Here is a question: There is a couple that wants to get married. The guy is a satanic priest with body modifications including piercings all over his body, horns implanted under his skin on his shaved skull and tattoos from head to toe. Let’s also imagine he’s also a convicted rapist, wife abuser and pedophile. He has been legally married and divorced 18 times, he is 44 years old, and he’s a crack dealer.
It is the girl’s 18th birthday today. She has a 6th grade education and was from Mississippi before running away and living on the street as a prostitute in California. She is utterly addicted to crack (and he’s her dealer). Legally can they wed?
Of course the question is rhetorical! They are two â€œconsentingâ€ adults. The fact that most people would agree this marriage is doomed to failure and divorce is of no legal consequence. The law is blind to all circumstances other than the fact that one man and one woman may wed.
How about this scenario: There is a couple that wants to get married. The woman is 33 years old, holds a PHD from Stanford, is a renowned scientist and educator and runs marathons and volunteers at a women’s shelter in her spare time. The other woman is 32 years old, holds a PHD from Harvard, and recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in a third world country which brought about the end of hostilities. They have been living together for 8 years and are deeply in love with one another in a committed monogamous relationship. Legally can they wed?
Although their relationship has already outlived the national average life of a traditional marriage, and although they are both brilliant women who are stellar contributors to society, of course they cannot wed. Because again, the law is blind to all circumstances other than the fact that one man and one woman may wed.
A final scenario: A couple has been married for 20 years. They are highly educated, affluent, generous and caring. They cannot have children. Their best friends are another 20 year married couple, who also cannot have children, and the husband is killed in a tragic car accident. The three remaining friends go through a difficult time reconciling the death, and the widow decides she does not want to search for another soul mate.
During the process the three friends discover that they all have deep love for one another and decide to open their lives and share everything with one another. After 10 years of cohabitation, caring for one another and supportive loving relationships they decide they would like to be wed as a single consenting family.
Even though these three people are deeply in love, have 50 years of combined marriage experience, are well educated, affluent and have only each other to care for, a complete marriage is out of the question because the law is blind to all circumstances other than the fact that one man and one woman may wed.
Why is it that a man and a woman are legally allowed to wed under any circumstances? They could be incarcerated at the time for the most heinous of crimes. They could both be mentally deficient and generally just horrible human beings.
Why is it that two men or two women are not allowed to wed under any circumstances? Even if they are deeply in love and in a committed relationship.
Why also is a plural marriage not allowed between consenting adults? Weâ€™re talking about people living under the same roof, sharing the same life.
My Perspective on the Matter
In my opinion, if we were simply talking about the legal right of people to wed one another the matter would probably be a non-issue and all marriages would be allowed. However, many people believe that allowing anything other than a one woman, one man marriage will open the door to other abuses and social issues. Even if that belief were justified, potential has never been a valid reason for denying basic rights.
I would consider the concept of “freedom to marry” to be similar to “freedom of speech”. Opponents would argue that non-traditional marriages may result in legal or social problems such as underage marriage, child custody issues or the “watering down” of the very definition of marriage. But surely freedom of speech may result in slander, liable or inciting a riot. In both cases basic freedoms should be constrained.
The freedom to marry should not outweigh laws which prohibit a minor from marrying – no matter the orientation of the marriage, straight, gay or plural. Concerns regarding paternal rights do not change if a father has been married and divorced from two women with children, or is simultaneously married to both.
And as far as “watering down” marriage is concerned, social perceptions have no place in the law. (If they did, AIDS would be illegal.) Society will have to adjust and individual perceptions change over time. People will learn to evaluate the weight of a marriage between a 90 year old couple, married for 60 years, vs. a one month 20 person plural marriage performed as a record breaking attempt. This won’t be any different from the way people already weigh successful marriages (Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee vs. your grandparents).
If marriage laws were changed to allow a wider variety of orientations it would be a beginning rather than an end. All sorts of scenarios will be discovered which test the boundaries of each variety of relationship. But luckily we already have a court system whose job it is to hear all sides and render a fair and unbiased decision!
I believe that marriage as a legal device is a fundamental right of all people. I also do not believe there should be constraints placed upon this legal device other than adult consent. I also think that it is only a matter of time before the courts system comes to recognize this right as no less fundamental than the rights of speech, assembly, and press. Marriage is the most personal of all legal institutions.
So, what do you think? And I just can’t wait to hear all of the religious arguments which are about to show up. I guess I’ll let someone else tackle the subject of “separation of church and state”…
Please keep in mind that my fictional stories above have no bearing on the photos of the models I’m using to illustrate them. Much thanks goes out to the following: