Gay marriage… why?

Oh come on, gay marriage… not again!

I grudgingly support gay marriage. Gay people obviously want it, so we should have it. That much is a clear-cut civil rights issue. But it makes me sad that gay people should want to get married, of find it important.

Christian marriage is a rotten contract where a man buys a woman from her father for some price – usually land or farm animals. The man has to feed and “protect” the woman, and in exchange she has to be a sex slave, domestic slave, and reproductive beast. Adultery carries severe penalties, always for the woman because she might produce the wrong offspring, and sometimes for the man because he interferes with another man’s woman. Believe it or not, that was an attempt at feminism, a deal to share the burdens and benefits of mating between men and women sort of fairly.

It worked OK, I guess, for ancient agrarian societies. Actually it didn’t. Women hated the deal pretty much constantly for all of recorded history. A few generations ago, as in Juliet, women were fighting fiercely to have any say in whom they married, and in many places they still don’t. Only a couple of generations ago women stopped being bought (with dowry) and were no longer severely punished for adultery. Just a few years ago feminists managed to remove the sex slavery clause from the deal, so that now marriage is almost completely meaningless. Hooray for that!

It would be difficult to find an institution whose heritage is more heinous than that of marriage. Only slavery is close. If we had treated slavery like we did marriage, slave unions would have gradually won reforms so that slaves were no longer owned by their slavemasters and could no longer be bought or sold but had to sign slavery contracts willingly. In fact they would compete in the slave market to do so. There would be slaves’ rights and health & safety at slavery. Slaves with tenure would be paid off when freed, rather than the other way round. When the economy tanked and the unenslavement rate went high, unenslaved people would clamor to be enslaved. “Slavery Now” would win votes. Comical at best. In the case of slavery we recognised a rotten thing, almost universally, and abolished it. Marriage we reformed. Why one and not the other? Go figure!

So marriage is this religious custom with horrible, horrible history and yet modern people, joyfully and with the best intentions, rush to get married. Now gay people want to do it too. I understand the equality, of course, but I wish they’d go instead for a different type of equality. What about the equality of unmarried and married people? I’m not actually married with my partner and mother of my son. Perhaps selfishly, I want us to have equal rights to married couples. Which we do. We haven’t yet ran into an actual reason to be married. So why do gay people want it so?

There are a few things that marriage does. It’s a legal act to nominate another person for certain civil rights such as inheritance or citizenship. But for that there should be a legal act to nominate another person for certain civil rights such as inheritance or… you get the idea. What’s it got to do with religions and marriage?

Marriage is also, perhaps, a request for the state to come and police your relationship. That… sounds like a really bad idea. I’m usually much in favor of the state, but I don’t want it in our bedroom, because the choices that the state will want to enforce aren’t likely to match ours. Then again marriage may be a signal to get the state out of your relationship. If a man beats a random woman he may likely get arrested. If he beats his wife, much less likely. That’s not right either. Human rights shouldn’t change in either direction just because you’ve entered some kind of relationship.

Now, of course, what marriage does and the reason people want it is that it’s a stamp of approval on a relationship. Obviously people demand it as such. But hang on, the approval of whom?

If marriage is the approval of the church, then surely it’s a matter of the church to decide what relationships to approve or disapprove. It’s not fair to ask the christians, or the muslims, or any religion to approve a relationship they don’t like. Or rather it’s fair to ask them, and maybe convince them or else go and find a more accepting faith. It’s not fair to have the state coerce them to grant their blessings, make available their churches, or provide ceremonies. If people want a commitment ceremony, by all means show some imagination and create one!

Perhaps marriage is a signal that your relationship is approved by society, that it is OK. I guess it was not OK before you got married, so I’m happy for you that you’ve finally fixed it (I’m not invited to many weddings, which is another advantage of this attitude). The relationship of a man and a woman can be OK, so gay couples want their relationship to be OK too. It makes me so sad.

Why is this very small relationship OK, and others are “not OK”? Is it because a couple is OK for raising kids? Hardly so. Nuclear families, realistically wives, have a hell of a job raising kids because the parenting group is so small. A village does a better job raising kids, and so does a tribe. Or a network. But these relationships are not OK. Only a couple is OK because when it comes to parenting we have to be as selfish as possible. That’s what makes me sad.

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