The surprising news that emanated from the Supreme Court on Friday was like a breath of fresh air. The Supreme Court has finally decided to hear two cases involving gay marriage. The first is a case brought against DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
What surprises me is the length of time that it has taken for this issue to come before the court, and even more, why society is so obsessed about who lives together and what they do with their time together.
Societies have always been preoccupied with who can marry, when they can marry and what the rules should be once they are married. Our society determines that people may only marry once they attain majority, that is, the age of eighteen. Some exceptions are made, but for the most part, that is the limit.
Throughout much of history, societies have been polygamous, men have taken more than one wife, and in some societies, women take more than one husband, that is polygynous societies. They are rare, but it does happen. In polygamous societies, many men are left without a wife. In our society, we currently restrict marriages to one man and one woman.
In certain societies, the Lord of the Manor can exercise the option to have the first night with a woman that is about to be married. Our society generally frowns on behaviour like this, but rules are flexible, and people break them with monotonous regularity. Western society is monogamous in word, but seldom in deed. People look around and sleep around in private, while disavowing such behaviour in public.
Conservatives love to claim that we ought to adhere to traditional marriage, that is, marriage between one man and one woman. This sounds rational at first glance, but with a little thought, we can determine that it is anything but. There is little traditional about western marriage, other than the fact that marriage in its present form is a relatively recent development.
Until relatively recently, people of different races were forbidden from marrying. It took a Supreme Court decision to change that, to acknowledge that all people have a right to equal protection under the Constitution.
It is noteworthy that miscegenation laws were on the books until 1967, when the Loving v. Virginia case was heard by the Court. The couple had left Virginia for Washington DC to marry. When they returned, they were sentenced to a year in jail for the crime of loving one another. The judge suspended the sentence for twenty five years on condition that the couple leave the state.
Conservatives love to tell people how moral and upstanding they are, occupying a pedestal above mere mortals, pontificating from on high, and often sending down bolts of lightning to punish the wicked. The harsher the punishment, the more satisfied they are that they have achieved sanctimony, that they will thereby be rewarded in the afterlife for their faith and service.
Conservative morality is really just a way to camouflage their true intent, which is to victimize and discriminate based on one arbitrary classification or another. They feel powerful when they moralize and segregate.
The current brouhaha over same sex marriage follows a similar trajectory to that once imposed on interracial couples. Conservatives become outraged that what they consider immoral behaviour is allowed to happen, and introduce laws designed to make life as difficult as possible for people that dare to flout the law. Making miscegenation a felony, punishable by between one and five years in jail is the kind of law conservatives love to pass.
Conservatives make it their business to tell others how immoral and disgraceful it is that two men or two women can indulge in sex with one another. Our Creator after all intended for us to procreate with a member of the opposite sex.
This really ignores the reality of life, not just human life, but life as a concept. There are more ways for procreation to happen in the animal, plant, bacterial, fungal and archaebacterial worlds than we have yet imagined. There are also a multitude of relationships that are of mutual benefit throughout life.
Conservatives claim that same sex marriage is unnatural because a marriage ought to result in children. This ignore the tens of millions of heterosexual couples, that for one reason or another marry with no intention of producing children. This may be by choice, or because of age or genetic predisposition.
Who are conservatives to tell a heterosexual couple that the only reason for them to marry is procreation? Government is now forcing people to produce children, rather than marrying because they love each other, or are fond of each other, or just want the benefit of a friend, a confidant, or the financial advantages that come from living one life rather than live apart.
Why are conservatives so obsessed with getting involved in what two people do in the privacy of their own homes? There are plenty of heterosexual couples that indulge in what to others might be strange sexual habits, but that is their own affair. Married couples may have open marriages in which they sleep with other people outside the marriage. That is their right, why should they not if that is their prediliction?
Conservatives love to say that gay marriage destroys the foundations of marriage, and yet, it only makes it stronger. If more people are willing to make commitments to one another, does that not strength the institution rather than weaken it? If two people feel strongly about one another, why should they not be able to make it legal, to obtain the advantages that marriage provides?
Why should heterosexual couples be able to visit one another in hospital, take advantage of pensions or social security benefits when one partner passes away, to draw up wills leaving their possessions to one another, and all the other advantages of marriage, while gay couples cannot?
Conservatives claim that the Bible rails against two people of the same sex being together. Far too many crimes are justified using biblical texts. Which bible should we use to decide what is correct and what not? Far too often the interpretation is left up to priests, who have much to gain by keeping their flock in chains. Which holy text should we refer to, for all the great religions have their holy books?
If the Creator wishes to punish his own creation for sins produced because of the way that person was created, let him do it in his own time. It should not be up to people to preëmpt and mete out punishment.
It does not make sense for a creator to punish the result of his creation. Even a Creator must be rational, and must explain that rationale. It is the very idea of faith that the priest classes use to manipulate the people into obeying their dictates, and yet are unable to explain the reason for issuing those decrees.
Eleven countries around the world have legalised same-sex marriage, including my own, South Africa. This is history in the making, the new civil rights era, and in the next twenty years we should see same-sex marriage available in most civilised nations. As usual, Europe is leading the way with this pioneering experiment. The United States is still playing catch-up, but state by state, we are seeing a shift towards the right to gay marriage.
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