What is the Purpose of Marriage?

Marriage inequality is already enshrined in our laws. State Governments (here in the USA), in fact, restrict who can get married.  None allow polygamy; none allow brother-sister, mother-son, and father-daughter unions.   Four States require both parties to “pass” a blood test, proving you are not infected with one or more STI’s (usually syphilis and gonorrhea).  In 25 states, first cousin marriages are illegal.  In 6 of those 25 exceptions are granted to couples deemed too old to reproduce.

 

As SCOTUS discuss the constitutionality of CA Prop. 8, the conservatives are asking questions about the possibly negative long-term effects on children being raised by same-gender parents.   This line of discussion is troubling to me.  Do we prohibit fathers from marrying their daughters because we are concerned with the long-term effects on any potential offspring or because we have a moral objection to incest?  The prohibitions against polygamy and polyandry in our laws are clearly based on a cultural prejudice against having multiple spouses, not any concern for the offspring of such unions.

 

When Justices lament the absence of evidence about the long-term effect on children of same gender parents, they ignore the plentiful evidence of abuse, violence, neglect, abandonment and just plain bad parenting that far too many mixed gender parents have already demonstrated.  In fact, nowhere on the planet do we consider the long-term welfare of potential offspring before granting a marriage license.  And more’s the pity that we don’t!

 

If, from the point of view of the state, the primary purpose of marriage is to breed children – and I do NOT believe that this is the primary purpose of marriage – then why do we grant marriage licenses to the infertile?  Four states require blood tests before issuing a marriage license, why don’t States require some form of fertility test?  And, if the goal  of marriage is parenting, then instead of banning same-sex unions, why not just insist LGBT folk must agree to reproduce or adopt?  (In my opinion, this insistence on marriage=breeding is a slap in the face of every childless couple, everyone who chooses to marry, but not to raise children.)

 

So, if the primary purpose of marriage is not reproduction, what is the primary purpose of marriage?  I was raised Jewish and the first marriage in the Bible is Adam and Eve.  According to Genesis 2:18, Adam was lonely and needed a helper. (The Hebrew word for helper used in Genesis 2:18 and 20, is ezer (עֵ֖זֶר), and it is always and only used in the Old Testament in the context of vitally important and powerful assistance.)  The primary purpose of their marriage was fellowship, companionship, and mutual help and comfort.  Even though I don’t consider myself religious, I heartily embrace this line of thinking. 

 

I believe States have an important incentive to license marriages: to establish, codify and enforce rights and obligations between the spouses, between the spouses and their children, and between the spouses and their in-laws.   And I completely reject that a State has the right to deprive citizens of their legal rights and responsibilities incurred when they commit to the fellowship, companionship, and mutual help and comfort that a marriage is meant to be.  

I hope the SCOTUS will uphold the rights of all my LGBT brothers and sisters to share the joys and tribulations of legal marriage.

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One thought on “What is the Purpose of Marriage?

  1. I think you made a good start on this subject. For me marriage is simply a legalized partnership. It gives legal protection for all parties involved, as you mention. Some people choose to be in a partnership without the legal piece, which is fine as long as EVERYONE has the same choice.
    As someone who practiced Art therapy and art ed with special ed kids for many years, I saw way too many examples of ineffective parenting (to say the least) by heterosexual parents.
    After all, most everyone who works professionally with children must be licensed. There is no license or training required to be a parent. The children I know personally from same sex parent families are doing fine. As society becomes more accepting they’ll do even better.
    The marriage is for procreation view seems like a cover to me. I’m guessing only a few religious fundamentalists really believe this. The rest? Perhaps a “little” prejudiced?

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