July 14th, 2006

A Historical Perspective on Gay Marriage

I just came across this article by Matthew Roberts that discusses gay marriage from a historical point of view. Two paragraphs I liked:

The definition of marriage has always implied heterosexuality. The word ‘marriage,’ from the Latin maritare, linguistically has built into it the idea of procreation. Maritare not only means to marry but also to impregnate, which is why commentators would speak of women simultaneously being married and impregnated. In short, purely in terms of semantics, the very notion of marriage is defined in terms of impregnation. Historically in the West, even in non-Christian cultures, the very idea of “gay marriage” would have been an oxymoron.

Iiiiiiiiiiiiinteresting. I’ve heard before that “marriage” is derived from the old French word marier and later, the latin maritare. But I’ve never heard that maritare inherently implies procreation. After googling the topic, I came across this page which claims:

The modern definition of marriage is rooted in Latin, according to Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at Stanford University. It originally was “maritare,” a term with mainly agricultural uses, referring to the grafting of vines and plants, or the breeding of animals.

If we follow that line of thought, and if it is true, that means that maritare was first used to “marry” plants together. Naturally, this process is done with the end goal of creating offspring from the two joined plants. You don’t join two plants together so that they can get tax breaks, lower insurance premiums, and an official, government-sanctioned piece of paper affirming the union. Marriage of two plants is to unite the two plants, to become one, and create offspring together. So it is with marriage between man and woman. Gay marriage, as the cited article states, then becomes an oxymoron. Our society would flounder and disintegrate if gay marriage became the norm. Then again, the Population Connection would love that, wouldn’t they?

Again, from the article:

Marriage, if it is to survive, must remain a long-standing institution defined as the eternal union of man and a woman. There is a reason that wise statesmen for all of recorded history have prescribed heterosexual marriage as the norm; it is necessary for the survival of society. Undermine such an important institution, and you are undermining your very cultural legacy. To tamper with this institution in the spirit of social engineering is not only foolish, but also quite devastating. Destroy one of the central tenants of our society, and you are ripping away at the very fabric of our stability. Leveled buildings can easily be rebuilt, but once a nation’s moral fiber has been destroyed it is in serious trouble.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

7 Responses to “A Historical Perspective on Gay Marriage”

  1. Anonymous
    July 14, 2006 at 10:47 pm #

    I’m infertile. Do you believe that I should not have the right to be married because I cannot reproduce?

  2. Connor
    July 14, 2006 at 10:56 pm #

    Anonymous,

    This page has the following excerpt which argues the same point I would make in answer to your question:

    Are you saying that married couples who don’t have children (whether by choice, or because of infertility or age) aren’t really married? If we deny marriage to same-sex couples because they can’t reproduce, why not deny it to those couples, too?

    A couple that doesn’t want children when they marry might change their minds. Birth control might fail for a couple that uses it. A couple that appears to be infertile may get a surprise and conceive a child. The marital commitment may deter an older man from conceiving children with a younger woman outside of marriage. Even a very elderly couple is of the structural type (i.e., a man and a woman) that could theoretically produce children (or could have in the past). And the sexual union of all such couples is of the same type as that which reproduces the human race, even if it does not have that effect in particular cases.

    Admittedly, society’s interest in marriages that do not produce children is less than its interest in marriages that result in the reproduction of the species. However, we still recognize childless marriages because it would be an invasion of a heterosexual couple’s privacy to require that they prove their intent or ability to bear children.

    There is no reason, though, to extend “marriage” to same-sex couples, which are of a structural type (two men or two women) that is incapable–ever, under any circumstances, regardless of age, health, or intent–of producing babies naturally. In fact, they are incapable of even engaging in the type of sexual act that results in natural reproduction. And it takes no invasion of privacy or drawing of arbitrary upper age boundaries to determine that.

    Another way to view the relationship of marriage to reproduction is to turn the question around. Instead of asking whether actual reproduction is essential to marriage, ask this: If marriage never had anything to do with reproduction, would there be any reason for the government to be involved in regulating or rewarding it? Would we even tolerate the government intervening in such an intimate relationship, any more than if government defined the terms of who may be your “best friend?” The answer is undoubtedly “no”–which reinforces the conclusion that reproduction is a central (even if not obligatory) part of the social significance of marriage.

    Indeed, the facts that a child cannot reproduce, that close relatives cannot reproduce without risk, and that it only takes one man and one woman to reproduce, are among the reasons why people are barred from marrying a child, a close blood relative, or a person who is already married. Concerns about reproduction are central to those restrictions on one’s choice of marriage partner–just as they are central to the restriction against “marrying” a person of the same sex.

  3. RBrowne
    July 17, 2006 at 1:02 pm #

    How one defines “marriage” is where the discussion ought to be focused.

    Merriam & Webster put a legal slant on their definition of marriage:

    “the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law ”

    God’s definition states that the male and female become one flesh and that God does the “joining”. He makes no mention of legal authority at all except stating that no “man” should put asunder this union (as in courtroom divorces).

    “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
    For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

    The power to become one flesh comes apparently from God and not from man. Opposite genders is a prerequisite of becoming one flesh, joined by God. What we consider the act of “consummating” the marriage may, in fact, be the act of “marriage”.

  4. Randall Ellison
    November 12, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    If the issue for Christians is the language, then I see a very simple solution: Instead of conferring the legal title of “marriage” for same-sex couples, thereby offending delicate Christian sensibilities, maybe we should finally retire the term itself from the legal jargon and establish that all consensual and contractual relationships for both same-sex AND opposite-sex couples are called “civil unions”. Thus, we will have achieved equality, defeated the righteous Christian ego-trip, and assured that religion plays no role in the affairs of lawmaking. Churches can of course continue to enact “marriages” and enforce marital vows in accordance with their own doctrines of faith, but the consummation itself will be recognized in the court of law as a civil union, including all such documents and rights related thereto. Problem solved.

  5. jimx
    November 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    Connor,
    There is some weird context your placing this discussion in, what secret aren’t you tell in us? The use of the word ‘norm’.

    “Our society would flounder and disintegrate if gay marriage became the norm.”

    “There is a reason that wise statesmen for all of recorded history have prescribed heterosexual marriage as the norm”

    I don’t think marriage equality has ever meant to make same sex marriage the ‘norm’. Its not replacing anything.

    Your very selected use of sources and cultural persceptive cannot address every culture at every time period.

    “that it only takes one man and one woman to reproduce, are among the reasons why people are barred from marrying a child, a close blood relative, or a person who is already married. Concerns about reproduction are central to those restrictions on one’s choice of marriage partner–just as they are central to the restriction against “marrying” a person of the same sex.”

    A real leap in logic. Can you honestly say that every culture has obeyed these rules, or even set them up as ideal? Some cultures had arranged marriages at very early ages, although not necessarily sexual until adulthood, they were never the less married. Some cultures actually encouraged mixing and swapping spouses. Its perhaps only particular cultures that expressly forbade open marriages, especially those that ‘owned’ wives.

    On the website “mormon coffee” some of the bloggers there believed that Joseph Smith married women who were already married to other men. They present evidence on that site.

    And lastly there are actual examples of marriages in ancient times between members of the same gender.

  6. jimx
    November 12, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    I think there are a few reasons that the LDS people are against marriage equality. One is that they have to overcome their own history around plural marriage, and appear more mainstream. But the actual reason it was stopped sounds like a legal reason:

    “Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise”
    From OD1, October 6, 1890

    There could be a legal challenge against plural marriage, if same sex marriage is completely accepted. What reason would remain for the LDS church to refrain from practicing plural marriage? Sure if it becomes legal that doesn’t mean the church would start practicing again, but wouldn’t that look a little bit odd, given the statement in OD1? I think that would raise a few eyebrows, maybe as much as actually practicing plural marriage. Either option could be detrimental to the existence of the LDS church.

    The fight against same sex marriage has generated a lot of public coverage, perhaps more than if it funded its own advertising and missionary effort alone. It does come with some potential penalties. Fatigue over the issue. Also the LDS people will loose the persecution card to gay people. Officially gays and muslims are less popular than LDS people, but not by much. You are perceived as persecuting gays. I already think that the LDS religion is just homophobia.

  7. CandyT
    October 13, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    Physically giving birth is not the only way that an adult can can contribute to the continuation of the human race. Parenting is not about giving birth, it is about raising children. Same sex partners can be great parents and contribute to the continuation of humanity by providing love and nurturing to the thousands of children cast off by heterosexual parents. The same is true of heterosexual partners who cannot physically give birth for whatever reason. We can all play a valuable role. Don’t discounr people because they are different from you. Jesus didnt. Disapprove if you choose, but don’t impose your beliefs on others and don’t continue to support hatred of differences over love.

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