Over Easy: Marriage

Horseshoe Falls at night – Richard Owens flickr Creative Commons

Well the SCOTUS has said that it’s legal for LGBT people to get married in the whole US of A, so that’s settled. Or is it. According to wikipedia:

Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws.[1] The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal.

Individuals may marry for several reasons, including legal, social, libidinal, emotional, financial, spiritual, and religious purposes. Who they marry may be influenced by socially determined rules of incest, prescriptive marriage rules, parental choice and individual desire. In some areas of the world, arranged marriage, child marriage, polygamy, and sometimes forced marriage, may be practiced as a cultural tradition. Conversely, such practices may be outlawed and penalized in parts of the world out of concerns for women’s rights and because of international law.[2] In developed parts of the world, there has been a general trend towards ensuring equal rights within marriage for women and legally recognizing the marriages of interfaith, and same-sex couples. Often, these trends have been motivated by a desire to establish equality and uphold human rights.

In other words, marriage in the context of the Supreme Court is now legal and binding and all that good stuff. But the religious aspect vis-a-vis  Christianity did not come about until the 12th and 13th century.

The Roman Catholic tradition of the 12th and 13th centuries defined marriage as a sacrament ordained by God,[208] signifying the mystical marriage of Christ to his Church.[218]

Up until then, marriage was mostly a ceremonial affair and the church kept out of it. Recognized by the community and mostly for the purpose of sex and having and rearing offspring. Off times prearranged by the parents or though a third party.  IE Match Maker.

Then there are the economic and financial aspects. A lot of these are by cultural tradition and generally to make sure the kids and wife are taken care of should any thing happen to the husband. Which in olden days, was all to likely.

Marriage served a number of useful purposes, more so in the past than now I think. Primarily for raising off spring as well as carrying on the family name, farm, business and if royalty the kingdom.  Each culture had their own marriage and ceremonial traditions. The Swedes, Finns, Germans…all with their own customs. The Finns being the most liberal of all where people have lived together, some times for years, before getting married.

The exception to all of this is the Native American tribes which had to formal marriage ceremony.

In American society, part of the discussion about marriage is really about sex. While sex was a part of traditional Native American marriage, marriage was not about sex. Prior to marriage, young people were expected to engage in sexual activities. Sex was not confined to marriage.

The Europeans, and particularly the missionaries, had a great deal of difficulty in understanding that women had power in Indian society and that they had the right to sexual freedom. Indian societies were not organized on the patriarchal, monogamous norms of European society. Christian missionaries were deeply shocked and offended by the fact that Indian women were allowed to express their sexuality. At the same time, many of the European men were delighted by this.

Among some contemporary American commentators, there is a view that there are only two genders: male and female. Yet, in American Indian cultures people did not make this an either/or situation. They viewed gender (and sexuality) as a continuum. Many modern Indians talk about a third sex/gender often called a berdache or two-spirit. Yet in traditional cultures, it wasn’t quite that simple. There was a recognition of the feminine and masculine in all people. There was not an either/or concept of being heterosexual or homosexual. There were in traditional societies male and female homosexuals and transvestites who played important spiritual and ceremonial roles. These individuals were seen as being an important part of the community.

Traditional Native American cultures tended to be egalitarian: all people were equal. This is one of the things that bothered many of the early Christian Missionaries, particularly the Jesuits in New France, as they viewed marriage as a relationship in which the woman subjugated herself to the man. In Indian marriages, men and women were equals.

Imagine that. Men and women as equals. And the off spring belonged to none in particular, but were the responsibility of the whole tribe. And those of LBGT persuasion were considered to be of just another spirit.  Pretty progressive if you ask me.

Same sex marriage is recognized if not legal in most European countries as well as a few others.

Then there is this take on marriage.

Marriage has always been about who is whose property (women, slaves, children) and who gets what property. Inheritance, employee benefits, insurance claims, taxation, wrongful death claims–all of the benefits associated with marriage are benefits that keep wealth in the hands of the wealthy. Those with no property are less likely to marry, and have less to protect using marriage law. Movements for economic justice are about dismantling property systems that keep people poor—not tinkering with them so that people with wealth can use them more effectively to protect their wealth.

Today’s same-sex marriage advocates argue in courts and in the media that marriage is the bedrock of our society, that children need and deserve married parents, and that marriage is the most important relationship people can have. These arguments are the exact opposite of what feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial movements have been saying for hundreds of years as they sought to dismantle state marriage because of its role in maldistributing life chances and controlling marginalized populations.

But personally I would prefer a completely egalitarian society where everyone regardless of gender or gender preference or financial status is treated equally. Much like that of some or even most Native American tribes.

Completely devoid of any and all male or female authoritarianism. Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships



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