Traditional Marriage

| September 25, 2009 | 10 Replies

We often hear religious conservatives arguing that we need to preserve “traditional marriage.” What do they mean by “traditional marriage”?

Image by sister72 at Flickr

Image by sister72 at Flickr

At Daylight Atheism, Ebonmuse delves into the details of one conservative version of “marriage,” and it’s not about “1950s, smiling-wife-and-picket-fence families.” It is not a partnership of equals. In fact, it appears to be a relationship based on power, where abuse of that power has no ill-consequences for the abuser.

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Category: American Culture, Culture, Religion, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (10)

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  1. And we're surprised? Like I said in an earlier post, "It's About the Women, Stupid!" (Not you, Erich, but, you know…)

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    "Traditional" means keeping women down and men in power.

    But, "Tradition" is good in baseball where we STILL need to have a US Constitutional amendment to ban foreign teams from winning the World Series!

    http://dangerousintersection.org/2006/06/12/neede

    Harummmph!

  3. Sarah Connor says:

    I think most advocates of "traditional marriage" envision a union of a woman and a man that is supposed to be a serious commitment. They don't read any more into it than that. Their parents were a male and a female and that is how they define marriage.

    Many individuals who define "traditional marriage" as being between a woman and a man really do not care what private citizens do with their genitals. Nor do they care whether individual states chose to recognize civil unions between same sex couples.

    To suggest otherwise really comes along the lines of bullying. What is the message here? Women should advocate for same sex marriage because women should view themselves as exploited if in a traditional marriage?

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Sarah: I don't understand your comment. This is at least the third time in recent days that it seems to me that you are intentionally misreading a post in order to pick a fight. The post by Ebonmuse shed some light on the reality of what some social conservatives hold up as the type of marriage that is morally superior to all gay marriages. He is not pulling something out of thin air. I have met people who believe in these types of marriages, where women are deemed subservient to their husbands.

      No, the article doesn't say that all traditional heterosexual marriages are dysfunctional. Where do you get that? But many conservatives who fight against same-sex marriages do advocate for a form of marriage that does not appear to be a superior form social coupling than at least some same-sex marriages. There is hypocrisy in the air.

      Let's get a few more cards on the table. I favor the right of gays to get married to each other. What is your position on same-sex marriage?

  4. Sarah Connor says:

    Gays already have the right to marry each other in many states. It isn't an issue which affects me, nor is it one I'm invested in emotionally one way or the other.

    If my state recognized gay marriage I'd accept the result. That relationships that already exist are now formalized would have no effect on my life.

    Many gay families have children, and there are valid reasons to erect a recognized social framework around them. I do prefer the concept of calling them civil unions as opposed to marriage, as some states do, or of simply not using the term marriage for anyone (just say civil union, which is what it is from the government's perspective anyway).

    Gays could do a much better job in the court of public opinion, by the way, and the gradual societal acceptance that is occurring would likely occur more quickly. Many prominent gays are absolutely hateful and venemous toward Christians and conservatives. Many are not tolerant at all. Hardly the type of stuff that makes casual observers want to fire off a letter to their state representative demanding the legalization of gay marriage.

    I have read that there are over a thousand consequences of marriage. To me, the rise in women's equality and the prevalence of two income families would justify elmiating many of them over time, perhaps lessening strain on some social programs and narrowing the number of situations which lead to discriminatory effect in the first place. Example–elminate widow's benefits in the absence of financial need.

    The recognition of gay marriage does have some likely consequences which present far more difficult questions, which, if anticipated, explains why citizens might view the gay marriage issue with ambivalence.

    If there is an equal protection right not to be discriminated against because of sexual orientation, then you are going to be litigating whether you must afford legal rights to transvestites and pedophiles–what is sexual orientation vs. sexual peference or practice? Once gay marriage is recognized, how do you not recognize polygamy, by the way?

    Proponents of gay marriage simply do not do a good job of explaining why the line won't keep moving. That is because it will, probably to the point where the government will need to get out of the marriage business entirely, in favor of private contracts. Gay marriage won't destroy the family, but it will be one factor which contributes to the changing nature of families, which still exist but in many different forms.

    http://www.pro-polygamy.com/articles.php?news=006

  5. Sarah,

    The argument about pedophilia is a good example of apples and broccoli in this debate. We long ago decided that people below a certain age should not be used for sex. The rule applies to heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. Bluntly, if we don't allow straights to diddle minors, why would we allow any other persuasion?

    You do have a point about polygamy. Here's the problem: examples of it to date have largely been one man, bunch of women who are essentially servants. It is not historically an equitable circumstance. I once had a debate with a devout Muslim over this point and she got hung up on the idea that if a man can have several wives (which she had no problem with in principle) why can't a woman have several husbands (which she found absurd). At the end, her objections had to do with the function of sex—procreation—and her acceptance of patriarchy over matriarchy. Which tends to be where christian splinter groups align their thinking over this matter—sex is for the man's pleasure and for making babies, women have no say in it. Until that issue is finally and forever buried, polygamy is problematic.

    As for gays being spiteful against conservatives and christians, well, hey, look who keeps quoting the Bible that gays are abominations and, in some instances, ought to be put to death. Here it's right-wing christian rhetoric that is hell bent on keeping homosexuality a perversion in the eyes of the general public, so spite for spite. I do not defend it, but it's not difficult to understand.

  6. Sarah Connor says:

    As the the pedophilia point, by no means do I ever think gay marriage would lead to legalization of sex with prepubescent children. My concern is that pedophiles would argue that it is a violation of equal protection for the government to discriminate against those who have an innate sexual interest in children or that pedophiles would seek protection under hate crime laws. Couple these concerns with the increasing tendency of society to oversexualize young children.

    Perhaps to the extent bright lines can be drawn somewhere to eliminate social anxiety about erosion of cultural values, we should just draw those lines.

  7. P.S. to my previous response…while some people may well argue that a pedophile's "inclinations" are no different than any other form of sexual inclination, there is a major difference—at least, I think it is—based in the Consenting Adult standard. In a long post a few years back I argued for a reasonable attitude toward sex which we largely lack now and one of the key components is the idea of an absolute equality among participants. There's no way to guarantee that among the myriad differences people exhibit in maturity and so forth, but you can make a sound argument that sex between innately unequal partners is questionable at best, repugnant at worst, and that there is never a circumstance in which a child is the equal to an adult. Since you cannot establish such equity, the argument in support of pedophilia is at the outset disingenuous and unsupportable. Therefore, no such parity with gay rights—or even polygamous rights, should a time come when social and economic equality become THE standard—can be maintained.

    Just wanted to point that out before any suggestion that one cannot argue effectively against a so-called slippery slope.

  8. Sarah Connor says:

    The innately equal partner/absolutely equal participant test has some apparent shortcomings. Perhaps I don't understand innately equal? I take it that we are totally ruling out Poodles as Partners. See–line-drawing is great : )

    Someone who suffers from mental illness (bipolar, schizophrenia), or physical disability (quadripeligic), or progressive illness (Lou Gehrig's, MS) may operate under several disadvantages relative to their sexual partner. They may be, for example, dependent upon the partner for economic support. Certainly, society excuses indivduals with these impairments from working and puts them on SSA/SSI disability. They enjoy the protection of antidiscrimination laws because, in part, of vunlerability. Can these folks marry, or does it violate The Doctrine?

    Relationships erode into domestic abuse all of the time. Do we want to involve the state in "the pulling of the plug?" What would that mean? Mandatory divorce, or, at the very least, elmination of the adverse spousal testimonial privilege? (In other words, if he whips your ass, society is going to make you testify about it, the sanctity of the marriage be damned.)

    What about people who are timid and dependent who want to be taken care of in a relationship? Should the state ban them from nuzzing up to the teat? Maybe they like it there.

    Slippery slope arguments are difficult to counter. Religious doctrines present logical orderly lines, which, although not inclusive, lead to predicable social order.

  9. Setting aside the gay marriage issue for a moment and getting back to the original post, the bigger issue I see here is the lack of outrage from moderate Christians.

    NONE of my believer friends agree with the writers of this article. They think these people are kooks. Yet the good Christians often fail to speak up when they see something like this, even though it makes them look bad by association. Where are the moderate religious leaders to shout down this kind of backward thinking?

    Having an atheist condemn an article like this does little. Having other Christians shoot these people down speaks volumes more. Is this happening? I don't see it.

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