Last week, when I summed up a bunch of my positions, I mentioned my support for gay marriage. A couple of commenters disagreed with me on that point. The elements they cited were the ties between marriage, children, and state support thereof. I’m not going to do an item-for-item rebuttal to those points they made, but I am going to use it as a springboard for a larger discussion.
Marriage came about, as I understand it, as a way for a society to provide for the raising of children, and the perpetuating of the society as a whole. It was a way of forming permanent bonds between unrelated people, allowing the culture to expand and widen its gene pool.
But that has changed drastically, especially in the last 50 years. Human reproduction has come under tremendous scrutiny in that time, and social, legal, and medical advances — especially medical — have virtually redefined human fertility. It has reached the point where conception — and non-conception — are, for about 99.99% of people entirely voluntary and under their control.
Want a child? Go for it. Try the natural way. If that doesn’t work, we have entire professions dedicated to getting people pregnant when they can’t do it on their own. And if they can’t pull it off, then we have professions lined up to arrange adoptions.
And then there’s Tom Cruise… but I digress.
Don’t want a child? Fine. There are a zillion ways to keep that from happening, too. Start off with abstinence. Then move on through the plethora of contraception out there. Wrap it, snip it, take the pill, have the shot, put on the patch, mark the calendar, put it somewhere else, and so on. Hell, do several at once.
If they don’t work, there are also abortion and adoption options waiting in the wings.
In brief, we have developed to the point where every single child should be welcomed, and no child should go unwanted — if people just show a modicum of personal responsibility.
I consider myself an exemplar of this. I decided several years ago that, for various and sundry reasons that apply to me and no one else, I did not want to father children. Then I spent a lot of time working up my nerve, and had the procedure.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make here is that child-rearing as a primary function of marriage is going out the window. Originally, it was for uniting couples who were likely to have children. The random element has been pretty much eliminated. If we continue that principle, then we ought to ban any people who can not or will not produce children should be banned from marrying.
With the child factor fading in significance, then why should we keep the institution around at all? Because it promotes social stability. It allows people to form social structures that promote and preserve the culture. A married couple is fundamentally more stable, more prosperous, more desirable from a social perspective than two unattached people.
And that is part of why I support gay marriage. It allows people to set up their own family unit, to become more stable and secure members of the society. It gives them a bond to their society and culture, and increases the general prosperity of the culture as a whole.
Yes, I understand the religious objections, and respect them. But there is supposed to be a separation of church and state in this country, and allowing a civil ceremony (or even a civil union) apart from religious sanction should be no skin off the church’s nose. They don’t have to perform the weddings, or sanction them, or even recognize them — they just need to butt out and let those of us who don’t ascribe to their beliefs to go our own way.
I think that, eventually, gay marriage will be widely tolerated, and even grudgingly accepted, by most people. But the virulent tactics being used by both sides will delay that coming, and a lot of people will suffer in the meantime.
It can be delayed, but I don’t think it can be denied. And I don’t think it should.