- Politics and Social Issues
The Left's Assault on Marriage, History, and Western Society
The Left has worked hard to paint those who do not support the expansion of the definition of marriage as Bible-thumping, ignorant bigots, trying to impose their religious beliefs upon others. And perhaps some are. But the argument, seen everywhere from The Huffington Post to Cracked.com, that allowing gays to marry doesn’t affect heterosexuals is deeply flawed. It may not impact the individual, but its aggregate effect on society could ultimately be destructive.
The Left relies on emotion rather than rational thinking whenever discussing gay marriage. Rather than look to the purpose of marriage – both its cultural function, from an anthropological perspective, and the rationale behind legislation dealing with marriage – the Left cons Americans by appealing to our natural inclination toward freedom and equality. Following the Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA and effectively undermining the decision made by the people of California on a legal technicality, Obama released a statement containing 290 words. Equal appears four times, love appears four times. He mentions freedom and respect. He pledges to ensure that Federal benefits and obligations are appropriately updated to reflect the decision. But the most important part of this entire discussion is never mentioned: why do we have these Federal benefits and obligations?
To the Left, the answer to this question doesn’t fit their narrative – everyone’s love should be respected! – so the purpose of marriage always gets brushed over. Try raising the question and you get an indignant liberal scoffing at you for daring to suggest we, as a society, might care about marriage for a reason other than placing an official stamp of recognition of love on a couple’s relationship.
But love has nothing to do with marriage. And marriage has never had anything to do with love. Don’t get me wrong – it’s certainly ideal if two people entering into a marriage love one another, but that has never been a prerequisite. Instead, economic considerations have long played an important role in marriages in Western society. From ancient Babylon and Rome through medieval and Renaissance Europe, the dowry has played an important role in marriages, both for the elite and common folk.
The West’s most cherished love story, Romeo and Juliet, makes quite clear that love and marriage are not necessarily the same. The play begins with Capulet, Juliet’s father, arranging his daughter’s marriage. But it is Juliet’s marriage to Romeo, done in secret and fueled by their passionate love for one another and in defiance of tradition, that ultimately leads to the death of the “star-cross’d lovers.”
Arranged marriages, like the one Capulet intended for his daughter, were a staple of marriage, most especially for the aristocracy, until relatively recently in Western history. While we may now frown upon the idea of a father controlling his daughter and making important life decisions for her, Western society nevertheless encourages considerations other than love be taken into account when marrying.
The practice of the dowry may have disappeared in Western society during the 19th and 20th century, but the idea that marriage is more than a symbol of love remains. Much of the Left’s argument for expanding marriage to include homosexual couples comes out of the suggestion that every couple should have access to government benefits that come with marriage.
But if marriage were simply about love, why would we as a society have created benefits for married couples? If marriage is just the recognition of the emotional bond between two individuals, why would we provide married couples with tax benefits? Why would we create incentives for couples to marry and stay married?
The answer is simple: we wouldn’t. These benefits exist because we, as a society, recognize that while the idealized marriage is one built on love, there is something inherently valuable in a marriage that continues even after that love fades.
Once you consider that these benefits for married couples must have had some impetus for them to be created in the first place, it is hard to see how a homosexual couple, regardless of the validity of their love and the respect society has for it, could ever fit the intended purpose of these benefits.
We have these benefits because love and lust lead to children, and as a society, we recognize that a child is best off when raised by two parents. The best way to ensure children are raised by two parents is to create incentives for the biological mother and father to take on that responsibility. And the best way to do that is to provide benefits to those biological parents to pledge to stay together, “for better or for worse.” One of the most important functions of society’s negative perception of women who bear children out of wedlock is that it encourages women to marry. In response, society’s financial incentives to be married encourage men, who both historically and today have higher income than women, to enter into monogamous relationships and raise the children they create.
Western society has, over millennia, created cultural and legal institutions that direct our behavior. If children are our future, then creating an ideal atmosphere for childhood development is surely a high priority of our society. The complex institution of marriage is the result of thousands of years of trial and error. To suddenly conceptualize marriage in an entirely new way and disregard its complex history undermines everything upon which our society has been built.
Perhaps marriage is an antiquated institution. Maybe we should consider how we define marriage. But the Left’s refusal to confront the history of marriage and the reasons why we as a society have found marriage to be a useful institution places us in grave danger of destroying an institution that took thousands of years to build.