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Monday, March 25, 2013

What is Marriage?

For John, BLUFWhat are the limits on legally recognized interpersonal relationships?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I expect some sneering at this post.  It asks for some lateral thinking, a fresh questioning about the issue of Gay Marriage, which is going before the US Supreme Court.  In fact, Hollingsworth v Perry is to be argued before the US Supreme Court tomorrow, Tuesday, 26 March 2013.

A question has been raised about the Unitarian Church trying to suppress members who wish to expand the discussion of marriage to include polyamorous relationships.  I am not advocating legal recognition of such relationships, as I see them as being intrinsically wrong.  I realize that opens me to the charge of being prejudiced, and so I am.

Here is what Professor Althouse wrote:

But within the ranks of the UUA over the past few years, there has been some quiet unrest concerning a small but activist group that vociferously supports polyamory.  That is to say “the practice of loving and relating intimately to more than one other person at a time,” according to a mission statement by Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness (UUPA).  The UUPA “encourages spiritual wholeness regarding polyamory,” including the right of polyamorous people to have their unions blessed by a minister.

UUA headquarters says it has no official position on polyamory. “Official positions are established at general assembly and never has this issue been brought to general assembly,” a spokeswoman says.

But as the issue of same-sex marriage heads to the Supreme Court, many committed Unitarians think the denomination should have a position, which is that polyamory activists should just sit down and be quiet. For one thing, poly activists are seen as undermining the fight for same-sex marriage.  The UUA has officially supported same-sex marriage, the spokeswoman says, “since 1979, with tons of resolutions from the general assembly.”

The original Washington Post article can be found here.

I would like to note that my position is that "marriage" is a religious construct and that the Government's interest is in documenting legal relationships that protect those engaged in long term relationships, to include, in particular, children who are legal dependents of adults.  You go to your local Town or City Clerk to register a relationship and you go to your Minister or your best friend to officiate at a solemnization of your relationship.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff


Neal said...

Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and render unto God that which is God's. And thus it should be for "marriage." The rub comes in that gays, transgenders, and so on and so on have, all in the name of "inclusion" and "equality" decided that "relationship" is not good enough, even though under the administration of the state, relationship provides all of the legal framework provided to "marriage." The RUB is that the gay community (in particular) is forcing their agenda down the throats of those who object to their essence...we will MAKE you consider our "relationship" as normal...and therefore...a marriage.

Actually, the issue of "marriage" is a sort of secondary one. It is, in the end, a battle of wills being imposed, one on the other.

The problem is, there is really no true equality in society and life. will...can.... never be achieved. Even by the Obama Administration.

Jack Mitchell said...

"Marriage" is normal?

How long has this convention known as marriage been, as you claim, normal? How many historical references do you estimate I could, if I bothered, stack to challenge your feable assertion.

There is no equality. Humans admire the theory, but despise the practice.

Craig H said...

UU is somewhat unique among major "religions" in that its doctrine (if you can even call it that) is determined via majority rule at their annual General Assembly. This basis in grass roots democracy is extended from its nascence in the New England Meetinghouse tradition, and makes for great Monday morning headline reading, as anyone with an agenda, crackpot or otherwise, can raise just about anything they please for discussion regardless of sense or lack of widespread or even narrowspread support among the UU "faithful". It's telling that the UUPA people are both co-opting the UU label on the one hand for their press blatherings, as well as refraining from raising anything for a vote in the UU General Assembly on the other, as the combination does not give conscientious UU's the privilege or opportunity to vote down by a landslide any of these hairbrained schemes, or head off this sort of nonsense press coverage in the process. (The Wiccans are another noisy group whose PR volume far exceeds their actual UU cred).

In practice, I have every expectation that UU's will be no less resolved to dismiss and reject "polyamory" as their General Assembly votes will allow. In effect, this will not mollify doctrinally conservative demonimations of various religious provenance, whose top-down doctrinists can campaign more actively against various sexual practices without waiting for a plebescite for authority, but it is what it is and will likely for a long time be.

C R Krieger said...

I think that Jack makes my point that if all parties keep this narrow at the Supreme Court hearing, we will take care of the needs of a recently vocal minority without having to open up the whole issue of marriage and civil unions.  I am sure there are lots of examples of cultures where relationships are not like Ozzie and Harriet.  I think there is some culture in the Mongolia area where the women all live together and the men "sneak in" for purposes of procreation.

I will likely be accepting of whatever the outcome, but I am not thinking any outcome that doesn't get a grip on raising children and diminishing out of wedlock births is giving us any real progress.

At this point I am expecting a rearranging of the deck chairs.

Regards  —  Cliff

Neal said...

I wonder why gays in Uganda or Somalia or China or Syria are not clamoring for recognition of their relationships as normal marriages? Maybe when people have way too much comfort and time on their hands they can contemplate the "unfairness" of it all. To counter the depression that ensues (besides taking a gazillion "antidepressants"), rearranging deck chairs is a nice diversion......

C R Krieger said...

It is a big issue in Russia.  I suspect it is suppressed in many Islamic areas, at least its overt expression.

That may be an issue of leisure or it may be an issue of individual freedom or it may be an issue of individual freedom providing the economic institutions that allow for leisure.

Regards  —  Cliff

Renee said...

Is it normal to have a mom and dad? Normally not depending if you live in the city or the suburbs.

Poly-based legal recognition may help a mom who has different dads for her children.

Jack Mitchell said...

Actually, Renee, "normal" is the mashing of opposite genitalia to produce viable offspring.

After the 'birth,' how the mini's are reared is wide open.

Safety and stability seem to be a common factor, much more so than a proper 'Ozzie and Harriet,' as Cliff puts it.

It's culturally arrogant to maintain 'Ozzie and Harriet' is the best possible arrangement.

Humans are programmable creatures. How they are nurtured, pathological glitches aside, determines community outcomes. Thus, though 'Ozzie and Harriet' could be a preferred nurturing protocol, it isn't the only way to program a functional human. (With a huge assumption of what 'functional' means. You'd go to jail, if you raised you're kid to be a Spartan. The Greeks formed Western Civilization.)

C R Krieger said...

Our current method of raising children seems to work for us, culturally.  Deviation from that approach results in PPP in most of the cases.

The Soviet attempt to develop a new system of raising children, after the Revolution, going against the then current paradigm, did not go well.  There are lots of different approaches, but switching from one to another must be carefully done.

And, we may not like everything offered by other cultures.  In Islam there is a Hadith about hitting children for neglecting their prayers.

The Spartan thing may be a problem here in Lowell, since it leaves out Athens, which leaves out Pericles.  Just saying. :-)

Regards  —  Cliff

Craig H said...

Human history bears many fascinating examples of culture and society that would be considered dynsfunctional by most Americans. (Human sacrifices,etc.) We should be extremely careful in citing precedent as justification for anything.

I see two important and interconnected points in this: Legislating "right" and "wrong" does not work nearly as effectively as sucessful example. If we want to perpetuate a practice, we should endeavor to entrench it via that success. Period.

Attempts to maintain a practice by rule of law are as numerous in their failure as they are instructive as to "what not to do". The goal of our legal system should always be fairness under the law first, and the whim of the law second. Right, wrong or indifferent, we grant legal, economic and social privilege to committed couples based on gender. That's a legitimate matter for our Supreme Court to address. Couple means two, and not many, so the "slippery slope" canard must be ignored.

Should heterosexual couples enjoy legal and economic and social advantage currently denied to homosexual couples on the basis of their gender? I say our Constitution is written on the premise that it should not, despite the Founders abysmal track record on both racial and gender equality. We shall see what the SCOTUS opine.

Neal said...

My purpose in suggesting that folks have too much time on their hands goes to the more recent comments. We've been making babies for the entire history of the species. A lot of them survive to go on to making babies themselves. Not sure what the "relationships" that permit those unions are or were called. I think it really didn't matter.....and frankly....doesn't matter now. Heaven knows that when, in America today, 47% of the babies born are to unwed mommies....apparently the state OR the church are relatively unimportant to that particular phase or type of relationship.

BTW...the American Academy of Pediatrics (if anyone cares to view them as "the final word") is on record as advocating that children be breast fed until AT LEAST 6 months of age.....and ideally...until the end of their second year of life. DOES lower the grocery bill....maybe if gay marriage is "normalized" by Congressional edict, HHS can create a suckling division and selected women can be sent around to provide nourishment.....or would that fall under USDA???

Surely....SURELY...there must be more urgent problems to confront.

Craig H said...

Neal, most lesbian mothers I know are all for breastfeeding, and most male gay fathers I know are adopting beyond the AAP suggested timeframes and quite respectful of maternal primacy where such is concerned, so I'm not sure that particular practice changes much if anything at all in the overall discussion.

Craig H said...

But your vision of a Federal wetnurse bureaucracy did give me a chuckle.

Neal said...

Part of the purpose of my comment. the other purpose being to your comment Kad. I think things seem to be going on just fine at the moment without Congressional and SCOTUS review and interference. Sometimes we fix things that are in the process of fixing themselves....and then we break it so badly that it is unrepairable. We seem really good at that lately.

Sometimes....the best action is to do nothing. Nature has done pretty well without our "help."

Mr. Lynne said...

"I will likely be accepting of whatever the outcome, but I am not thinking any outcome that doesn't get a grip on raising children and diminishing out of wedlock births is giving us any real progress."

We have case data, no? MA? Other countries? What do the data say? I'd like to confer with the data before I make predictions about what is and isn't progress. That being said, regardless of the 'raising children' front, it can't be said that marriage equality isn't progress on the issue of equality - which in the land of the free I think carries some weight.

Mr. Lynne said...

"Our current method of raising children seems to work for us, culturally."

It's worth noting that what is considered our current method has actually deviated quite a bit in the last several decades. It used to be that extended families and even whole neighborhoods raised children, not just one's parents. The 'nuclear' household is a cultural invention of the 50's and even then didn't apply as widely as perceived.

Note that this deviation is true even outside considerations of non-marital cohabitation and such.

I'd similarly note that we, as a child rearing species, have employed multiple 'techniques' for a lot longer than we've even had bronze. Furthermore, evidence indicates that we're not live-long monogamous anyway but rather that we're serially monogamous. The breaking point is usually around at the 4 year mark. From an evolutionary standpoint, that's about the age that a child can start contributing to the 'gathering' part of 'hunting and gathering'. (When you plot divorces by how long the relationship has been, you'll find clusters at 4 years. Sometimes you'll find clusters at 8 years where at year 4 some major life event 'reset' the clock. Moreover, sometimes when you see people divorce at 6 years there is often a clock-resetting life event one can point to at 2 years.)

Mr. Lynne said...

"I think things seem to be going on just fine at the moment without Congressional and SCOTUS review and interference."

For you maybe. For the less equal, not so much. I would not presume to say that this unequal status is 'just fine'.

Neal said...

The problem is...and always has the zeal to force equality, or as is the current method...."create".....about all we accomplish is to give one group more equality while creating inequalities elsewhere. Life is much more than a single issue that once "rectified" makes the rest of life fine.

I might strive more for some sort of equity in human affairs....and let the issue of "equality" remain a nice philosophical objective.

Our many experiments in social engineering have, while providing a "solution" to the problem being engineered only create many other unintended consequences. No good deed goes unpunished and the road to hell is paved with intentions.

Mr. Lynne said...

No doubt that life is complicated, but equality for marriage under the law is pretty simple. Nobody is under any illusions that life will be fine once this gets done in the law and I don't understand why that would be sufficient reason to not push for equality in the first place anyway.

People thought MLK was moving too fast too.

Our great experiment in social engineering in this country is to bend toward justice. This really will be one of those issues like making miscegenation illegal - we'll wonder how on earth that could have been ok once upon a time and we won't speak in polite company of some elders' offensive opinions on such things.

Renee said...

Waiting for the Jerry Springer episode where two men pass the paternity test for the same child.

Call everything civil unions with different tiers of responsibility and commitments, like in Louisiana a couple can choose two forms of marriage. Some people are deeply committed , while others (like widows/widowers) may op for a companion based relationship and want to see assets go to adult children over a new spouse. Every birth requires a paternity affidavit and a parenting plan filed with the state, no matter if there is a legal relationship or not between the parents.

Neal said...

We already have "my Daddy is a turkey baster full of love potion #956021476."

I really AM surprised that this topic is as important as it is....gays raising children or kids with no Daddy.....or Mommy present (science hasn't QUITE gotten the art of Daddy's being Mommy's)......when we slaughter over 399,000 children a year.....without any public outrage...and with Federal tax dollars and the support of every liberal organization in the US.

Where's the "justice" for those kids? Oh...forgot...they aren't REALLY kids.....

Frankly, I am personally a little offended by the handwringing over this aspect of children and "parenting" because it is morally convenient and politically Using the logic that permits us to crush the skulls of fetuses leaves us one step from killing all first born...or all girl dogs.....or all boy dogs who don't have the "proper" genetic makeup.

No....we haven't departed from discrimination and misogyny.....its still there....but socially acceptable. We are a LONG way from any sort of moral high ground.

Mr. Lynne said...

It's as important as it is because freedom and fairness are core values of our country.

C R Krieger said...

OK, I take Mr Lynne's point, "It's as important as it is because freedom and fairness are core values of our country."

That said, how much freedom are we looking for SCOTUS to ladle out?

Regards  —  Cliff

Mr. Lynne said...

How much depends on the particulars of how they might rule on standings and what standard they apply on the actual disputes. There are actually some strange possible outcomes depending on their decisions regarding standing.

Here is some commentary. Brayton in particular is an avid court follower and points out some strange circumstances that are embodied in these cases (DOMA and Proposition 8). Later they talk about which tests might apply.

Then they get into the demographically inevitable characteristics of the march to equality.

After the 25 minute mark or so they go on to other issues.

Renee said...

In places where they had/have civil unions, the term was just marriage by a second name. The state government never created new policy or laws in regards to civil unions. The only difference is the title on the top of the state certificate.

If the states made not only a difference in name, but also tailored laws to reflect the objective differences (a man can knock up a woman with a baby) and goals for these relationships there is less of an :argument because the government clearly defined the word and reasoning for the different laws.