Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is marriage passé?

So I am reading this article about how there are more unmarried couples then married couples today (called "Look who’s happily unmarried" over at MSN.com), and the thought strikes me: The gay marriage movement is asking society to open a door to an empty room, a place where not even straight people go anymore.
"The recent report of a Census Bureau survey found that married-couple households in the U.S. are now outnumbered. A hair more than half — 50.3 percent — of households are headed by unmarried people, and 31.7 percent of American children are being raised in unmarried homes."

What does this say about marriage? Calling marriage obsolete is a bit too simplistic. It is still useful in specific circumstances, such as if your partner is unconscious and in the hospital and the doctors need someone to make a decision on treatment, or if only one partner has health insurance through their work. But some of these situations have been legislated out of existence in certain states, largely thanks to accommodations to the gay community.

In effect, by making life easier for gay, non-married couples, we have been undermining marriage.

What about divorce? No doubt stricter divorce laws have had an impact, but I suspect divorce in general has had an impact. How many of us have been through a bad divorce, or known more than a few couples who have been through a bad one? I would not be surprised if 90%+ of Americans can answer that question "yes". When we see the emotional and financial damage left from a nasty divorce, what incentive is there to get married? And for the children of these divorces, there is even less incentive.

Right now, unless you are in a situation with a partner where you will be required to be married under the law in order to receive a specific benefit, the only reason I can think of is income taxes. Is a thousand or so dollars per year in reduced income taxes worth getting married? (Mind you, I am throwing that figure out. I have not actually looked it up. I think it may actually be less than that.) Of course, that is assuming that being married would enable a couple to pay less, which is not often the case. Getting married is only really useful to the tax situation of a "one breadwinner" couple. If both couples work, and both make roughly the same amount, they are likely to push themselves into a higher tax bracket by filing jointly.

Yet again, we see marriage undermined.

What about religion? Most, if not all, religions consider marriage to be sacred. However, I am not aware of ANY religion that requires marriage to be state-sanctioned. If your religion requires you to be married, but your legal situation doesn't, why can't you ONLY be married within your religion? There is nothing legally or theologically making this invalid.

So why get legally married? We have dis-incentivized marriage to the point where it is really only useful in specific situations. Sadly, most of those situations don't apply to the majority of Americans.

At this point in time, I would say to anyone considering marriage (including homosexuals, if they have legal access to marriage) to look at their situation first. If they would actually benefit from it, I say go for it. However, if they can find a way around the marriage benefit (i.e. a properly executed will, or a legal power-of-attorney document), then I would suggest they do so. It is far easier to get legal documents changed than it is to get a divorce.

That having been said, how should we as a society view this? What do we think the purpose of marriage should be? Should we even be sanctioning the institution at all?

I must admit that I find the recent marriage "proposal" (pun intended) by the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance (WDMA) to be intriguing. According to Initiative 957, which the group has proposed in the state of Washington:
"If passed by Washington voters, the Defense of Marriage Initiative would:

* add the phrase, “who are capable of having children with one another” to the legal definition of marriage;
* require that couples married in Washington file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage automatically annulled;
* require that couples married out of state file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage classed as “unrecognized;”
* establish a process for filing proof of procreation; and
* make it a criminal act for people in an unrecognized marriage to receive marriage benefits.
"

While I recognize WDMA's true intent is to get gay marriage legalized, I find this proposal to be a useful starting point for any discussion of marriage. Why should states sanction marriage for the mere purpose of "love"? People will be in love regardless of marriage. Why do states need to encourage something which will happen anyway?

However, procreation is an extremely valid reason for states to provide benefits, although I think adoption should be considered as a reasonable substitute for procreation.

But until we give marriage a truly useful definition, for both couples and society as a whole, then it is nothing more than an obsolete institution which should be removed from government oversight.

18 comments:

William R. Barker said...

Ed writes...

"In effect, by making life easier for gay, non-married couples, we have been undermining marriage."

Huh??? Sorry, Ed... I just don't see it. If anything, gay unions STRENGTHEN the concept of "marriage" as a special committment between two people who love one another.

BILL

EdMcGon said...

Did you read the rest of what I said Bill? Try the paragraph before that line. ;)

People will love one another regardless of whether there is an institution of marriage or not. The fact that over half the couples living together are doing it outside of marriage proves that point.

Feel free to explain how gay unions will help the institution of marriage? In theory, since gay couples have no impact on straight couples, how can you argue that gay unions will strengthen the concept of marriage for straight couples?

William R. Barker said...

Yeah... (*SCRATCHING MY HEAD*)... I THINK I read the whole thing...

Time out! Let me re-read!

(*TICK...TICK...TICK...TICK*)

O.K. I re-read the paragraph. And...??? (*STILL SCRATCHING MY HEAD*)

Ed writes...

"People will love one another regardless of whether there is an institution of marriage or not. The fact that over half the couples living together are doing it outside of marriage proves that point."

O.K. And...???

Ed writes...

"Feel free to explain how gay unions will help the institution of marriage?"

O.K. Every gay marriage will be a marriage that otherwise wouldn't have taken place. Next question...??? (*SMILE*)

"In theory, since gay couples have no impact on straight couples, how can you argue that gay unions will strengthen the concept of marriage for straight couples?"

But... but... but... ED... I didn't argue that. (*REALLY SCRATCHING MY HEAD*) What I wrote - inferred if you will - was that gay marriage does nothing to WEAKEN hetrosexual marriage and indeed adds more MARRIAGES as an absolute number to the total.

Sometimes, Ed... (*GRIN*)

Oh! I see it now! You posted at 8:34 p.m. That explains it... you were half in the bag! (*HUGE FRIGG'N GRIN*)

Ed... seriously... as I often remind certain shared cyberaquaintences... pay attention to what I actually WRITE... not to what you think you're reading between the lines. (*SMILE*)

I'm an EASY guy to debate with. I write clearly and directly. No need to "read into" my posts. Simply read the posts themselves.

BILL

EdMcGon said...

Bill,
Based on your argument, it doesn't matter WHO gets married, as long as we add more marriages to our overall total. In that case, let's legalize polygamy. ;)

William R. Barker said...

Again, Ed, you're commenting on what you "think" I'm writing and not what I actually am writing. (*SMILE*)

Just as a debating tip... this sort of thing might get past the rubes, but if you hope to convince intelligent people that you're right... well... you've gotta actually BE right. (*WINK*)

So far... you haven't retracted your original statement, "by making life easier for gay, non-married couples, we have been undermining marriage." Nor have you sought to defend it. Rather... you keep on bringing in new examples and asking new questions.

(*SMILE*)

Taking "love" out of the equation, marriage is about committment and stability. My position is that there's something inherently "stable" (at least in theory) about a two-person union. And yes... historically - and "naturally" in terms of biology - a male/female union is the norm.

Would giving polygamous unions the umbrella (legal and social) of marriage increase, decrease, or not effect the stability and committment aspects of marriage? I don't know. I tend to think not. Who knows, though... (*SMILE*)

But, Ed... to bring you back to earth... (*SMILE*)... while an interesting side topic, polygamy has nothing to do with your apparent belief that gay marriage adversely effects straight marriage.

BILL

EdMcGon said...

Bill,
Now YOU are reading into what I said. When we pass laws to enable "life partners"/cohabitants/gay lovers (or whatever you want to call them) to be able to enjoy certain benefits outside of marriage (such as health insurance), we make marriage less necessary.

Based on what marriage means in our society today, then why not have gay marriage legalized? Right now, we have reached the point where marriage is unnecessary to over half of straight couples. What difference does it make if we legalize gay marriage? None at all.

William R. Barker said...

Ed writes...

"When we pass laws to enable "life partners"/cohabitants/gay lovers (or whatever you want to call them) to be able to enjoy certain benefits outside of marriage (such as health insurance), we make marriage less necessary."

Well... (*PENSIVE EXPRESSION*)... there's a certain amount of truth to that, Ed, but only as it applies to "shame" marriages - which can be between hetrosexual couples (think immigration) as well as homosexual couples.

I'm assuming - and I've been assuming - that we're talking about "true" marriage - marriage based upon a sincere, loving, respectful "yes" answer to the question, "Do you take..."

I was using the term "unions" as the "gay" equivilant of marriage. If that wasn't clear... then now it is. (*SMILE*)

Basically, to cut to the chase, I believe gay "united/married" couples should be able to share the same rights and responsibilities as straight "united/married" couples.

AND... if you want me to further clarify "united," I mean a formal "contract" that is the legal "eqivilant" to marriage. I mean a "licensed" relationship - whether we call it "civil union" or "marriage."

BILL

P.S. - Ain't I just having a BLAST on over at the "other" website playing with our friend "R" concerning the Obama thread? (*HUGE FRIGG'N GRIN*) I just KNOW I'm driving him INSANE! Ha! Ha! Ha!

William R. Barker said...

I meant "sham" (Rhymes with JAM.)

BILL

EdMcGon said...

Bill,
You're also missing a further point I'm making. Why are gay couples seeking something that even straight couples don't seem to want anymore?

Why should gay couples step into the sinkhole institution we have made of marriage?

William R. Barker said...

Ed... (*TSK, TSK, TSK*)... I never miss ANYTHING you say - that's why I'm always able to point out where your arguments are... a bit... off.

(*HUGE FRIGG'N GRIN*) (*FRIENDLY PUNCH ON THE SHOULDER*)

Ya see, Ed... to use a football metaphor... (*WINK*)... you have a propensity to move the goal-posts. You're asking a NEW question now - one which of course I'm happy to answer.

Gay couples are seeking "civil union" and/or "marriage" because they want their relationship to be legally and socially recognized and acknowledged - the same reason hetrosexual couples get married. They want to "complete the circle" and "make it legit." (*SMILE*)

Now... you can point out that a hair more than half — 50.3 percent — of households are headed by unmarried people and to that I say...

"So?"

(*SMILE*) In other words, Ed, what's that have to do with why the minority wants to get married??? Nothing - that's what.

More important - for the sake of this discussion at least - what does this figure have to do with gay civil unions and/or gay marriage? Again... the answer is... "nothing."

You ask... "Why are gay couples seeking something that even straight couples don't seem to want anymore?"

Why do I like snails in butter??? Because I do! What do the overall states tell us about individual couples - gay or straight? Absolutely NOTHING, Ed. (*WINK*) Each married couple has their reasons for getting married and each unmarried couple has their reasons for not getting married.

You ask... "Why should gay couples step into the sinkhole institution we have made of marriage?"

Well... (*SMILE*)... first of all, Ed, speak for yourself. I'm happily married. (*WINK*) (And you are too if memory serves!) (*GRIN*) But second of all... again... individual gay couples - and individual married couples - want to make this decision on their own and that's all there is to it.

BILL

William R. Barker said...

"...overall stats..."

STATS... not "states"

(*SELF-DIRECTED SMIRK*)

BILL

EdMcGon said...

Gay couples are seeking "civil union" and/or "marriage" because they want their relationship to be legally and socially recognized and acknowledged - the same reason hetrosexual couples get married.

Bill, to use a football metaphor, this is where you dropped the ball. Heterosexual couples AREN'T getting married!

For practically the entire recorded history of mankind, more couples have gotten married than not. Why now do we have this statistical anomaly? Because, say what you will, the institution of marriage is broken.

I'm a happily married man too, but that doesn't say a thing about how the general public views marriage. Clearly, they see something wrong with marriage. Otherwise, why don't they go out and get married?

William R. Barker said...

Ed... ED... (God frigg'n help me)... ED!!!

Hetrosexual couples ARE getting married.

(*BANGING ROB'S HEAD AGAINST A WALL*)

(*CHECKING ED'S CLOSET TO SEE IF THERE'S A SHORT SWORD TO GO WITH THE LONG SWORD*)


That a tiny MAJORITY of American adults are unmarried (50.3%) tells you what, Ed??? Think about it. Take your time.

(*CHECKING MY STOP WATCH*)

JESUS FRIGG'N HELP ME... ya just GOTTA stop, Ed. Ya GOTTA stop. (*SMILE*)

Ed... check this out:

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=N2FiYTNhYTcwMWI5YjFjMmIzYzVmNTk5NjcxZWU1NDA=

BILL

EdMcGon said...

Bill,
Your link didn't work.

Regardless, are you saying that the first time there have been more non-married couples living together than married couples is irrelevant? If it is, then it is only because marriage itself has become irrelevant.

William R. Barker said...

Ed writes...

"Regardless, are you saying that the first time there have been more non-married couples living together than married couples is irrelevant?"

Jeez, Ed... are you joking? Seriously... what is it about 50.3% being a FRACTION (a slight majority out of) of 100% that you don't get???

(And this is assuming the 50.3% figure is correct in the first place; and even if correct, you need to understand that "unmarried" includes categories such as "widowed" which of course has nothing to do with marriage "failure" per se.)

Sorry the link didn't work. That seems a common problem with this particular bloghost. The op-ed can be found at nationalreview.com in the Thomas Sowell archive. Original publication date Feb. 6, 2007. Title: "Married to an Ideology."

(Oh... and in line with the above set-aside concerning the 50.3% figure... when you check out the Sowell piece you'll note: "The Times defined “women” to include females as young as 16 [and] [w]ives whose husbands were away in the military, or in prison, were also counted among women not living with a husband.)

Anyway, Ed... just to work within YOUR framework... again - using grade school math - if 50.3% of a group made up of 100% is "X" that means that 49.7% is "Y." If you consider the marital status (married!) of 49.7% of the U.S. adult population to be an "irrelevency," there's not much I can say. (*SMILE*)

BILL

William R. Barker said...

BTW... (*WINK*)

Isn't it amazing how you and I can remain civil and friendly even in the face of my (*SNORT*) sarcasm and (*SMIRK*) condescension?

Notice we don't resort to calling each other names or reply to each other's reasoning with mainly snark... as is far to often the case on other blogs?

I'm sure you get tons of lurkers, here, Ed. (*THUMBS UP*) Your blog may not have the posting traffic that our other "in common" blog has... but in many ways that other blog and its posters could learn a lesson from Politics and Pigskins.

Anyway... (*CLIMBING OFF MY HIGH HORSE*)... thanks for hosting this blog, Ed.

BILL

EdMcGon said...

My pleasure Bill. :)

But back to the discussion.

If your argument is that the data is incorrect, then I will happily buy into your argument. However, if it isn't incorrect, and the 50.3% is an accurate reflection of unmarried couples living together (note the Sowell article was NOT referring to this particular statistic), then we have a major problem with the institution of marriage.

When couples would rather live together than get married, doesn't that say something?

William R. Barker said...

Your blog... you get the last (substantive!) word.

(*GRIN*)

BILL