Saturday, May 30, 2009

Marriage -- a comment at Chaos Manor

From Jerry Pournelle's mail column:


"explain to me how denying the rights and privileges attendant to heterosexual relationships called 'marriages' can be denied to one who is not a heterosexual but wishes to establish a long term legal relationship with another adult person ."

I love the scare quotes around "marriages." They're so cute. Also, I love the default assumption that it is all about rent-seeking from the government goody-bag.

But marriage is not about establishing long term legal relationships. The essential nature of marriage is set out by Plato in The Laws, Book IV.
The Athenian. What will be our first law? Will not the the order of nature, begin by making regulations for states about births?
Cleinias. He will.
Ath. In all states the birth of children goes back to the connection of marriage?
Cle. Very true.
Ath. And, according to the true order, the laws relating to marriage should be those which are first determined in every state?
Cle. Quite so.
If we also examine the Code of Khammurapi, we find no general principles (for that was not the Mesopotamian's forte) but ad hoc, positive laws confined to two matters: provision for the children of the union and how the resulting legal obligations of the man and woman are to be jointly handled.

IOW, marriage has to do with the birth of children. It was not All About Me, i.e., about the obligated couple and their "commitment." Marriage is no more ordered toward the validation of "commitment" than it is ordered toward filing joint income tax returns. The "commitment" (and the joint filing) are requirements annexed to the primary purpose, the provision for the raising of children. (=Not= simply their procreation.)

This is true even if the couple appears to be infertile. This potential is essential to the nature of male-female coupling even if it is not actualized. Just as humans are rational animals in essence, even if the rationality is not actual (as in a baby or a comatose person), so too is procreation "in potency" for heterosexual couples, even if not "in act." Even today, "infertile" couples often do conceive in the long run. And in any case, from Khammurapi on, infertility has been grounds for divorce. No kids; no marriage.

Therefore, the Prince has a "compelling State interest" in regulating and controlling heterosexual acts that he does not have in other sorts of acts. That's why heterosexual unions were hedged about with various prudential restrictions, bars, permissions, and regulations, most of which are probably not eagerly sought after by activists (and have been safely discarded, in any event). The ancient Greeks celebrated homosexuality in many ways, but they did not celebrate in a "marriage."

The ironic thing is that this movement comes about even while heterosexuals are abandoning marriage in droves, via easy divorce, co-habitation, etc., coupled with all sorts of ways to prevent or cull children. As civil marriage has become more and more purposeless, it has also become more and more tempting to cavort among the ruins.

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