I recently posted a response to Runtu’s take on Same-Sex Marriage. I thought I’d clean it up and post it here. I don’t really seeing anybody making positive secular arguments for the status quo of marriage.
As a caveat, I think same-sex marriage is likely an inevitability in the United States. I think that civil unions for everyone might be an eventual solution to the problem. I also recognize that a good number of my readers are lawyers so I expect to be ripped a new one for one reason or another. Take it easy on my legal ignorance and take the opportunity to illuminate me on where I might have it wrong.
Marriage is about property rights, but the question is “why do married people need their property rights defined?”. My impression is that government started issuing marriage licenses in an effort stabilize families for the protection of children. Men and women who cohabitate together with a sexual relationship produce children as a natural by-product. To ensure that children are given a stable environment in which to thrive marriage licenses were drawn up. This protected the property of one or both parties and meant it would remain with the newly created family if either died. The financial benefits of marriage were delivered so that cohabitating couples would feel encouraged to join into marriage and give the stabilizing benefits to their children.
IF the benefits of marriage were created to protect children then they need not necessarily be passed on to cohabitating men and women who do not produce children. But that’s where the equal protection of the law comes in. All men must be allowed to marry any woman and all women must be allowed to marry any man. This ensures everyone has the same rights because (generally) the natural by product of cohabitation between men and women is children.
IF marriage is just about joining property with someone you choose to join property with (for love, sex, business, coercion, or any other reason), then marriage should not only be extended to same sex couples, but also non-sexual friendships, cousins, siblings, parent-child relationships and perhaps to multiple partners as well. None of these relationships affect your marriage any more than same-sex marriage do. If that’s the litmus test we are using than you really should be in favor of no restrictions on marriage whatsoever. Any restrictions you come up with will ultimately be shown to be arbitrary with no more weight than you think they are “icky”.
The very fact that marriages must be sexually consummated to be valid suggests to me at least that the government thinks it’s about the creation of children and not just property law.
As dissatisfying as the argument comes across gay men have the same rights as straight men; neither are allowed to marry men. The same goes for straigh and gay women. I think Victorian romanticism has strongly injected itself into our thoughts on marriage. Marriage has been around much much longer than our belief that it should be about love. It’s about sex (that may produce children), not love.