Any Time I Hear Someone Say “Traditional Marriage”

Any Time I Hear Someone Say “Traditional Marriage” May 4, 2015

Traditional marriage. Traditional marriage. Traditional marriage.

This week Fox News published an opinion piece by Cal Thomas titled “Will we erase the boundaries that have guided humanity for generations?” In it he asked this:

If human history, tradition, the Bible, the Constitution and biology are to be ignored or re-defined, on what basis do courts say “no” to anything?

Of course, these same questions were on the justice’s minds during last weeks’ Supreme Court hearings.

Justice Kennedy had this to say:

This definition has been with us for millennia. And it’s very difficult for the court to say, ‘Oh, well, we know better.’

But then Justice Ginsberg pointed this out:

[Same-sex couples] wouldn’t be asking for this relief if the law of marriage was what it was a millennium ago. I mean, it wasn’t possible. Same-sex unions would not have opted into the pattern of marriage, which was a relationship, a dominant and a subordinate relationship. Yes, it was marriage between a man and a woman, but the man decided where the couple would be domiciled; it was her obligation to follow him.

There was a change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian when it wasn’t egalitarian. And same-sex unions wouldn’t — wouldn’t fit into what marriage was once.

And this is rather the point.

Every time I hear someone say “traditional marriage” and “hundreds of years” or “millenia,” I think of one thing and one thing only. In “traditional” marriage, I was property. Yes, me, this human being sitting right here—property. Because I am a woman. Under “traditional” marriage, I was a piece of property to be handed from one man to another. I was to obey, to serve, to cease to exist as a separate legal entity, subsumed into my husband’s person.

And so I say, to hell with traditional marriage. I like existing as my own independent person with a right to own property and no obligation to have sex with my husband if I don’t want to, thank you very much. And you know what? This needs to be pointed out every single time someone appeals to “traditional” marriage.

We’ve already changed marriage, people! Marriage used to be a property exchange, a relationship between a dominate party and a subservient party. About a century ago we changed marriage, making it about love rather than about economics or family ties. In the decades since we’ve changed it even more, making it egalitarian, an equal partnership rather than a dominant/subservient relationship.

Our society’s definition of marriage has rarely if ever been static.

Oh and also, those appeals to the Constitution? Are people like Cal Thomas aware that the Constitution as written enshrined slavery? It’s a damn good thing we’ve “re-defined” the Constitution!

It’s all very easy to appeal to the Constitution as written when you’re a white male, now, isn’t it? You don’t have to worry about, oh, the fact that it included slavery, or failed to give women the vote. You don’t have to worry about the fact that, when the Constitution was written, married women couldn’t own property and slave rebellions would soon prompt white Southerners to pass laws against teaching slaves how to read.

Actually, let’s look in more detail at Cal Thomas’s quote:

If human history, tradition, the Bible, the Constitution and biology are to be ignored or re-defined, on what basis do courts say “no” to anything?

Ignoring or re-defining human history—what does that mean, exactly? Perhaps Thomas is referring to the (false) idea that a tendency for having homosexual relationships is what destroyed the Greeks. I can’t think of anything else—except perhaps an argument that we should keep repeating history and not diverge from it? That makes no sense at all. There are lots of terrible things in human history that we should very much try to avoid, slavery and war among them.

Ignoring or re-defining tradition—well yes, and gladly so. If we maintained “tradition” I would be my husband’s property, and actually our children would be my husband’s property too (to do with as he pleased). If we maintained “tradition,” black people would still have separate water fountains, and separate schools, and so forth. Beyond even this, I see no compelling reason that we should maintain tradition. There’s a story about a woman who cut the end off of her hams when cooking them, and when asked why, she said she did it because her mother did it. Curious, she asked her mother, and she said she did it because her mother did it. So she asked her grandmother, and she said she did it because her pan was too small for the whole ham. In other words, if tradition is worth maintaining, there should be a reason other than “because it’s tradition” for doing so.

Ignoring or re-defining the Bible—well first of all, the courts are not bound to uphold the Bible. But honestly, this idea that we’ve never “re-defined” the Bible is also bogus. Heck, the entire Protestant Reformation was built on “re-defining” the Bible!

Ignoring or re-defining the Constitution—as I stated, we’ve done this plenty often. Sometimes we’ve done this through amendments, but other times it has been through the courts. Think of Brown v. Board of Education, for example. Or Loving v. Virginia. Or Lawrence v. Texas. Our Constitution has always been re-defined as our society’s needs change.

Ignoring or re-defining biology—so far I haven’t seen anyone argue that a person can get pregnant without a uterus, so I’m pretty sure we’re not ignoring or re-defining biology. Also, I was clearly unaware that the courts were to make decisions based on biology rather than on things like rights or justice. Silly me. Also, biology is kind of crazy sometimes, so there’s also that.

In the end, “let’s keep things the way they are” will always be the argument of those who are not discriminated against or denied equal rights. And as someone who has benefited immensely from things not being kept the way they were, I say to hell with the status quo. Viva la change!

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