Sunday, November 13, 2005

Deinstutiutionalization of Marriage: Children raised and obligations incurred

Most Unitarians-Universalist blogs I read still plugging at away at deinstitutionalization and legalizing same sex-marriage when marriage itself becomeing an option only chosen by the 'well to-do' who can afford it.

Read Stephanie Coontz's Marriage, a History. This a quote from page 280,

The breakdown of the wall separating marriage from nonmarriage has been described by some legal historians and sociologists as the deinstitutionalizatoin or delegalization of marriage or even, with a French twist, as demariage. I like historian Nacy Cott's observation that it is akin to what happened in Europe and American when legislators disestablished their state religions.

With disestablishement, the state no longer conferred a while set of special rights and privileges on one particular denomination while denying those rights to others. When this happened, religion itself did not disappear. But many different churches and new religious groups proliferated. Similarly, once the state stopped insistence that everyone needed a government-sanctioned marriage license to enjoy the privileges and duties of parenthood or other long-term commitments, other forms of intimate relationships and child-rearing arragnements came ouf from underground. And jst as people's movetives for joining a church changed when there was no longer one official religion, so people began deciding whether or not to marry on a new basis.

We may personally like or dislike all these changes. But there is a certain inevitability about most of them. For better or worse, marriange has been displaced from its piotal position in personal sand social life. No matter how much society values marriage, it cannot afford to ignore the fact that many childern are being raised and many obligations are being incurred in alternative settings. A perfect storm has reshaped the landscape of married life, and few things about marriage will ever be the same.

Its kids and obligations that's important for me. Not a right to marriage. And the test is HHH's Liberal Mantra. A test he gave for judging Government but one we can be apply to any institution and ourselves,
One of Humphrey's speeches contained the lines "It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped," which is sometimes described as the "liberals' mantra."

1 comment:

Kevin McCulloch said...

Hey Bill,

This is fascinating stuff, isn't it! Here's what I consider the right moral reasoning.

Coontz is right that many children are being raised in alternative settings. This has always been true. This is because, as animals, human beings are imperfectly adapted to monogomous pair-bonding. The genetic variance in our instincts prompts different humans to adopt different emotional strategies. It comes down to this: some people are more inclined to find monogamy satisfying than other people. It's in their genes!

It seems natural to me that people who vary on a scale that finds monogamy comforting on the one end and stifling on the other would view gay marriage differently depending on whether they felt that gay relationships could be deep and sincere. As liberals we need to provide evidence of committed, long-term gay relationships. They exist; we just need to call attention to them.

I think marriage is good. By declaring a couple married, we take an intimate (and hence deeply ambiguous) relationship and give it clear public status. This is useful for all sorts of reasons.

We support gay marriage because many gay couples want to make public commitment a part of their relationship. If we want to reach out to social conservatives, we should make our support of gay marriage part of a larger campaign to affirm the general social value of good marriage. I think as liberals we could do this without condemning people who have had bad experiences with marriage.