Saturday, 5 April 2014

Marriage in the USA is about genitalia

Brendan Eich
Public Domain Photo
As most people know by now, Brendan Eich stepped down as CEO of Mozilla over controversy regarding his financial support of efforts to deny same sex couples the same marital rights that opposite sex couples have. Many people feel that Eich was treated unfairly. Rather than cover that topic, I want to cover the topic of marriage in the USA (and in most of the Western world). It's a topic that I feel many people have looked at in the wrong light.

Today I am married to a lovely woman and we have an incredibly beautiful daughter (as a father, I admit I'm biased). However, though I'm a bit of a public figure in my field, many people don't know that I was married previously and there are some interesting aspects to that marriage which play into the current debate.

What is marriage? In USA in the late 80s, when I was married, it certainly wasn't about love. Though my wife and I loved each other at the time, it certainly wasn't a requirement to get married. From a legal standpoint, love is irrelevant to marriage.

What about religion? Again, from a legal standpoint, that's irrelevant. My ex-wife is (and was) a Christian and I am (and was) an atheist. I am aware of no laws in the US which state anything about the religion of couple's getting married — and, in any event, they'd probably be unconstitutional.

What about children? My ex-wife had two children from a previous marriage, but could no longer have children. From a legal standpoint, the ability to bear or raise children is irrelevant.

What about the myriad legal benefits of marriage? Well, you could strip all of those benefits away and that would still not impact one's legal ability to get married, so those are also not relevant to the ability to get married.

So despite "traditional marriage" supporters citing love, religion, and children as reasons for marriage, from a legal standpoint, those are all irrelevant. So when I got married, what did marriage mean, legally? In the US, it's about having the appropriate genitalia. That's all. Despite a lot of hyperbole about same sex couples getting married being a "degradation" of marriage, in reality, what is more degrading to the concept of marriage than reducing it to genitalia?

If anything, the "traditionalists" should be arguing against the legal definition of marriage in most states in the US. But they can't. If they argue the couple must be in love, they not only have to provide a legal definition of love, but also produce a test to verify it. Good luck on that.

If they make it about children, plenty of couples who can't, or won't, have children are going to shoot that down immediately. So what then? Make engaged couples sign a contract agreeing to have children or adopt? Even if you could force through such a draconian measure, are you going to force childless couples to divorce? No, that's silly and this will never happen.

Or what about religion? You certainly can't legislate anything in the US regarding the religion of couples getting married.

No, "traditional" marriage in the US and the legal system of marriage have nothing to do with one another. If you prefer "traditional" marriage, fine. I have no problem with that. However, if you insist that genitalia verification be a precondition of marriage, I have a strong problem with that. Amusingly, if you reduce it to genitalia, that should allow trans couples to get married. Texas tried to sidestep the issue by passing a law (since struck down) defining marriage as only being legal between someone genetically a male and a partner who is genetically a female, but that opened the doorway to same-sex couples getting married when one of them was previously the opposite gender.

Frankly, the whole debate is rather silly. If two people want to get married, let them. I've officiated at many same-sex weddings and opposite sex weddings and frankly, I'm not going to judge someone else's intentions. More importantly, even if they're only doing it for the legal benefits, who am I to decide if they should have that right or not? It doesn't impact my marriage in the slightest. More importantly, it helps to teach my daughter that acceptance of differences is important. I can't think of a more beautiful, wholesome message than that.


  1. My general response to concerns about legalizing "gay marriage" or whatever is that "marriage" as currently defined legally is a mess to begin with. The legal component should be nothing more than a matter of contract law between two (or more) parties capable of consent. As to moral concerns about marriage, that is best left to the parties involved since it's too important to be left to the likes of government.

    1. fallous, I agree with you completely. Unfortunately, the current mess isn't going to go away any time within the next few days (or centuries). Instead, I try to focus on the easier task of making things equitable with the current mess rather than the Herculean task of fixing the mess.