So, some elderly sociocrats in black mumus are deliberating over what the official State sanctioned definition of marriage should be. Apparently the document which they are charged with interpreting is silent on the issue, so some people think they should go with some whitewashed fantasy version of ancient Biblical Law by default, rather than just remaining silent on the issue. Rival gangs have polarized on opposite sides of the issue, and like proverbial primates, now they fling rhetorical poop at one another. What really irks me about the “traditional marriage” crowd is how fundamentally insincere they are about their reasons, and what irks me about “marriage equality” crowd is how unprincipled they are if you scratch the surface of their position.
Let’s be clear. For “traditional marriage” advocates it’s all about anal-sex. Period. It’s not about children, or God, or even about marriage. This is an issue because some people are really uncomfortable with their neighbors having anal sex. They don’t even really seem to mind lesbians. Yet, for some reason, only the Westboro Baptist Church types ever mention it, and they are universally reviled by both sides.
They say children need both male and female role models, but they don’t rail against single parents, and if you ask them they don’t usually have a problem if circumstances require a child to be raised by more than one heterosexual man. Remember the movie 3 Men and a Baby (1987). No objections. They say they don’t want to change the time-tested building blocks of society, but if you inform them that the normative marriage practices throughout history included polygamy, marital rape, and treating women as male property they don’t suddenly support those things. Then of course they say the purpose of marriage is procreation, but they have no desire to institute a fertility test for marriage. They only have a problem if the infertile people are gay. The sick irony is that changing the behavior the social conservatives are upset about is not on the table. It’s not even part of the discussion. Yet it is obviously their only motivation.
The “marriage equality” advocates don’t fair much better in my opinion. They start with the principles that marriage is a right, and equality is a right, so everyone should have equal right to marry. Sounds good, but after just a little bit of pressing they don’t usually support marriage equality for polygamous marriages, polyamorous marriages, incestuous marriages, or any other bizarre constellation consenting adults configure themselves in. Bring up those topics and they immediately begin echoing the rhetoric of the “traditional marriage” advocates. It’s disgusting. It’s bad for children. It’s bad for society. Blah blah blah. Or, they give you some line about strategy and not wanting to associate their struggle with segments of society more marginalized than themselves. Paging Pastor Martin Niemoller.
In reality, they don’t regard marriage as a right. They merely want to be granted the privilege. They don’t want to abolish State coercion in our personal relationships, they just want the abuse pointed at someone else. Anyway you slice it, so long as the marriage license exists, no one has the right to marry. Only the privilege to marry exists.
It’s important to point out that we’re not talking about a private contract between consenting adults. We are talking about a license, which defines a coercive relationship between two citizens and the State. I am perturbed by the popular assumption that a marriage without a license is not a “real marriage” because the marriage license itself is an immoral institution, and damaging to both sides of the gay marriage debate.
In the Black’s Law Dictionary “License” is defined as “The permission by competent authority to do an act which without such permission, would be illegal.” When secular authority claims the power to license it claims the power to prohibit. No license may be issued without first prohibiting the practice being licensed. By definition the need for a license is predicated upon an act being illegal. Under current law marriage is not a right for anyone, but a privilege granted by the State, and neither group addresses this fundamental incongruity. In my conversations with both groups most viewed the idea of abolishing the marriage license as somehow cheapening their relationship, as if being recognized by the State made their love more sincere, and their commitment more firm.
The marriage license was first issued to institute prohibitions on marriage, not to protect the right to marry. Blacks Law Dictionary defines “marriage license” as “A license or permission granted by public authority to persons who intend to intermarry*.” Then it defines “Intermarry” as, “Miscegenation; mixed or interracial marriages.” In the 1920s marriage licenses were invented by bigots to prohibit white people from marrying blacks people.
Do you see? The marriage license is a wholly immoral and unnecessary institution predicated on the erroneous idea that black people should not have equal access as whites to the marriage privilege. While once they were used to prohibit interracial marriages, today they are used to prohibit homosexual and plural marriage. The answer is not to fight over who is permitted to receive the license. The answer is abolishing the license altogether, and agreeing not to use State coercion to regulate our neighbor’s personal relationships.
On it’s face, it should be humiliating to everyone to grovel for permission to marry. We should also consider the reality that the paperwork couples sign is a contract with the State. Conventional wisdom suggests we should always read the contracts we sign, but this is impossible because the terms of this contract are obfuscated in 200 years of legal code, which are buried in legal libraries in language we barely understand. Even if we discover something objectionable, we cannot renegotiate the terms of this contract, and the State can change the terms at any time without our consent. In affect, signing a marriage license is consent to whatever laws they have passed, and whatever laws they will pass into perpetuity.
I’ve had this discussion with enough people to know the typical objections which have probably already come to your mind. The marriage license will help you avoid taxes by filing together. It gives your spouse authority to make medical decisions. It plays into inheritance laws. To me, all this sounds like, “You have to submit to State coercion to protect yourself against State coercion.” It’s ludicrous. I reject the arguments from tax benefits. Having a complicated system of tax law built upon bigotry doesn’t justify the bigotry. Imagine if someone argued against abolishing slavery because owning slaves gives you a tax write off. Decisions about one’s medical proxy and inheritance could easily be handled by private contracts without a marriage license. The marriage license does not protect the right to marry, it prohibits it.
The simple fact is this. The positions of those on both sides of the gay marriage debate are hopelessly irreconcilable so long as the State is involved. But whether they believe in gay marriage or not, those who are willing to abolish the marriage license all together have nothing left to fight about. Those who believe in gay marriage would be free to enter private contracts without using the coercive power of the State to force others to recognize it. Those who do not believe in gay marriage would be free to withdraw their moral sanction without using the coercive power of the State to prevent others from entering private contracts. It is the State, not the marriage, that divides people, destroying both tradition and equality in the process.