NOTE: This is a repost of an article I wrote. I originally wrote in back around 2004 or so. I'm transferring it here to keep it together with my recent writings.
"I do." Those are two of the simplest words and one of the most basic sentences ever created in the English language. It also represents one of the most basic desires of humans: marriage.
Traditionally, marriage was the union between a man and women, usually for the purpose of creating a family.
I say usually, because even in the beginning, marriages have been used for more than just uniting man and woman in official baby making bliss. Historically, for example, certain people have been pledged to each other for political or war reasons. Uniting warring families via marriage to end the war has happened a few times. Also alliances to strengthen groups have been punctuated with marriages. Can you say "Royal Family"?
We also changed the ages when marriage is appropriate. Today, getting married at 14 is a completely unsuitable venture in the USA.
So marriages have always had the occasional controversial issue. What's the latest? Same sex marriage.
The concept of same sex marriage isn't hard to understand, a guy marries a guy, a girl marries a girl. But the implications of that act are hitting America hard right now as we fight to understand and make the right decisions as to whether same sex marriages should be legal.
One aspect is the religion issue. Marriage has a deep root in religion, not because marriage needs religion but because religion needs marriage. What I mean is that those that control religion have traditionally controlled the sanction of marriage. However today, you don't need to belong or even go to any church or any religious building to get married, which is good for me and others like me, otherwise marriage would be essentially illegal to Atheists. Why should I go to a church and sanction a religion that I don't believe in just to be legally wedded to the one I love? She's religious, but she doesn't need to sanction our love via religious structure.
But there are those that view marriage as strictly a religious issue and since their religion damns homosexuality they refuse to sanction a union they don't agree with, much like they would prefer to not allow marriage to Atheists.
Why am I comparing Atheists and homosexuals? Simply to illustrate that there have always been groups of people that some have refused to sanction a union.
Remember not too long ago when the idea of interracial marriages sparked hatred and wrath from some? There were even laws preventing particular groups from marrying each other. Virginia and Alabama are good examples. Did I say "Not too long ago"? This issue is still on the table as far as many are concerned.
People have fought to not allow Atheists to marry. (This was/is not a large battle so most haven't noticed it.) The bottom line is that Atheists enjoy the sanction of marriage.
The same is true for interracial marriages. People have fought to not allow interracial couples to marry. (This was/is a larger and more noticeable battle.) The bottom line is that those of different races enjoy the sanction of marriage.
That brings us to the latest and possibly the largest fight: That of homosexual couples.
The term "same sex marriage" explains a lot, but hides issues as well. For example, it's not homosexual marriage that some are trying to prevent. Here's what I mean.
If my wife and I had an agreement between us allowing each of us to have sex with other people, no one would truly try to nullify the marriage, they would simply think it's in poor taste. Well let's change the parameters of this example slightly.
Imagine 2 openly gay people, a man and woman married for strictly political power reasons. They care for each other, but not sexually. They allow each other to have any sexual partners they want.
Does that seem implausible to you? Well what if they weren't gay? They were heterosexual, but everything else stayed the same. Marriage for power is not unusual. We discussed this earlier. So the fact that homosexuals may marry someone they aren't attracted to in order to receive benefits otherwise unreachable to them doesn't seem that difficult a concept.
So it isn't homosexuals marrying that some are trying to prevent. A homosexual man can marry a woman and not worry about it as much. It is the thought of a man marrying another man that some are completely opposed to.
You notice that I didn't mention women marrying women? I suspect this isn't as big an issue as men marrying men. Why do I say that? Simply because of the fact that inter-female sex has always been more accepted than inter-male sex. Don't believe me? Look at the porn industry. Female-female sex is in much more demand than male-male sex. Something about 2 males having a sexual encounter is more upsetting to many than 2 females. Check your own sexual fantasies. Does girl-girl turn you on? What about male-male? Check around and you'll find the answer quickly.
So we'll talk about same sex marriage as being the issue, and disregard sexual preference, even though the 2 overlap slightly.
What is it that those in opposition are trying to prevent? In two words: Legal Sanction.
There are many stories of same sex couple living together for many years, long past the 7 to 9-year length of the average marriage. Yet they are not attacked with laws designed to separate them. So what's the difference?
Whenever I hear same sex couples talk about marriage I hear the same complaints. I'll separate them into 2 categories: Benefits and Endorsement.
I don't have access to my girlfriend's health insurance because we aren't married. (Running your own home based business makes getting health insurance difficult) No matter how long we've lived together, I get no benefits. However we can fix that if we decide to get married. Bang! Instant benefits. Of course nothing else has changed. We still live together and do all the things couples do, but now because of a legality, I have access to health insurance.
But what if instead of a girl, I was living with a guy? Everything else stays the same in this example, but now I will never have access to his health insurance, no matter what, because we can't get married. We're still together. We still do the "couple" thing, but now health insurance and certain other benefits can never be shared between us.
This is the benefits issue that has been brought up. Why should certain life enhancing benefits be refused to others simply because of their gender?
What about endorsement? Well how would you feel if you weren't legally allowed to be with the person you want? If I remember correctly Romeo and Juliet died from lack of endorsement, regardless of the fact that they could legally marry.
Of both of these issues, it's the Benefits point that bothers me the most. Social endorsement will come and go like fashion, but benefits is a very real issue that needs to be considered.
There are those that scream "free health benefits for all children", but the moment these same children grow up and decide to shack up with someone of the same gender, all bets are off. Then they say "Well they made their choice, they have to accept the consequences of their actions" which is their way of justifying "Since we don't like it, we'll make it hard for you".
If there were some way of allowing same sex couples to get the life enhancing benefits as married couples, I would suggest that we as a society head in that direction.
If you are worried that sanctioning same sex marriages will lead to an increase in homosexuals and influence sexual behavior let me ask you, would it have influenced you when you were younger? Do you really believe that who and what you are attracted to could change that drastically because of seeing some other couples? Do you really have such a low esteem of your choices? Do you think that seeing other peoples choices can really influence which sex you are attracted to?
Don't bother trying to influence some people into sending their lives with people they don't want to be with, instead reward those who have the courage to stand by those they love.