May 152008

First, via GVH, I found this interesting NY Times article on the history behind the Loving v. Virginia case that ultimately legalized interracial marriage. That case was decided just 41 years ago. I’m very grateful — in a very personal way — that race is no longer a factor in marriage in America. It’s not a legal obstacle whatsoever, and not even much of a social obstacle. That’s absolutely wonderful.

Second, the California Supreme Court has ruled that laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals violate the state’s constitution. While I might not agree with the reasoning of the court, I do wholeheartedly support gay marriage. The essence of marriage is the total integration of two lives: sexually, legally, socially, financially, geographically, sexually, morally, etc. The fact that most marriages involve two people with contrasting genitalia is not of any grand significance. My marriage, for example, has far more in common with the relationship of a committed, rational lesbian couple than to the now-dissolved insane marriage between Brittney Spears and Kevin Federline.

Significantly, to recognize gay marriage as fundamentally similar to heterosexual marriage — i.e. as a primary, enduring relationship fundamentally integrating two lives — is not a lapse into subjectivism. That’s because such integration is only possible with certain kinds and numbers of people.

  1. Marriage to beasts is impossible, as the marriage relationship requires the capacity for rationality, not to mention a basic equality in rights. The relationship involved in pet or livestock ownership is wholly different even from that of a fleeting and unserious romantic relationship.

  2. Marriage to children is excluded for the same basic reason: children are not yet able to fully exercise even the basic rationality required to live independently. That capacity for independence is required for the integration of lives involved in marriage. In other words, a child has no financial, social, moral, or legal life of his own to integrate with another person. Of course, I need not even mention the abhorrent evil of foisting a sexual relationship on a child.
  3. Polygamous marriage is excluded because whatever relationships would result from multiple unions would be fundamentally different than that of a two-person marriage. Most polygamous marriages, I suspect, would not be a genuine integration at all, but rather a juxtaposed set of individual marriages, each half-starved due to competing demands on time, resources, and attention. Even if the various husbands and wives do live a single, integrated life together, the resulting relationships would be hugely different than an ordinary marriage. Decisions might be made by majority vote. (Sorry Sally, but you were outvoted: we’re moving to North Dakota.) Social norms would be completely different. (Do I have to invite all Joe’s wives to dinner, or just the mother of our daughter’s classmate?) The laws governing divorce, child custody, medical power of attorney, inheritance, testifying against a spouse, and so on would have to be totally re-worked. (If I don’t have a medical power of attorney, which husband directs the course of my medical care while I’m in a coma? If I die, how will my property be divided? Also, should each person be able to marry multiple people?) Notably, sex is basically a two-person activity, so that would have to be juxtaposed, rather than integrated. Basically, polygamous relationships — even if somehow recognized by law (and I don’t oppose that) — would be fundamentally different from marriages between two persons, whether of the same or opposite sex, along multiple dimensions.

Marriage is an extremely important institution in a civilized culture. It’s the full-blown, across-the-board public commitment to share one’s life with another person. It’s a fundamental value in life that my gay friends deserve just as much as my straight ones.

So… as the title of the post says: “Three Cheers for Marrying Whoever You Damn Well Please!”

(Note: I have no idea whether my co-bloggers agree with me on this issue. They can speak for themselves…)

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