What is Marriage?
My friend and colleague Steven Kiefel at Q54 Strategic recently posted a blog about marriage titled "Who are you going to Marry". This is a topic I've spent little time thinking about recently, but as with him President Obama's recently announced support for same-sex marriage brought it to the forefront of my thoughts.
Many would think that as a gay individual that this would be more a more predominant item on my agenda. I suppose I've been watching the course of the LGBT fight for equality and felt that the individuals driving the effort were handling things just fine and little did they need my help. Another reason might be that I don't foresee any prospect for wanting marriage in my near future. Or maybe I've just become apathetic to the process with all the other issues affecting our lives.
So, what is marriage? Historically, using the way-back machine, it was a covenant between a man and a woman before God. At least among individuals believing in the one god concept such as Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Many feel that its intent originally was to foster procreation and then create a family unit to raise the byproduct. In other societies it was also seen as a way of expanding an extended family's influence, empire building if you will.
With the world population exceeding 7 billion (that's approximately 10,000 San Francisco sized cities) and showing no sign of stopping I don't think procreation should be a priority at the moment sense the common consensus today is we are stressing Earth to its limits of sustainability due to human activity.
As far as extending influence I think most will agree that this isn't what most individuals take into mind when looking at their marriage options, although I do know it can be the reason for many. Mostly those who endeavor to reap the rewards.
As religious and government functions began to separate a few centuries ago marriage, from a government view, became a tool to control individual behavior through either privileges or penalties. In many cases governments have used marriage to foster population growth for the purpose of growing armies or geographic dominance and influence by numbers. Of course in many parts of the world religion and government are heavily intertwined, although we Americans supposedly have separate of church and state. Ironically Mitt Romney, a Mormon whose religion once pushed polygamy until it wasn't politically expeditious, seems to want to undo that separation.
Most of us contemporarily think of marriage, at least from our individual perspective, as meeting someone we love and mutually deciding that we would like to spend the rest of our lives together. We all know that this scenario doesn't always work out, but it is still the aspiration we attempt to obtain.
What we are left with are multiple definitions of marriage. There is an individuals definition in wanting to marry the person they love, there is the religious definition using their interpretation of ancient writings, and there is the governments description written into laws to cause behavior through privileges (sometime deemed rights) and oppressive tactics.
Where do you end in this spectrum? Many of us pick and choose from the list depending on what seems to benefit us the most individually. A compilation of concepts based on greed and exclusion. Not something to be proud.
Marriage, essentially a contract between individuals, should be defined by those individuals. Whether they want to also include religion in their contract is up to them. Government does not belong in the relations between two people other than to provide resolution among legal contract disputes, just as with any other contract and to ensure the protection of the contract from external influence.
Marriage is the mutual binding of individuals with common aspirations and goals on their terms, not someone else's and should be respected as such.