Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Forget Same Sex Marriage- Civil Unions are needed

I got a challenge to place this on my blog instead, as it expands beyond the idea of gay-vs-straight to the outright attack on 1950s middle class America by the upper class going on in economics right now.

In the 1950s, The United States experienced the greatest expansion of the middle class the world has ever seen. Despite the fact of the recession/stagflation of the 1970s, this peaked into a middle class that was greater than 50% of the population by the late 1970s.

Reagan started reversing this, by cutting the tax rates on the richest 5%. From the 1950s when a single individual could work 40 hours a week and provide for a family of four to six kids, in 2009 we are finding that both parents working can't even provide for a family of 2.1 kids.

With the coming depression, this is resulting in some new definitions of what is a family, and what is a household. Homelessness, multi-generational households, friends-with-benefits, couch surfing, and dare I say even polygamy, is all becoming more common as joblessness and foreclosure force more people into considering wider options for covering the basics of food, clothing, shelter, sanitation and health care.

To that end, I propose this: I'm still not ready to move marriage beyond one man one woman, but I am ready to say, it's time for the State to exit the marriage business and enter the civil union business, for the widest possible idea of what is a civil union. We have database techniques that can list any number of partners on a contract now (we're not limited to the old non-expandable forms) and it's obvious that we need to expand the definition of what is a family, if only for economic purposes.


Theresa Seeber said...

Marriage is not simply about the economy, as you know and have made clear elsewhere. It is about love. As far as the state is concerned, it is their responsibility to deal with a whole gamut of issues related to marriage, such as retirements and insurance funds, as you have also stated elsewhere. I think as long as the state keeps its focus and the people keep their focus things will be smoother. Smoother yet not perfect, since I believe we humans have managed to develop a suicide machine like Brian McLaren discusses in his book "Everything Must Change." So I, one of the people, stand here with my heart ablazing and call out to the other people within my reach: Love your neighbor as yourself. Whether they be gay, straight, rich, poor, Christian or non, love them as you would like to be loved. Accept people to the table of God's love, His Kingdom which is not far-off - no it is here, now, today. Hear their stories, free them from oppression ... even the oppression of their own minds as they grapple with parts of themselves they cannot change.

Ted Seeber said...

Up until *VERY* recently, love wasn't even a part of marriage. Throughout the Empire of Rome, the Middle Ages, and well into the Victorian era, marriage was primarily economic- had nothing to do with love and *everything* to do with procreation and inheritance, to the point that noble families would use marriage as foreign relations and rich merchants would use marriage to merge family businesses.

The Church took a different view of marriage from the Song of Solomon and the writings of Paul, of course- but it was still more about commitment and creating the next generation and not sinning with sex, than love.

Thus, from the point of view of the state, marriage has always been about retirements, insurance funds, and inheritance rights. So why leave it this way? Why not formalize it by restricting the word marriage to religious unions, and expand the idea of civil unions to cover whatever people want to do?

thepragmaticdenial said...


Adam from TPD here; we had a brief exchange yesterday in which I think I was too harsh with you over your opinion on SSM. My sincere apologies, I do wish to understand your ideals completely on this topic.

It is peculiar that you have often mentioned your desire to keep government out of 'the marriage business', but you want the government to regulate who can and cannot be married. Please explain how this is not a double standard?
If you believe marriage is a 'sacrament' that should be administered by religious organizations, wouldn't government intervention constitute violation of church and state? Shouldn't these religious organizations, in the light of the law of religious freedom, be able to marry whomever their doctrine allows?
Again, I apologize for my harsh response yesterday, I look forward to reading your response.

Ted Seeber said...

The first thing you should know, Adam, is that I am autistic. That means I have a tendency to think about such things from a slightly different perspective. The second thing is that I'm Catholic and don't entirely agree with the Reformation and the Enlightenment, let alone the views expressed by the Federalist Party of the United States who wrote our Constitution.

Having said that, I'm more for the Church regulating marriage than the State, if for no other reason than the Church has a history of protecting human life and the human family and all the stuff we think of of civilization, and the State does not.

I'm against current legislation on Same Sex Marriage for *exactly* that reason- that it seems to violate the separation of Church and State, and is yet another attack of the "ideal" human family that nobody since Jesus, Mary, and Joseph lives up to but we should all strive for. Getting the government out of the marriage business entirely seems to me to be a reasonable compromise in this; and in light of the current economic crisis as I wrote in this blog post, perhaps an URGENT and NECESSARY compromise if we are to avoid the evils visited upon the GI Generation growing up.

Yes, that would mean atheists would have to put up with having only civil unions instead of marriage- but that's kind of reasonable I'd think.

And, to be fair, a civil union should cover everything from one man and one woman to a cult leader with 500 more traditional families working a commune farm someplace. As you say, how a religious tradition chooses to define marriage should not be the jurisdiction of the state.

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