Reflections on life, marriage, and a young woman who is constantly learning how much there will always be to learn!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Legal Marriage: It's Not About Your "Special Relationship"

I am getting rather tired of hearing that legal marriage is something "deserved" by any two people who love each other.

Legal marriage is not a relationship. It's an institution. There is no requirement for one to even really know the person they are marrying. A single person could go to Las Vegas this weekend and legally marry an almost complete stranger. In many cultures, people routinely marry partners selected by parents and guardians, with little to no personal contact prior to the wedding.

The government does not carry the responsibility of validating relationships. Relationships are by nature, personal, and can only be validated by the understanding, feelings, and mutual commitment of the two individuals participating. The role of the government is to regulate legal arrangements, not dabble in personal matters. For instance, when a parent has a child, the government is obliged to use it's legal powers to see to it that the child is not neglected or abused, and receives all his or her basic needs. When two or more people enter into a business agreement, the government stands as a legal authority to make sure that legal obligations regarding economic interests, products, and services rendered are honored. But the government does not regulate or endorse personal relationships. It does not hand out legal certificates or endorsements to two friends, honoring the relationship that those friends have. What then, is government's interest in marriage?

One could say that the role of government in marriage is to oversee the legal matters of the partnership: making sure that partners do not abuse one another and that they maintain an equitable sharing of assets and property as agreed upon. But how is this any different than a business contract or the expectations placed upon all citizens, that abuse is not legally acceptable? There is only one key area, from a legal standpoint, that sets marriage apart: the possibility--indeed, liklihood--that children will be born to a union of a man with a woman.

Government has traditionally chosen to endorse marriage between a man and a woman as a legal arrangement, because it is the ideal situation for child-rearing. Not only is the union between the mother's egg and the father's sperm the only natural way to produce children, but no one without an alternative agenda would claim that children don't need both a nurturing mother and a protective father in their daily lives for their utmost health and well-being. Government has an interest in promoting marriage, as an endorsed legal institution, as the partnership that provides the safest and healthiest place for the nurture of our country's youngest citizens.

Legal marriage also provides special legal and financial rights for the spouse most responsible for childcare, usually the wife and mother. However, these benefits have unfortunately been somewhat reduced as a result of misguided feminist activism.

So why does all of this matter? Because, if the government is going to bestow the privilege of legal marriage upon any combination of individuals, it needs to justify the reason. Two people are not owed a marriage contract simply because they have a "special relationship." A "special relationship" does not--and should not--mean anything to the government. Legal marriage is only necessary and beneficial when granted to a man and a woman, whose union will most likely embrace the possibility of raising children, whether through natural birth, step-parenting, or adoption.

Why should the government not provide marital status to any possible combination of individuals that might raise children together? The simple answer, is because good laws must uphold the most desirable ideals for society, while either shunning or remaining neutral on--depending on the severity of societal consequences--the less desirable options. The question, in this case, is what is best for children and their parents? If less desirable situations for children are endorsed by special government recognition, they will only multiply. Why would we want to multiply the non-ideal? If the government has its citizens' best interests at heart, it will work to endorse societal ideals to the point where the non-ideal will seem pale and unappealing. It will not compromise our well-being by coating less advantageous "family arrangements" with a false luster.

Don't think this governmental distinction would condemn children and families already experiencing less than ideal situations. If we, as a society, can admit that some children are receiving less than they deserve, we will be more prepared to do everything we can to help them make up for their loss.


Blogger Goddess Cassandra said...

To make sure that I'm not misreading your arguments, or attacking a strawman, you're arguments against gay marriage basically boil down to:

1. The government doesn't care about individual relationships.

2. The govenment does care about children being raised in a stable envirnment.

3. Men and women get married to have kids.

4. It is best for kids to grow up with a mom and a dad.

Is this correct?

9:27 PM, September 27, 2006  

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