There Are Two Marriages – Part Two

Marriage Is Not Broken – It’s Changing

Marriage has a long and convoluted history.  For most of that history, marriage has been about the acquisition or exchange of property and the production of progeny for the purpose of protecting that property.  But, at least in the West, that’s not what marriage is about anymore.

If you look around at popular culture, it seems that marriage is about formalizing and cementing a romantic attraction.  Of course, this isn’t much of a justification to bind yourself to someone in the many ways that we do in modern marriage.  This has also likely been the reason that so many marriages end these days.

If you ask conservatives who are fighting against the (inevitable) acceptance of gay marriage, they’ll tell you that marriage is primarily about procreation and rearing of children — a booklet handed to me at the Minnesota State Fair by the the anti-gay-marriage people (who were subsequently glitter bombed) goes on at length about how one-man-one-woman marriage is all about the children.

The problem with that argument is that we allow celibate, infertile, post-menopausal, and otherwise non-child-producing couples to get legally married without batting an eye.  So, at least according to the government, marriage isn’t really about producing children.  It’s about two (oppositely gendered) persons who’d like to legalize their partnership and accrue the 515 benefits afforded to married persons in Minnesota state law (PDF).

See all the posts in this series here.

  • Lock

    While you can list benefits of being married, there are benefits to not having your marriage registered with the state. At least as of in the 90′s under Clinton a married couple would pay more in taxes than people simply living together. Also, if you loose your insurance and have to have medical care, then you will be required to pay more in medical costs if you are married, then if you simply live together. There is not an organized approach to promote living together, so it would be hard to find “515 benefits of living together.”

    Proposition 8 points to the fact that it isn’t inevitable – that was even California.

    • Andrew

      So, because there are benefits to not being married, that’s a good reason to deny same-sex couples the right to marry? That seems like a specious argument to me. There are benefits to not voting, too–you don’t have to pay attention to those pesky debates, don’t have to educate yourself about the issues, and on the whole you’d probably be a much happier person during election season. I guess we should be denying people the right to vote! They’re better off, when you think about it!

      I suppose my wife and I could have decided to simply live together if we looked at the pros and cons–but that’s exactly the point, we had the CHOICE, to either take advantage of the rights and benefits guaranteed by law to married couples or to pass on those rights and simply live together instead. That choice is not available to same-sex couples. That’s unjust, and unconstitutional too, since the constitution guarantees all citizens the equal protection of the laws.

      • Lock

        Andrew, Tony pointed to the fact that marriage was in to receive benefits. I was just pointing out that living together can be beneficial in some respects as well.

        Should I have the right to marry my mother, or marry my father? Should society recognize that right? Or, if I was bi-incestuious should I have the right to marry and have sex with them both?

    • CJ

      “At least as of in the 90′s under Clinton a married couple would pay more in taxes than people simply living together.”

      Is this still the case under current tax law? If not then your this is an irrelevant point.

      “Also, if you loose your insurance and have to have medical care, then you will be required to pay more in medical costs if you are married, then if you simply live together.”

      I’m sorry but your logic does not follow. How exactly do medical costs for two individuals without insurance increase based on marital status?

      I’m certain that there are benefits of living together, however, these are not two. They don’t even manage to be two legally established benefits of living together. Perhaps someone should come up with a list of the legal benefits of living together so that we can have an accurate comparison.

      • Lock


        I will concede my two points as void and agree with you that there are benefits to living together. That’s my basic point without doing a lot of research to find a bunch of examples.

        • CJ

          I agree that there probably are benefits to living together without being married. There are also benefits of marriage are available to unmarried person through powers of attorney, and other such documents.

          But, without someone doing the research, I cannot fathom that there is a list of benefits that is equal to the list of benefits given to married persons. And unless there is some evidence to the contrary, not only are your two examples void, your entire point is void.

  • Jay

    Tony, doesn’t the focus on children and reproduction simply affirm that Protestants in general, and especially evangelicals, have failed to develop a post-Augustinian theology of sexuality? When the only justification for sexual expression is framed in Augustinian terms (focused on procreation) there isn’t much room for marriages that don’t fulfill this function. While protestants give lip service to a theology of sex as “God’s gift” (without much biblical mandate most of the times) and want to avoid the Roman Catholic proscriptions on sexual practice as solely reproductive (and still sort of sinful at that according to Augustine), in fact many still haven’t thought very deeply or theologically about intimacy in relationships, leading them to fall back on the old procreative arguments. Of course, they could look to the example of David and Jonathan in maintaining sacrificial, intimate relationships . . . but of course that opens up a whole other can of worms that most don’t want to deal with (which is why that passage never shows up in the lectionary, and is rarely if ever preached in an evangelical church).

  • Sarah Lynne Anderson

    I’ve been going through the list of 515 “benefits” that Tony cites. Pretty soon I’ll have a ballpark estimate on how many are benefits and how many are restrictions. The 515 are really benefits and restrictions that apply to married couples. By not allowing same-sex couples to marry the government is either denying benefits or not enforcing restrictions on couples. Sometimes the restrictions are things a couple might want to avoid (though presumably society at large would not want them to avoid them). Other times it may hurt or benefit just one of the couples.

    Anyway, I just wanted to clarify that since it came up in this discussion. I don’t in any way think that the fact that the 515 aren’t all benefits makes any kind of argument for not allowing same-sex marriage. If the issue is fairness, than what is “most fair” would certainly be to apply the same benefits and restrictions to couples regardless of gender.

    For example, my partner and I can get higher amounts in food stamps and medical care from Minnesota by not getting legally married and keeping our finances separate. That is a potential “perk” (for poor people) to not getting legally married, but certainly doesn’t make any kind of argument for not allowing same-sex partners to get married (if anything it makes an argument for some kind of required common law marriage if we don’t want people getting away with such things : )