The Insanity of Marriage

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Pier Angelo

"Marrying means to halve one's rights and double one's duties" -Arthur Schopenhauer. (1788-1860)

In calling for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, right wing politicians, presidential wannabe's, Churches and other homophobic interest groups have described heterosexual marriage as "the most fundamental institution of civilization "forged during millennia of human experience." In their view, placing gay marriage on the same pedestal as heterosexual marriage would destroy the family, it would be equivalent to endorsing homosexuality and make it part of the fabric of society.

 

Alas, for much of its history, the so called "sanctity of marriage” has been a matter of plain economic calculations, and more often than not, a condition to be endured rather than enjoyed. Notions of marriage taken for granted today -- its voluntary nature, easy divorce, the legal equality of partners, even the pursuit of happiness -- have changed and evolved for centuries.

In ancient Greece as in Rome, fathers, like fathers in many other cultures, considered their daughters property and used them as barter for the purpose of cementing economic or political alliances.

The Government was out of the picture. A religious institution may or may not have been involved. There was no paperwork, no divorce, and -- more often than not -- no love. If there is a constant in the history of marriage it is that economics have shaped the institution rather than romance or procreation.

Marriages of convenience were the norm and they remained so in Western societies well into the 19th century. They are still the rule in parts of central Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The Muslim tradition of a temporary "pleasure" union, which goes back to the days of Muhammad, is still used to legalize sex under Islamic law.

Arranged marriages were extremely popular among the Royal Houses of Europe, get your heir to the throne to marry a princess from another country and overnight your kingdom might double up in size.

European commoners who couldn't legally divorce were allowed to sell their wives.

And when it was not about politics, power or economics, rulers would make up their own laws. King Henry VIII broke away from Catholicism and started his own church so he could divorce and marry again -- and again.

Marriage as it is known today did not exist 2,000 years ago, or 200 years ago for that matter. Rather than "the most fundamental institution of civilization," marriage has been an extraordinarily fluid institution, in perennial metamorphosis, constantly adapting to religious, political and economic shifts, sexual revolutions, civil rights movements and ever changing cultural norms, from polygamy to common law marriages.

What constitutes a marriage is so fluid that many anthropologists do not even use the word, preferring "unions" or "alliances," said Roger Lancaster, a professor of anthropology and cultural studies at George Mason University in Virginia. "People are inventive and creative about the ways they've forged ties to one another.”

Today almost 50 percent of traditional marriages end in divorce but somehow it is same sex marriage that is going to destroy the institution itself. Really? Larry King has had 8 divorces. Kim Kardashian's marriage cost 10 million dollars and lasted 72 days. Newt Gingrich had affairs while his first and second wives were very ill. Kelsey Grammer ended his over the phone.

Advocates for gay marriage say it's the natural evolution of an institution that's no longer tied exclusively to procreation. Witness Western Europe's negative birth rate to realize that it's not uncommon for couples to regard children as a lifestyle rather than an imperative. Heterosexual couples now have other methods of procreation at their disposal, a fact that questions whether same sex marriage can be negated due to biology. Also, interracial couples, they point out, couldn't marry in some states until 1967. Just like gay couples today.

As a gay man the choice to marry or not should be made available to me. I do not believe in the institution of marriage per se, but when a political party, a Church made up of a bunch of old men and pedophiles sitting in the Vatican, or my own Government, tell me I am banned from one of their institutions that's when I want to join it, even though they do not have the power or moral standing to arbitrarily determine what is the union of two souls. And so, because of this, next month my partner and I will have our own "marriage" ceremony. It will not be legally recognized by the State of Florida nor by "this great country of ours" or by a religious denomination, but we will give power of attorneys to one another and we will legally become each other's health surrogates, in front of our friends and families. No matter what the law says I will not accept to be a second class citizen because of my sexual orientation nor, most certainly, will I ever apologize for the urgings of my heart.

“It's hard to predict where marriage will go in the future," said Marilyn Yalom, a senior scholar at Stanford University's Institute for Research on Women & Gender. "The only thing that I can predict is that there will always be something in us that calls for another to complement ourselves, someone to be a soul-mate and to witness our lives”. Even if it is only for 55 hours. Ask Britney Spears, that’s how long the sanctity of her marriage lasted.


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Greg Kabel