

The unifying principle behind various examples that Fr. Kiley describes is that marriage is about lineage and community development. Over time (notably in parallel with increases in economic comfort and medical proficiency), Western society has rightly increased individuals' right to decide how to participate in and define that development, but same-sex marriage would undermine the very principle. It would make marriage, by its definition, nothing other than a legal compact between two currently extant individuals.

Divorced from the biological possibility of children — explicitly rejecting the idea that marriage has anything inherently to do with their creation — the institution whereby society has set apart the specific circumstance in which two people, two families, and potentially two cultures are literally joined and embodied in a unique human life would relegate that continuity to the whims of individuals.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

This isn't gonna stop changing, the church can no longer control the argument. Leave these views respectfully within your religion and preach to your fellow catholics about it. As for "western society", marriage will be marriage and the catholic church will not have the final say in that matter. Gay marriage will be accepted. sorry bud

Posted by: ImNotGay at October 7, 2009 9:34 PM

Don't apologize for your assumed future. Apologize for your unwillingness to engage legitimate arguments and to perpetuate the small-minded trope that all who disagree are merely asserting the right of their particular sects to implement law.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 7, 2009 9:40 PM

Morality arguments aside (you already know my position), I just have one question because I'm genuinely curious. Do you really think gay marriage won't be legal in this country within the next 20 years?

Posted by: Dan at October 7, 2009 9:47 PM

I'm curious about something. If there were polling data that young couples were beginning to eschew marriage specifically because it wasn't available to all couples, would you change your mind on its legalization?

Posted by: Mario at October 7, 2009 10:37 PM


I don't think it's a sure thing, either way; there are too many variables, and making predictions is generally done as a political act in itself: "This is inevitable, so you might as well support it to be on the 'right side of history'."

I'm less an activist than a commentator, so inasmuch as I believe the consequences of same-sex marriage to be dire in the sort of long-term way to which people seem to have difficulty attributing weight, I argue against it.



No, for two reasons. First, although I don't have the data readily at hand, I believe there was evidence of an increase in actual marriages and decrease in divorces as the debate about same-sex marriage ramped up. (The sample was in Massachusetts, as I recall.) Again, I'm not looking at the data, but I remember observing the possibility that the improvement was attributable to people's actually thinking about marriage in a way that they hadn't in decades. The point is that it's a wide society, and the same events can cause multiple trends.

Second, I think such polling data would indicate a temporary circumstance. Whether it wins or not, same-sex marriage will someday not be on the short list of hot cultural topics, and the final decision about what marriage actually means will have more of an effect on marital trends. I'd speculate that affirming traditional marriage would reverse temporary protests from the young, who (after all) eventually grow up.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 8, 2009 6:32 AM

I can respect that. While I do not agree with the conservatives on this issue because of the libertarian ideal that as long as people aren't actually harming anyone else they should be able to do whatever they want, I do sympathize with them in a sense.

In the libertarian movement lately, strategies have shifted from trying to slow down or beat back encroaching government to the acceptance of the fact that government in this country is never going to get smaller. Ever. It will just keep growing itself indefinitely, and history and common sense support this theory.

It's not so much about being on the "right side of history" at that point of acceptance (we both know big government is an evil, evil thing). It's really more of an "Ok, that being the case, what do we do now?" conversation.

Our answer to it is the Free State Project. I would love to see competing conservative type projects, local laws, and communities forming out there, but I know the conservatives aren't ready to concede national defeat on this issue yet, as the libertarians have with theirs. Soon though it will be a conversation they'll have to have.

Posted by: Dan at October 8, 2009 8:33 AM

Ahh Justin, but what of those who are infertile, should they be denied marriage, or those who don't want children?

Marriage is the acceptance, by the state, that two people have agreed to become one financial unit with responsibilities to care for each other, and that holds true through the entire history of the institution.

Married couples are able to -raise- children better, not -create-them. Trust me, we do not have a problem in the 'creating children' department. Marriage provides a much more stable platform for one partner or a child to stop working and go to school, or for a parent to stay home and care for a child. Unmarried couples can't have a stay-at-home parent without that parent having to go without health care. Unmarried partners are not required to see to it that the other parent of their child is sheltered, clothed, fed.

Homosexual couples, if allowed to marry, will be able to raise children with the same legal foundations that provide stability for the rest of us.

All that said, I think the state should have -no say- in marriage whatsoever, and only recognize civil unions, be they hetero-or-homosexual. Civil unions should be the domain of the state (and of individual states), and marriage should be the domain of the church.

I think that if you run the numbers, you'll see that the orgasm is the primary culprit for most children on this planet, not the wedding band.

Heterosexual sex is a 'procreative social institution', about 1% of the time. Homosexual sex is a 'procreative social institution' 0% of the time. Not much difference. Marriage is a 'social institution for the benefit of offspring' about 50% of the time (rough numbers here...).

Interestingly, I think the biggest criticisms of the far-conservative right about homosexuality and the biggest public health issues associated with homosexuality would be solved by allowing homosexuals to engage in a legal, monogamous, and forward-looking institution like marriage. I think you'll see more gay couples buying houses, stopping the swinging life, and 'settling down' if they were allowed to marry.

Posted by: mangeek at October 8, 2009 12:39 PM

your words are to big, and your thoughts are to small. Romans bra...

Posted by: ImNotGay at October 8, 2009 9:44 PM

to ImNotGay... If that was at me, I apologize, I tend to shoot comments off at AnchorRising in between tasks, when there's not really enough time to put things together.

I guess I should say: I -can- write, I'm usually just going stream-of-consciousness when I'm commenting here, though.

Posted by: mangeek at October 9, 2009 12:30 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.