That the American presidential candidates are actually defending or promoting what was until recently an arguably criminal institution is a bit comical actually.
I hold President Obama, with his “historic” “evolving” position as the first president to openly support gay marriage in no higher esteem than Mitt Romney who yesterday graced the political marketplace of ideas with his reaffirmation against what Obama has suddenly found politically feasible to promote.
As is par for the course, the Democrats are using polls to shape their social positions (get more youngsters to vote) and for the Republicans, once again, God is being used as the foundation for social debate. (I really wish the almighty would step up sometimes and defend himself or at least get a little more strict about who is allowed membership into the his club).
How nice it would be if Mitt with his reaffirmation, Obama and his “evolving” views and all those so bent on heralding this “sacred” union as being only between a man and a woman would at least be truthful about what the essence of “traditional” marriage was until very recently –a business transaction.
Despite the shallow volley in the war of words and what the candidates would lead you to believe, marriage was rarely a sacred union and not even about love until very recently in our walk from the primal ooze.
In her book, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage, author Stephanie Coontz notes that marriage originally was all about protecting the family unit. “You established peaceful relationships, trading relationships, mutual obligations with others by marrying.”
Later, as wealth became the driving concern of a well fed, agriculture-based humanity, it evolved into being all about the money and political jockeying says Coontz. “That’s the period when marriage shifts and becomes a center for intrigue and betrayal.” Followed later by great soap operas.
To their credit, in the 11th century, the church decreed that there must be a consent between two people to validate a marriage. Fine words, but seldom followed in the Western world or anywhere else, where even today some parts of the world still arrange marriage for the advancement of the family with little concern for what the two people getting hooked up think about the whole thing. (Not to mention those themselves who are hooking up for the sole purpose of advancement and financial gain).
The whole let’s justify something by bringing God into it would come a hundred years later in the 12th century when Roman Catholic theologians and writers began referring to marriage as a “sacrament” and “a sacred ceremony” tied to experiencing God’s presence.
It was later codified at the Council of Trent in 1563 that marriage was officially deemed one of the seven sacraments. Yay.
What’s Love Got to do with it?
In terms of marrying for love, it wasn’t until the Victorian Era that Westerners started looking at marriage as a matter of the heart.
“The Victorians were really, really invested in the idea of love – that marriage should actually be based on love or companionship,” Jennifer Phegley, author of Courtship and Marriage in Victorian England, told the BBC.
As the middle class expanded and social and class mobility spread, there was a growing “distaste” among the middle classes for thinking of marriage as “a family-arranged event for exchanging a daughter into a family for gain.” Well…yeah.
Here we are in the 21st century and marriage takes another step in its evolution where eventually anyone will be able to do it for whatever reason they wish to whomever they wish. But considering the history of the act, why would anyone be so bent on taking part in it, much less defending or promoting it?
Obviously, as a human being of mid-range intelligence, I am 100% for two people hooking up regardless of their gender –whether it be for sex, long-term commitment or a good round of table tennis. But my primary concern in the government’s role is the legality side of the issue (that same sex partners should have equal rights as couples of the opposite sex have.)
Paramount for me is that no other entity, be it the church, the family, the weird guy that lives down the street, or the government, should be involved in what two people willingly consent to do together.
Be it in the name of love, money or a shot at the position of head cashier at the 7-11, it is solely between the two people involved and the concern of no one else –especially the government.
As the lovely Joni Mitchell once sang: “We don’t need a piece of paper from the city hall, keeping us tied and true.”
And we don’t need religious or political leaders or family and friends telling us what the two of us can and cannot do.