A Brief Saturday Morning Thought

Shorter John Ensign: Gay marriage is going to take away my sacred, God-given right to cheat on my wife.

Book Review: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
Bangladesh Is Killing Atheists
Atlas Shrugged: Hobo Sign
The Crushing Burden of Religious Sex Guilt
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • MissCherryPi

    …with someone else’s wife.

  • http://eyeblister.blogspot.com David Dvorkin


  • Thumpalumpacus

    Though it’s not original with me, I like the idea of a Defense of Marriage Act that outlaws divorce. Let’s see how many Congressional votes that gets.

  • Staceyjw

    does this mean you cant cheat with another mans man- or woans husband, depending on type? Bummer.

  • Andrew

    I’v long been in favor of eleminating marriage as a government instution altogether.

  • Leum

    Andrew, I disagree. To quote Greta Christina:

    Marriage is an unbelievably old human institution and human ritual. My parents did it. My grandparents did it. My great-grandparents did it, and theirs, and theirs. The word and the concept carry a weight, a gravitas, intense and complex social and emotional associations, from centuries and millennia of people participating in it. And as far as I know (admittedly my anthropology is a bit weak), it’s existed in one form or another in almost every human society, in almost every period of human history. There may be exceptions, but I don’t offhand know of any. Getting married means being a link in a chain, taking part in a ritual that’s central to human history and society.

    Yes, much of that history and many of those associations are awful. Sexist, propertarian, oppressive. But the evolution of the institution from its complicated and often terrible history into what it is today is part of what gives it its weight. The history of marriage, and its growth away from ownership and towards equal partnership, is the history of the human race’s maturation. Participating in it means participating, not just in the history and the ritual, but in its growth and change.

    Civil unions and domestic partnerships just don’t have that.

    See also

  • Andrew

    I’m not saying eleminate marriage, just eleminate it as a GOVERNMENT INSTUTION.

    We can have the rituals, traditions and practices of marriage without the government laws and regulations invovled. And the rights that the government attaches to marriage can easily be handled other ways.

  • TommyP

    Ah thanks for the chuckle. Hope I can get married someday, and show them how it’s done =)

  • Leum

    Andrew, what’s the actual difference between marriage and a legal relationship identical to civil marriage called a “civil union”?* If there’s no difference, then it’s just a tremendous waste of time and money, and the religious right will oppose same-sex civil unions just as they oppose same-sex marriages.

    I personally would be in favor of increasing the number of unions two adults can enter, a whole system of civil unions one of which would be marriage, but this doesn’t strike me as something likely to happen anytime in the foreseeable future.

    *I’m assuming that’s what you mean, because it’s generally what people making your argument mean. If I’m wrong, I apologize and await correction

  • Andrew

    Actually no, thats NOT what I mean. The government shouldnt be in the business of joining people together. If two people want to be together, then they dont need the government to provide incentives for them to do so.

  • Leum

    So how should the benefits currently conferred by marriage be conferred*? By spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on drafting special legal contracts that will never have the full backing of the law that marriage does?

    Marriage benefits aren’t just incentives. They recognize the real, familial relationship that occurs when people live long-term together and makes it easier for people in those relationships to share their lives and deaths together.

    *I’m thinking here primarily of inheritance (frequently challenged by the families of the deceased LGBT person or deceased cohabiting straight person), permission to visit partners while in hospital, transference of health benefits, burial in adjacent grave plots, etc. You suggested that those should still be obtainable in comment #7.

  • Andrew

    Theres already wills to handle inheretence. And the purpose of ‘living wills’ could be extened to include a list of who can(and cannot) visit you in the hospital.

    As far as the other benefits, they need not be granted on the basis of marriage. If it can be shown you two(or even more, actually) were in a committed relationship, that should be sufficent.

  • Rowen

    Andrew, the problem with wills, and living wills, as many gay couples have found out after a horrible accident, is that they can be too easily contested. Not to mention hammering them out costs a lot of money. Even when it’s a simple thing to do. (hence why it’s rather simple and cheap-ish to get a marriage license, but even no contest divorce costs a pretty penny).

    As for health benefits, social security and the rest, how is the government supposed to know who’s in a committed relationship or not? Because the couple says so? Marriage is a fairly easy and distinct way of recognizing that committed relationship.

  • Nurse Ingrid

    I loved the gay guy in the article who suggested that if Ensign needed an increase in his moral fiber, maybe he ought to try atheism!

  • Andrew

    Well I wouldnt rely SOLEY on the couples say-so, but the say-so of their friends and family could probably work in most cases.

    Other ways: if they are living together, have children together, have a joint bank account….

    Really if two(or more) people are that immersed in each other’s lives, it shouldnt be at all difficult to show.

  • Nurse Ingrid

    Andrew, you really need to hear some of the stories of what happens to gay people in hospitals that don’t recognize “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships.” Our families need real legal protection for these and any other number of reasons.

    But even supposing that you could somehow re-create every single protection that marriage provides, and provide them to everyone equally, and somehow magically get people to stop calling it “marriage”…what would be the point?

    The point is, people want to get married — and call it being “married” — and we should be allowed to. And the US Supreme Court has already ruled (in Loving v. Virginia) that marriage is a basic civil right. What part of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” don’t you understand?

  • Andrew

    Again: I AM NOT ADVOCATING AN END TO MARRIAGE. If people want to hold a service(religious or otherwise) signifying their intentions to be together, call themselves ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ and wear rings to show that they are married, thats fine, actually I encourage it.

    What I’m opposed to is the government giving people special privelages solely on the basis that they’ve held that cerimony and wear those rings. You’re right about one thing though, it probably wont happen anytime soon, not unless theres a radical shift in our society.

  • Maynard

    Marriage is a ceremony performed by clergy, justice of the peace, whatever. It should be the same no matter what it’s called.
    It’s not the governments place to allow or prohibit any two or more consenting adults choice to enter into a union and grant each other specific rights but protect those who are unable to make those decisions for themselves from being taken advantage of.
    The “sanctity of marriage” as is so often trotted out by conservatives is a load of nonsense. How many times do you break the bonds or try again with someone else until you reach true sanctity? How you choose to enter into that arrangement should be up to you.
    Last month my (previously common-law)wife and I went to the local county clerks office, handed over our drivers licenses, paid a small fee, signed the document and “poof”, are officially married. Why? Because my work was auditing dependents on insurance and decided they needed more proof of our relationship in order for her to stay on mine. No exchange of vows, no ceremony. What’s changed in our lives? Last week we went and bought ourselves a couple of rings (that I’m still trying to get used to). We already considered ourselves “married” even though many others did not. And after seven years living together we already outlasted most of the true marriages that happened around the same time. This silver band and that piece of paper in the strong box are testaments to our commitment. Not definitions.

    not unless theres a radical shift in our society

    Shouldn’t we be the ones pushing for that shift? (I say yes.)

  • Thumpalumpacus

    I need neither god nor government to sanctify my love. I do understand the difficulties of common-law relationships, and for that reason — and because bigotry is always wrong — I support GLBT marriage rights. I am certainly ashamed that my adopted home of California chose to ensconce discrimination into its Constitution.

  • Maynard
  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    You hear that, gays? Now you’ve destroyed Mark Sanford’s marriage too! Wasn’t John Ensign enough? How many more heterosexual white Christian men will you force to cheat on their wives with your relentless drive for legally recognized monogamy?

  • Rowen

    Andrew, what are you advocating, then? When gay folks want to get married, they want to be able to designate their lover as their next of kin, in case they die. They want that person to have visitation rights, and the right to make end of life decisions, over what the person’s family might say. They want to know that their partner gets their social security benefits, and can be listed as a spouse on their insurance. There’s numerous other things that people get granted when they get married. True, there are people who turn it into a holy ceremony, but that’s neither here nor there to the government. You keep saying you don’t want the government involved in marriage, but how else to obtain all these rights and regulations dealing with joining the households of two (legally) strangers?

  • Andrew

    Didn’t I already answer that question?

  • Andrew

    Didn’t I already answer that question?

    If two people are that involved in each others lives it shouldnt be that hard to prove. In fact they wouldnt be legally strangers if they live together, have joint bank account, have kids together ect.

  • Rowen

    You might want to reread my post. I didn’t ask you how the government would prove two people were a couple, I asked you how all the rights and regulations that the government has attached to marriage would be handled, without the use of a marriage contract/license.

  • Andrew

    And again I already answered this: The rights would be automaticly granted to people who could porve they are together. Why is this so difficult for people to grasp?

  • Rowen

    How is that different from a marriage license then? (I don’t accept your idea that families and friends could be relied on to prove the couple’s coupleness, since many folks date someone that their family and friends don’t want to see them with. As for joint banking accounts and such, in many states, if you have a joint banking account and file your taxes together, or some other criteria, you automatically have a common law marriage.)

  • Andrew

    The main difference, I’d like to see is that the privelages would be in effect only upon the condition that peple are ACTUALLY together. And if you wanted to get with somebody else, you wouldnt need to do anything except move in together, no divorce proceedings or anything of that nature.

    As far as familes not approving who they’re with: I doubt even in that case most people would actually lie about them being together. And even if they did, it shoulnt be hard to prove they were, in fact lying.

    And yes, many states do have common law marriages, and I think that makes other forms unecessary. Although I’d like to see those allowed for same-sex-couples(I know some states already allow it, but not all) and for people who live polygymous/polymorous lifestyles.

  • Leum

    The rights would be automaticly granted to people who could porve they are together. Why is this so difficult for people to grasp?

    Andrew, with all due respect, that’s a completely ridiculous idea. Why should people with jobs requiring them to be away from their partners for months or years at a time be denied having their relationship recognized? Why should I have to prove to the gov’t that I’m living with (or in a relationship with) my partner at all? It is cheaper, more efficient, and less intrusive to sign an affidavit saying I’m in relationship (this is, essentially, what a marriage license amounts to) than to have the government investigate my private life to make an identical determination. It also places me at less risk of having nutty exes or family members try to “prove” that the relationship was somehow invalid.

  • Leum

    I would, incidentally, support a radical change to divorce laws to make that process easier. However, I’d also like to note that a very real danger for unmarried people in long-term relationships is having their stuff misdivided, extreme difficulty in getting custody, etc. In other words, all the problems already associated with divorcing after a marriage, but without the protections provided for divorcing people.