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The first step is admitting you've made civil marriage a problem

by Jeremy Hooper

We on the pro-equality side are gaining so much ground by pointing out the differences between civil marriage (what gay activists are seeking) and religious ceremony (an always-optional component of marriage) that the religious right is feeling compelled to address the distinction. And that, in our eyes, is a good thing. Unfortunately, however, they still don't want to acknowledge the actuality that surrounds the whole concept.

Jennytyree-1-1This "explanation" comes from Focus on the Family's Jenny Tyree:

The “civil marriage” argument usually implies that marriage is defined strictly religiously or biblically, but this is not the case–and conservative Christians aren’t the only ones who define marriage as a man and a woman. Marriage scholars often say that marriage is a human institution because it has existed for centuries in a variety of cultures, regardless of the religion commonly practiced or the political system. And in each culture, the essential ingredients of marriage are the same although weddings and the division of duties between wives and husbands often look very different: marriage is a publicly recognized cooperative and sexual union of male and female who work together to care for the children born to them.

In the United States, what we practice currently is essentially civil marriage. The government does not require a religious ceremony, a blessing from the church or a member of the clergy, or that the couple attend church. It really just cares that the bride and groom meet certain requirements and turn in a license–and hopefully have children so that the country will continue to thrive.

So called “civil marriage” legislation which has been introduced in some states with the goal of redefining marriage away from its male-female definition. The words “civil marriage” are just nice words to make social reconstruction sound good.

I believe that the heart of this question is always to care for those who for their own reasons, do not desire one-man, one-woman marriage. But there are so many good things associated with it (social science is decisive in that children thrive when their biological parents are married, and married men and women have better health, etc.) that we the people who make up the government ought to be able to care for unmarried people without redefining marriage–a social institution vital to the personal well-being of the next generation, and to the stability of our nation.

A response to the “civil marriage” argument [Drive Thru]

"The words 'civil marriage' are just nice words to make social reconstruction sound good"?! Uhm, no Jenny -- the term "civil marriage" is the social construction that is being debated! Be it male-female, male-male, or female-female, our system is one in which the civil license is required but the religion (and reproduction) is completely optional. Legislation that extends the freedom to marry to same-sex couples need not make any "special" considerations or distinctions in this area -- the separation between the civil and the religious was considered many years ago!

Just like her boss Jim Daly, Jenny Tyree seems to fully understand the truth, but just doesn't want to admit it. Instead she wants to engage in non sequiturs about non-required elements like reproduction, act as if same-sex couples would somehow wreck the "good things" that come with marriage, and generally use the "it's right because it's the way it's (mostly) been" line of reasoning to support her views. There is no way they can take on the civil vs. religious question without delving into opinion, fear, immaterial asides, or some combination thereof.

Well there actually is a way, but it would dry up Focus on the Family's funds faster than you can say "justice of the peace."

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Your thoughts

And of course, she leaves out the part about the many societies who defined marriage as "one man and as many women as he could afford".

Posted by: RainbowPhoenix | Jul 30, 2009 4:47:06 PM

Like I always, always say to anti-equality folks - If two barren atheist heterosexuals can be legally married in a courtroom, then legal marriage is neither about procreation nor Christian dogma. You don't care that we can't naturally procreate or that we go against your scriptures - you simply hate us and wish for our continued demonization.

Posted by: Princess Diamond Lollipop Cupcakes | Jul 30, 2009 5:23:48 PM

Hey! That's the answer they wrote to my question! Sweet.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 30, 2009 6:28:05 PM

Brian: You should feel honored that they actually published your comment. They're not posting (most) anyone else's

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jul 30, 2009 6:49:09 PM

She also leaves out that wives in marriages (even in the US until about 90 to 100 years ago) were (and in many cultures still are) considered to be the owned property of the husband. Even in the US, dowries were very common "purchase prices" paid to the fathers of the betrothed. But, they leave out all of the inconvenient details, and rely on the minion's profound ignorance of history, or simply conveniently rewrite history to suit their agenda.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Jul 30, 2009 7:27:20 PM

She and all the other anti-gay heterosexuals need to take responsibility for the 50% divorce rate of heterosexual marriages, the adultery, the infidelity and the waning desire to stick with the vow "till death do us part." But it's so much easier to demonize law-abiding, taxpaying, gay Americans. Meanwhile militant, anti-gay activists like Sanford, Gingrich, Vitter, Ensign, etc. continue to soil the sanctity of marriage they claim to be protecting.

Posted by: Michael | Jul 31, 2009 7:12:58 AM

IMO, marriage historically has been about a means to successfully and efficiently pass property from one generation to another. If a man had two wives, and those women had two different husbands, inheritance would be a nightmare. So in order to insure that the (historically male first-born) fruit of a (historically) man's loins got to benefit from the work of his father, everyone was happy. Marriage was just the contract to make sure his wife stayed faithful so you didn't pass inheritance to the mailman's kid. Maybe that's cynical, but at least it's more realistic than that tripe above.

Posted by: UK Chris | Jul 31, 2009 8:12:23 AM

'The words “civil marriage” are just nice words to make social reconstruction sound good.'

The words "protect traditional marriage" are just nice words to make homophobia and discrimination sound good.

Posted by: KZ | Jul 31, 2009 10:56:16 AM

Perhaps they can sense that I used to think like them. Years of critical thinking have led me to decide that the less the government says about its citizens' bedrooms (provided all parties are consenting), the better.

Anyway, please note that Tyree did not actually answer my question:
"Would conservative Christians be OK with taking government out of marriage altogether and leaving it a church/synagogue/mosque-based thing, leaving the government to work out a civil union contract between two consenting adults? Why or why not?"

She alludes to some answers, but she has warning-track power: She's unable to hit the ball over the fence. I think what she's trying to say is that (based on material frequently cited, albeit anonymously, by the super-right) because homosexuality is an inherently risky behavior and because children raised by same-sex couples are at an increased risk for x, y and z, it is in the nation's best interest, from a civil standpoint, to preserve "opposite marriage." She calls upon universal concepts of marriage (a huge no-no in the postmodernist circles I studied in) to reinforce that point.

I don't believe the motivation behind Tyree's comments is hate. FotF is, at its core, a think-of-the-children organization. If there's even a chance that something, political or theological, will hurt kids, FotF will try to stop it. That's not altogether bad. The folks on this blog might disagree with FotF on this issue, but they would surely agree when it came to, for example, stiff penalties for child rapists and abusers.

The key to dialogue with FotF is to show that the homosexual community does indeed want the best for this nation's kids. That's the common ground, and it can be the foundation of positive discussion.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 31, 2009 12:19:46 PM

Well, Brian, I would agree that the FOF seems to want the best for the nation's straight kids. They want the LGBT kids to be ostracized in just about every way possible. Including subjecting them to extremely dangerous "reparatory" "therapy". They stigmatize, demonize and ostracize LGBT kids. They perpetuate a mindset that enables/instructs parents of LGBT kids to also stigmatize (and quite ofter ostracize) their very own kids.

They may say that they are there to "protect children", but that is horse-hockey.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Jul 31, 2009 12:53:07 PM

Marriage is one of those weird things that falls between the cracks of Government and Church, well so think the Christians. Also, isn't it "Civil Union" it seems like Jenny is leading her argument by calling it "Civil Marriage".

Most Christian groups and politicians try to play the religious angle of marriage. If two people consensually choose to engage in a personal contract that is their business. It is really a civil rights issue.

Then that last part of her essay with all the patriotic "we the people" and "stability of our nation" stuff. That's very pathos heavy but there's no logic.

Posted by: American Marriage Ministries | Aug 2, 2009 5:15:12 AM

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