A few words about traditional marriage

May 30, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More

Jay Michaelson delivers some inconvenient news to those who claim that marriage has always meant one man committed to one woman:

Time to break out your Bible, Mr. Perkins! Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.)

But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants. Now that’s traditional marriage!

I would add that even in modern times, “marriage” means serial monogamy–being committed for life to one special person, until you get tired of that person and then move on to being committed to a different person forever.

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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 lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    I’ve been pondering this very question this week, especially after reading this article (http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/man-admitted-hospital-kidney-stone-discovers-hes-woman-110057308–abc-news-health.html/) about a married Colorado man who discovered (by accident) that he’s actually a woman. According to the story, “he” has male genitalia and internal female sex organs — a condition known as intersex. The condition apparently affects thousand of newborns every year.

    So here’s my question: given that the Colorado constitution bans same-sex marriage, is his marriage now invalid? To what extent do marriage rights depend on anatomy?

    And what about transgender people? If they take hormones and take on the external appearance of someone of the opposite sex, what are their marriage rights? Must they have a sex-change operation before they can marry someone of their previous gender? What if they don’t? If a man has become a woman but hasn’t had the operation, and he (now living as a woman) wants to marry a man, does the city clerk take a look in her pants to see what she’s got down there before issuing the marriage license?

    My point here is that before we can even begin to discuss the topic of marriage between “one man and one woman,” we actually have to define what we mean by “man” and “woman.”

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