When discussing whether or not homosexuals ought to be able to marry, the argument invariably turns to the institution of marriage, if it can be said that such a thing exists in the United States. A lot of people feel that by allowing same-sex marriages, the institution of marriage will further weaken, and thus destroy the family. To counter some of those arguments and fears, marriage must first be defined, which serves as the purpose of this writing.
There is a point to marriage. Marriage has the social benefit of trying to prevent males from mating with many different females. Historically speaking, this has never worked correctly. The recognized union between a man and a woman most certainly does not prevent adultery, nor is it truly possible to do so. The desire to mate with as many females as possible is rampant throughout the animal kingdom, and man being part of that kingdom, attempts to control such behavior through the implementation of social rules. This argument is not intended to justify promiscuous sex (although humans are the only species to attach emotional guilt to the act of procreation), but merely to illustrate that marriage serves as an attempt to control one of the most basic and innate behaviors of the male gender.
Another point of marriage is to pledge to the person you want to marry that you will spend the rest of your life with them and love them until the day you die. It has an additional purpose of tying someone else to you for life to share this life with. Granted, you do not need marriage for any of these things, but the actual marriage is a way of making the decision legally binding. Again, this purpose seems to fall short in the United States, which is experiencing a divorce rate of 51%. If more than half of all marriages fail, what does that say about the value of such an institution?
Marriage has meaning that is based on tradition. However, that definition is no longer valid for this enlightened world. Definitions must change and adapt to serve the needs of the people using the thing that is being defined. As society and civilization evolves and changes, so must its definitions of right and wrong. A hundred years ago, society deemed it correct and natural for women to stay at home and to not have any rights. Should we continue with that historical interpretation of morality?
One interpretation of marriage is the traditional Christian viewpoint of one man and one woman swearing before God. That is not the viewpoint shared by everyone, and that does not mean that their viewpoints are wrong, or that their marriage isn't as special to them as another's is to them. If marriage only had meaning in the context of a religious ceremony, there wouldn't both civil ceremonies and religious ceremonies. A man and a woman can get married in a civil ceremony without any mention of God or religion. And yet, no one questions the fact that they are married. No one even thinks twice about it. Why should this be any different for homosexuals?
In this case, marriage in the civil sense should have no religious base. Civil ceremonies by default must be without religious base. If an atheist wanted to marry another atheist, they could not have gotten married in a church, had they wanted to. And no religious leader would have performed the ceremony either. Marriages performed via civil ceremony are for people who either don't want to get married in a church, or can't get married in a church for whatever reason. Some people say that non-religious marriages are not real marriages. This would appear to be a narrow-minded point of view, reeking of religious intolerance. What it says is that if a person does not subscribe to their way of thinking and belief system, then they are wrong.
All marriages are legally binding contracts. That is why spouses are worth 50% of each other's assets, which is and should be enforced by the government. In its most basic definition, marriage is an arrangement between two consenting adults, more like a private agreement. There should be no one else involved in a marriage besides the two married people. But how can you then limit marriage to two people? Since a contract can be made between more than two parties, there is no reason why this idea should not be extended into the definition of marriage. Because people cannot be discriminated against because of religious beliefs, religious arguments against bigamy cannot be used in this situation. Once those arguments have been removed, there is no reason why bigamy should not be allowed. However, many people would take this argument and extend it to inanimate objects, such as a house or car, or the argument for marrying children and animals will be presented. If marriage is to be considered as a contract, that contract must be made between consenting adults. In most states, the age of consent for an adult is 16. Therefore, the marriage of children would not be allowed. Objects cannot consent, nor can animals. Clearly, an object such as a house is therefore a silly and ridiculous argument, and should be given no serious consideration. Similarly, all arguments for the marriage to animals must be given the same lack of consideration.
Once the traditional religious core meaning and characteristics of marriage have been removed from the argument, the concept of marriage as a contract opens up to many interpretations. The definition of marriage ought to come from a non-religiously biased referendum, not from the Bible, or another other religious text. In a free society that is not ruled by its religion, the definitions of social morality must not come from the religious base. What if, by some pure chance, the religious majority in this country suddenly endorsed sacrificing women to the Sun god? Would that be moral and right too?
In a free society, the laws ought to reflect the will of the majority, not of the religious sector, the corporations, the rich, or the elite. We have a society based upon a Constitution, a document that outlines the basic rights that people in the country are entitled to. The Constitution does not exclude people, nor does it tell them that some people can do certain things while other cannot because they have different beliefs. Denying homosexuals the right to marry is no better than telling blacks that they cannot marry either. I would like to think that America has evolved beyond this petty, discriminatory behavior.
But then again, I am an optimist...