January 18, 2009

Sustainability and Marriage

author_sally By Sally Raskoff

In a previous blog, I discussed the concept of sustainability, focusing specifically on the environment. We can also view marriage in this context.

The fight over same-sex marriage has also used sustainability as an argument. As Governor Mike Huckabee recently stated on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, marriage exists to create babies, thus sustaining our civilization.

He is invoking a religious argument that sees marriage in this particular way – as the societal institution that sanctions perpetuation of the species. This is, of course, only one partial function of marriage and it is not entirely correct.

Marriage is more of an institution that regulates sexual behavior, which can lead to childbearing if fertile heterosexuals are the people involved in the marriage (and if they choose to procreate). Childbearing and “family making” can also occur with people raising children that someone else has born or whose genetic origins are partially or wholly someone else’s as when fertility drugs clip_image002and technologies are used.

And marriages do not always create children even if fertile heterosexuals are the people involved in the marriage. Thus childbearing does not come only from marriage between heterosexuals even as the religious organizations that are primary today hold this as the norm to which we are told we should all aspire. When you think about it sociologically, it is more accurate to state that historically a marriage license really worked as a license to have socially legitimate sex!

More importantly, marriage is the institution that controls the ownership and transmission of property and property rights – as the series finale of Boston Legal cleverly depicted with the marriage of Denny Crane and Alan Shore. While women are no longer property in this country, property and ownership rights remain central to the institution of marriage. Spousal rights of inheritance, power of attorney, health and retirement benefits, and taxation all rest with that ability to gain a marriage license.

While some of these benefits can be gained by other legal partnerships such as civil unions or domestic partnerships, those marriage ”alternatives” have no socially legitimate naming benefits. Calling one’s partner your wife or husband is very different from referring solely to one’s partner – and not only because some people assume you’re talking about your business partner.

Thus defining marriage as one for a heterosexual couple only rather than people irrespective of gender or sexual orientation is allowing homophobia to be the more “sustainable” short-term pattern as it continues to set same-sex couples apart from other-sex couples. This has the effect of continuing our patterns of inequality based on sexual orientation – thus calling into question whether or not defining marriage in this way is really sustainable!

As we saw in the 1960s, limiting marriage to people based on race was not a truly sustainable practice even as the religious institutions of the time supported those racial bans on intermarriage. Realizing that marriage is an institution for regulating sexual behavior and to create families in which people socialize children – a very sustainable entity by definition – one must realize that barring people from doing this because their race or gender combinations are not typical does not serve the society’s need to sustain itself over time.

If marriage helps serve to stabilize society, one might wonder what harm can come from encouraging more consenting adults from committing themselves to one partner, with full legal benefits and responsibilities. Then again, maybe those who oppose gay marriage should abandon the sustainability argument. After all, allowing same-sex couples to marry does nothing to preclude the ability and desire for heterosexual couples to marry and raise children.

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Comments

I completely agree with the last statement. Not allowing gay marriage isn't going to cause people to have children. If someone is gay, they are gay, if someone wants kids, they want kids and there is nothing we can do about it. I really liked how the interviewer asked questions. It barely allowed Huckabee to have a good response without looking completely uneducated. Huckabee was completely insulted indirectly, or maybe he is just bad at responding. So is being gay really a choice? I think that acting on it is a choice, am I wrong?

Jon Stewart was brilliant. As usual.

I think the issue of gay marriage comes down to an individual's morals,beliefs and faith. Christians won't agree with gay marriage because we know and believe that the Bible is the truth. God does not approve of gay's and certainly not of gay marriage. God destroyed two cities because of the sinful poeple living there (see Genesis chapter 19). As far as sustaining our population I don't think we need worry about that since there are like 6 billion poeple on the earth. But marriage is a institution created by God and your marriage should praise God and give Him glory. If you allow gay marriage where do you draw the line in the future?

I think that this article is very interesting and it makes great points for AND against gay marriage. My favorite point supporting gay marriage is that the fact that Marriages are supposed to be for reproducing. But, what about a couple that is infertile. They can't marry? Great point. But then also the biblical point of how God doesn't approve. That is very true. Although everyday people do things that God wouldn't approve of, why start here trying to force people to do what's right in God's eyes. I feel that Jon Stewart made a good point in his interview with Mike Huckabee. People aren't asking a straight person to marry someone of the same sex. Gays just want to be treated equally. A partnership is very different then an actually husband/wife marriage.

I think that this article is very interesting. The topic of gay marriage is a widely known controversy. I love this statement, "And marriages do not always create children even if fertile heterosexuals are the people involved in the marriage." I love it because it is so true. Mike Huckabee's only reason for not supporting gay marriage is the fact that he thinks marriage means "baby making". Whenever Jon Stewert asked Huckabee a question on gay marriage, Huckabbe's only response had to do with having children. I think Jon Stewert made some very valid points. I really think as long as two people are happy and sincerely in love, then it shouldn't matter what their sexual preference is and no one should be stopping the couple if they want to get married.

I comepletely agree with this article and find it very interesting. People who are gay not only can serve as parents to start a family but can take care of a child that would not otherwise be loved. If you are gay and in love with someone there is no reason you should not be able to call that person your wife or husband. The article makes a great point of all teh benifits couples get by being legally married. Nothing about a gay couple is hurting anyone, there are many heterosexual couples that are not in a healthy realtionship. Why wouldn't a gay couple make good parents?

I find this article an interesting discussion topic, seeing as it is hotly contested in the United States. I believe that gay marriage shouldn't be banned anywhere, so long as the same-sex couple is looking for certain benefits. Why are so many people against same-sex marriages? Is this just a religious conflict? Isn't disallowing somebody the right to same-sex marriage because it's not the "norm" discrimination?

I find this article an interesting discussion topic, seeing as it is hotly contested in the United States. I agree and believe that gay marriage shouldn't be banned anywhere, so long as the same-sex couple is looking for certain benefits. Why are so many people against same-sex marriages? Is this just a religious conflict? Isn't disallowing somebody the right to same-sex marriage because it's not the "norm" discrimination?

I think one mistake, sociologically speaking, that Huckabee makes is saying that we should not change the definition of marriage or "undo a social structure." First, the "definition" of marriage has changed many times and is constantly changing. The struggle over who defines it and how it is defined today is a social and political struggle being played out in the public sphere. These are not static concepts forever fixed in time and space as Huckabee claims. Also, we cannot base social science or any science for that matter on "faith" which is the opposite of asking for verifiable evidence. If policies and politics should be run on faith or religious faith, why not drop the facade of democracy and hand over the mantle to the theocrats.

Second, Huckabee make a very interesting observation about being carful not to "undo a social structure." In a way he is very correct. By extending rights and protections to more individuals we are in fact undoing a social structure: that of patriarchy (male rule) sexism, and sexual inequality. What do I mean? Our current system of sexual inequality in predicated in part on the different roles and expectations that men and women are expected to fill in a family relationship. What gay/lesbian/transexual or transgender marriage does is subvert these expectations. If two married gay men adopt of father children, how will the tasks be divided? There is no existing gender inequality to say: Thats the women's job! So in effect, the question of gay-marriage is at the heart of progress toward women's equality.

I find this topic very interesting. I also find Jon Stewart's argument very appealing on this topic against Mike Huckabee's. Huckabee made marriage come off as a process where people are just supposed to pump out units of children, rather than enjoy a life with someone they love. He refers back to the Bible to defend his case which I think is ineffective because times have changed exponentially since then. Jon Stewart's image of marriage is something more relevant to what I think marriage really is which is a relationship with someone you love, regardless of the sexuality of the two people involved. To me the most moving part of this interview was when Huckabee described homosexuality as a lifestyle. At that point, Stewart responded with the question, "At what age did you decide not to be gay?" This question supports the fact that people that are homosexual are born with this and don't choose it as a lifestyle. This topic proves that the image of marriage has changed throughout history. But I would like to know what Huckabee would have to say about heterosexual couples that choose not to have children, and how he would defend them, because Huckabee looks at marriage as the way of building the new generation.

I totally agree that being gay is not a choice it is a lifestyle that you are born with. The fact that the idea was even brought up that we should ban gay marriage so we can sustain our population is just rediculous. Even though there are gay couples there will still be many straight couples who can still have children and as there are many children in foster care already, many gay couples choose to adopt which is actually benefiting society. So maybe allowing gay marriage is what society actually needs to help sustain itself?

I agree with the statement. Not allowing gay marriage is not going to make people have kids. People will do whatever they feel is right no matter what other people are telling them. You cannot help it if your gay. It's who you are and nothing can change that. Banning same sex marriage will not stop anything. I think that society would be better off if gay marriage was allowed. Do anyone else agree?

I view heterosexual marriages as both traditional and suitable. The United States of America was founded by the Pilgrims seeking to worship God through Christianity. It clearly states in the Bible that homosexuality is against God's plan. I understand that homosexuals may have no more choice in the matter then heterosexuals but since a marriage was created by God and set to honor and praise him, it seems wrong to allow other options. If gay marriages are going to be allowed, where does that lead God to do his part?

I definitely agree with Raskoff about the idea that a lisence for marriage is truely a lisence to have legitimate sex! It is the same as being in even a casual relationship as a teenager or young adult; where there is barely any bother about their sex life opposed to a single man and woman.
Also, with regards to property, ownership, and security, the reasons for getting married today are increasingly self-centered.
So, I must ask, do people get married because it is a set norm with backup for their sex life OR is it a way to get ahead in society?

this article is a very sensetive subject for the common individual to discussion because of the own personal opinions and beliefs about the subject of gay marriage i personal like how this article refered to it as it played out the pros and cons which showed that american society is not ready for gays to marry it show that america is what it is and it allows only a certain amount of thing the people especially gays to do for marriage i personally dont care if a persons gay or not its there choice but i really dont believe in the telling people they knew the where differ since they were a child cause thats just a straight up lie they made a choice to be wut they are or who they chose to become but for the most part i enjoy to see the view of senator haucabee and the view of all the people who commented

Same-sex marriage is an issue I feel very emotionally and strongly about so let me preface this with an apology if I get on my soapbox and offend anyone. That being said, my first point is that people that ask questions like 'If gay marriages are going to be allowed, where does that lead God to do his part?'are the problem. This should not be an issue based on religion, no political issue should be based on religion. I don't know why no one is stating the obvious. People who oppose gay marriage are either 1.homophobes, 2. those who are scared of granting true freedom to people who are different from them and challenge the social and familial positions they've clawed their way to, or 3.they are one of the many wonderful God-fearing people who've allowed people like that to manipulate the devout feelings and faith they have in God and their religion to foster their own selfish agenda.

Its time for us to start thinking for ourselves. We assume that because Mike Huckabee is Governor, he must know more than we do about what political policies would be best. I am a Christian and I say with absolute certainty that Christ would be ashamed of the way we've treated homosexuals. Furthermore, every arguement against gay marriage (population sustainability, religion, tradition, a state of being vs. choosing) all are easily foiled. We must then ask ourselves to question the premise; the premise that the issue has anything to do with same-sex marriage. And the answer is that it doesn't. The conservative politicians in particular have avoided progressive ideas since slavery, segregation and miscegenation, to gay marriage. They are afraid of the threat that has been posed to their status.

I challenge everyone to think carefully about same-sex marriage and its place in our society. Do not allow yourself to be disenfranchised by apathy or gullability. I have no doubt that like the oppression and political and moral backwardness of the way we've treated African-Americans in the past, we will one day be haunted by and ashamed of the way we've treated homosexuals. Think critically, think for yourself and God Bless.

I am a supporter of same-sex marriage. I dont beleive that one's gender define marriage. In the US we see so many people who are glbts and are happy and its just one aspect of our society in which should be respected. GLBT's are not different then anyone else they may be a minority but carry the same feelings as hetrosexuals or any human have.

Some people dont agree and go to extremes to hurt individuals in the glbt population but we forget that there just the same as all other human beings carring same feelings. We should build tolerance and love everyone no matter race, age, or orientation

When it comes down to it, a marriage is not based on whether or not you plan a future to just have kids. A marriage is about someone you love and want to spend the rest of your life with. Marrying someone is going thru with the concept, and it is based on ones morals and beliefs.

Hi! In my online Sociology class, I have been learning about family and marriage this week. I enjoyed reading your story, especially as you talked about how the dynamics of marriage are changing. Thanks for supplementing what I've already learned in my class.

I completely agree that allowing same sex marriage will do nothing to deter the sustainment of mankind. Allowing gays and lesbians to marry won't take potential partners away from hetersexual men and women. This theory is simply another facet of prejudice against homosexuals. Marriage should remain not as a legal license to have sex, but an eternal(hopefully) token of the love a couple shares with other, no matter who they are or what their sexual orientation is.

Same-sex marriages are a common debate topic, and in my mind it will never completely settled. Someone will always oppose the view and it is difficult for everyone to agree on one side. I think it boils down to a person’s opinion based mainly on religion and also beliefs. Also, I think that how a child is raised and their parents opinions do have a slight pull on someone’s thoughts on same-sex marriage. It is also very contradictory of many to say that they should not be legal because they cannot produce children, where as the author of the article says, that’s not always even accurate with marriages between a man and a woman!

This was an intresting article. I completley agree that gay marriage should be allowed, there isn't any negatives from it, right now the divorce rate is above 50% so who are we to say their marriage wont work out. Also they can adopt kids and take care of them which helps our society.

Honestly, the religious argument is weak. The bible states that a ton of things are "against God's will" and do we fight so hard to prevent these things? No, we don't. And that is the most powerful argument agaist gay marriage. Marriage is based on love, how can anyone even think to argue against that? I say that gay marriage should be legalized.

Mike Huckabee seems to be basing his argument on the reproduction argument, but someone pointed out that infertile heterosexual couples cannot have children either. We certainly do not tell people who are infertile that they cannot get married. So, how can someone tell a homosexual that they cannot be married. As far redefining marriage unraveling our social structure, I think that we've withstood in our past much greater social changes. One instance being banning slavery. Also, what about adoption? Many children are in foster care and orphanages. Gay couples could adopt these children and actually help our society by raising healthy children. The way that I see it is that a ban on gay marriage is little more than a forced social control.

I am a strong supporter of same sex marriage. I hate when people try to use religious views to justify not allowing same sex marriage. They say it is against god's will, but didn't god create us all? Therefore he must have made gays and lesbians just the way he wanted them. Also, I love who she states that some hetero couples have children, so that arguement for not allowing homosexuals to marry is totally pathetic. I honestly can't see why people don't think that this should be legalized. If two homosexuals are happy together why can't they get married?

Mike Huckabee may not be a "homophobe" as he stated, but he is a heterosexist!

This article showed me that America is very ignorant. It validated the judgment that “we’re” un-educated beings that see change as so hard and overwhelming we would go to these great lengths to keep the norm. I am not homosexual but have many friends who are and I couldn’t imagine someone telling me that I cannot marry the person I love. By telling a couple that they are not able to perform an act of love is ignorant and allowing us as a society to not move forward with tomorrow.

This article is very interesting to me due to a same sex marriage within my family. I believe gay marriage should be allowed, it is a personal choice. I understand that different religions are against same sex marriage, but this is the choice of an individual. Not allowing same-sex marriage to take place is a crime against discrimination.

I think the issue of homosexual marriage comes down to morals and beliefs. Each person has their own beliefs about certain issues and try to force them on everyone. In a way, gay marriage is like barring marriage based on race, like you said. However, I think the issue is deeper than that. many people have strong religious beliefs that drive their views on gay marriage. Racial marriage was not a religious issue as much a social issue. This issue will be debated for a long time, but it will not change the lifestyle of the people involved. Marriage is more of a legal institution than one based on love. Many people get married now just to get tax cuts and things like that. In that aspect, I believe that homosexuals should be given those rights. They should not miss out on certain things just because of their sexual orientation. Marriage is a very touchy subject with many other people though. They believe that it is "an abomination to God" and should not be allowed. They follow the bible when it says that holy matrimony should be between a man and a woman.

i suppose that the European model would be satisfactory for everybody. A civil marriage recognized by the civil authorities is possible all over EU, but it is not recognized by the Church, therefore can't be performed in front of God.

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