July 22, 2010

Marriage Is What We Make It

Justin Katz

Commenter Rasputin scoffs at my suggestion that, as men become less useful as economic partners and less attractive as mates, heterosexual women will begin marrying each other. You can call the idea crazy, but remember that you did so when the New York Times or Dateline runs a story about the trend of "BFF second marriages" within a decade of pervasive same-sex marriage.

To the extent that the SSM movement retains the centrality of children to our idea of marriage, it insists that men and women are entirely interchangeable in their raising. They proffer having two parents as somehow the key to that task but insist that their genders don't matter. The overall message of SSM, however, is that marriage is not about children at all.

So what does that leave marriage to be about? It made sense, as our civilization came up with the social formula that brought us to our current level of advancement, for a layer of romantic mystique to be woven into the marriage culture for added profundity, but our society is burning the last fumes of such notions of soul mates and couples' being "meant for each other." Common and easy divorce and cultural narcissism are eliminating the last vestiges. Some people even argue that we're simply living too long for expectations of a single mate to be realistic. With the removal of the real miracle of childbirth — whereby a child literally joins the two parents in one body — from our understanding of marriage, there's no need for romance to play a role.

Best-friend marriages won't start out as sexual relationships. Divorced mothers will quickly realize the advantages of teaming up, and marriage will help them in that regard. (Kate & Allie was a popular TV show back when it was still considered craziness to predict the probability of same-sex marriage.) Over time, individual couples and next-generation pairings may move to satisfy each other's sexual desires, but it isn't really necessary for the cultural phenomenon to occur; it's long been a joke, after all, that married couples stop having sex, anyway.

We tend to forget, as these public debates develop, that our basic sense of what things mean — the essential understanding that everybody shares — changes. Everybody currently over thirty formed their sense of marriage before SSM was considered a possibility, so it's easy to fit the new relationships into the old formula and expect everything else to stay the same. That won't be the case.

Part of the very reason to have marriage is to create cultural expectations that men and women who behave in such a way as to create children will provide those children with stable homes consisting of their mothers and fathers. If that behavior is no longer in the equation, then there's no reason for sex to be, and to the extent that marriage continues to offer practical benefits to the spouses, it will become an attractive option to anybody (pairs, at first) who trusts somebody else — whether divorced mothers or shiftless young men.

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Then the Ssm crowd will be pushing the marriage of animals to humans and probably even humans to imaginary friends. What in the
World are you some afraid of. If same sex marriage is so desirable and such a strong institution you should have nothing to fear. Take care in your own marriage and stop the fear mongering about what the homos are going to do and find another group to deprive of rights

Posted by: Triplerichard at July 22, 2010 6:55 AM

I still don't understand your stance that one of the reasons for marriage is to create children, but if two people cannot create children (ie. two men or two women), then they should not be allowed to marry.

I don't see how that goes with a marriage between a heterosexual man and woman who choose not to have children.

I too had previously thought of the possibility of marriage between two people, regardless of sex or gender, simply for all the rights attributed to a married couple. But at the same time, how many marriages are between a man and a woman that are together only for the rights afforded to them and nothing else? It's ok if they're different genders but not ok if they're the same gender?

Posted by: Patrick at July 22, 2010 7:43 AM

Progressives wage a war against facts. They want unlimited immigration while cutting carbon emissions. Fat chance on that one.
Then they want to PRETEND that a child can have 2 fathers or 2 mothers

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at July 22, 2010 8:30 AM

Societal acceptance of Gay marriage is inevitable.

Since western society has evolved too and beyond recognizing people of color and woman as societal equals, doing the same thing for gay folks is the next inevitable moral step

And thats a good thing

Posted by: Sammy at July 22, 2010 9:00 AM

Sammy, why do they have to be gay? Why can't it just be "two people"?

Posted by: Patrick at July 22, 2010 9:32 AM

Nothing is inevitable in politics Sammy-and that's a good thing.
Two millenia ago sodomy was socially accepted almost everywhere in Europe, Asia and north Africa. The Emperor Nero married a boy named Sporus while Hadrian built thousands of statutes and minyed coins as a memoriam to his drowned 14 year old sodomy victim (oops I mean lover) Antoninus. Alexander had as many boy "lovers" as wives.
Within a few centuries sodomy was a death sentence everywhere in the known world. It still is in much of the "of color" world and will get you locked up if not killed in the last "progressive" country's on the planet-Cuba, N. Korea, Vietnam and Laos..
When I was young "everybody" in my generation did drugs and was 100% convinced they would be legal soon. You couldn't avoid seeing the hardest core child porn being sold over the counter at the adult bookstores in downtown Providence and advertised in the men's magazines.
Within a decade we saw a bipartisan war on drugs and jail terms for even the most artistic nude pictures of anyone under 18.
Sorry progressives-the arc of justice swings in every direction; you may just find it whacking you in the as* someday!

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at July 22, 2010 9:37 AM

The issue in SSM is that the government is drawing a line between people and saying that one group is more fit to raise kids than the other. First, that is flatly wrong, but second, even if it's right, it still doesn't make sense to ban SSM.

Even if same sex couples were a classification of people who, statistically, raised kids who were a little more messed up than kids raised in "normal" houses, there are tons of other more meaningful distinctions to draw. For instance, if you want to cut down physical abuse of children, tell cops they can't have kids. If you want to cut down sexual abuse make evangelical men get vasectomies. A higher percentage of abuse happens in "red states" than in "blue states" and the list goes on.

So if gay people are no worse at raising children than cops, evangelicals, and Republicans, why are gay people the only ones you don't want raising kids? Or, to be more precise, the only ones you don't want getting married because they cannot provide a healthy home for kids?

Posted by: Joe at July 22, 2010 9:50 AM

Although it may be anecdotal, I would like to add some evidence to Justin's assertions. I have noticed a startlingly high, to me, number of divorces between my friends that support Justin's proposition. The situations I refer are cases where wives left their ineffectual husband's to move in with other women.

I can really only think of three, which strikes me as a high number for a relatively small number of people. The only commonality I have noticed was that they had ineffectual husbands, they were all about age 48 and their new partners would have to be described as "tough". The last does "say something to me", but I do not feel qualified to extrapolate from it with certainty.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 22, 2010 11:39 AM

I have one question, when SSM passes in RI next year will the debate be over or will there be it continue like the abortion debate seeing that abortion was decided sooooo many years ago.

Posted by: Swazool at July 22, 2010 12:57 PM


It isn't my stance that "marriage is to create children." Rather, my argument is that men and women who enter into sexual relationships with each other tend to create children as a natural function of their biology. It is therefore the central purpose of marriage to create cultural expectations that sex between men and women is linked to those children in the context of a stable home consisting of their biological parents. Life is messy and the people who live it flawed, but cultural expectations function in such a way as to allow individual liberty and free will while encouraging decisions in a particular direction.

As I've written many, many times before, a man and woman who marry with no intention and/or ability to have or adopt children may have some effect on the marital understanding of those close to them (depending how they present themselves), but nobody who encounters them in a casual way need no that or why they have no children. Moreover, they are able to enter into their relationships with no modification of the process or rules that, in general, match procreative pairs. (Of course, such couples that make a point of parading their counter-culturalism are, I would argue, damaging the institution of marriage.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 22, 2010 9:41 PM


You're mischaracterizing the issue. It is not a question of being able to raise kids, and it is most definitely not a question of the government's judging who is fit to have them. It is an acknowledgment that only men and women can create them, and can do so quite unintentionally.

A strong marital culture is the mechanism to give those children the best possible shot, given their circumstances, while balancing entirely legitimate claims to individual rights and privacy.

One common response to my assertion would be that irresponsible parents are, by definition, questionably valuable as present parents, but the very existence of a strong marital culture creates a basic understanding that parents have a responsibility to their children and to the other adults with whom they conceived them. In creating that pressure, it further increases incentive to be wary of behavior that might put one in a position of having undesired responsibility.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 22, 2010 9:49 PM
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