Love and marriage, love and marriage,
Go together like a horse and carriage. - Sammy Cahn
I finally figured out what it is about gay marriage rhetoric that irritates me. Now, I have absolutely nothing against the concept, except insofar as I think the government should get out of the marriage business entirely and that all “marriages” should be contracts between two or more consenting adults of any combination of sexes, with the terms, privileges, responsibilities, duration, etc spelled out in writing, and disputes arbitrated under standard contract law. Yet every time I read the arguments of same-sex marriage advocates, especially in the last couple of years, I’ve found myself getting annoyed for no reason I could adequately pin down. But one cold morning the week after the elections I was walking to my barn to let the animals out and it suddenly came to me (and you’d be amazed just how many things come to me during such walks): the culprit is “love” rhetoric, as in calling same-sex marriage “freedom to love” or Google’s calling its campaign for the issue “Legalize Love”.
Regular readers probably already see where I’m going with this. For quite some time now the Western world has sunk more and more deeply into the delusion that marriage is “about” love, that love can keep a marriage together by itself, and so on. As I wrote in “Housewife Harlotry”,
…love is the icing, not the cake…Marriage is first and foremost a socioeconomic relationship, and the modern insistence that love is the be-all and end-all of marriage is one of the primary reasons for the skyrocketing divorce rate, because couples who share no bond other than the biochemical one we call “romantic love” have no reason to stay together when time and adversity weakens or destroys it. True love is a much more complex emotional bond, but it takes time to develop and rarely does so between people who are not already bound together by other, more mundane bonds such as blood or mutual dependence.
This adolescent refrain of “love love love” (like a scratched Beatles record) whenever the subject of marriage (same-sex or otherwise) comes up gets on my nerves, because for those laboring under that misapprehension all same-sex marriage will do is to slightly increase the divorce rate.
But there’s another, more important concern, which is: why is the reason two people choose to live together, sign a contract together or have sex with each other any business of the government’s? I find the notion that a contract of mutual economic interdependence can only be drawn up between two people who boink each another to be just as inane, irrational and offensive as same-sex marriage proponents consider the notion that those two parties must be of opposite sexes. For example, why can’t two heterosexuals of the same sex make a contract to pool their resources, share insurance, secure inheritance, etc, without having to pretend they sleep together? Traditionally, marriages were given special rights to protect minor children, not to confer a special state sanction on people sticking their body parts into one another’s orifices; since many couples (hetero- or homosexual) nowadays choose to remain childless, why does it matter whether they have sex? And please, don’t yammer about “love”; not only is it totally legal to marry for money or other practical concerns, I also think it’s a bit hypocritical for a government which spends billions trying to keep some people from getting high to subsidize others making life-altering decisions while under the influence of mind-altering chemicals, merely because those chemicals happen to originate inside their own bodies. Furthermore, it’s highly discriminatory to subsidize only sexual love, but not fraternal love.
Governments have no right to set any limits on relations between consenting adults. They should not be able to bar people from having sex, nor to require that parties to certain contracts must have sex. They do not have the right to control the gender, number, acts, frequency, duration, terms, reasons, compensation, or any other factors between adults who do choose to have sex, nor to harass them for their choices. And they certainly don’t have the right to declare that sexual relationships are only for people who are “in love”, or to give special preferences to those who are. Though Western tradition of the last couple of centuries increasingly frowns upon marriages contracted for reasons other than romantic love, it is not the state’s place to enact such mores into law any more than it would have been its place a century ago to legally require all wheeled vehicles to be drawn by horses. Sammy Cahn was right; love and marriage do go together exactly like a horse and carriage: traditionally associated, but not the only conceivable arrangement, and perhaps not even the best one.