Isabel and I were musing on New York's recent legislation recognizing same-sex legal marriage...on our way to look for rare action figures at Ross: Dress for Less (I will find you Reveal the Shield Wreck-gar...it's only a matter of time).
It seems to us that the problem is really that the definition of marriage has already changed in the hearts and minds of most Americans, so it was pretty much inevitable that New York would vote this way.
I'm not saying that gay marriage itself is an inevitable result of civilized society; merely that a civilized society that regards marriage as we currently do has logically cornered itself into gay marriage.
As far as I can tell, our society currently defines marriage as sharing certain designated stuff with a person that you happen to love at a particular moment. Cynicism much?
But who could possibly argue against allowing gays such a marriage?
This, of course, is not how the Church defines marriage, or even how most societies considered marriage only a few decades ago.
Seems to me that even outside Church sexual theology, marriage served two essential purposes: to protect property rights and maintain a stable population.
In a society based on a bona fide class system of aristocrats and commoners, these two purposes were intrinsically combined. You protected property by keeping it in the family. You kept it in the family by 1) making sure you had babies, and 2) making sure those babies were yours.
There were fringe benefits to marriage -- protection for female spouses after child-rearing ages, for instance--but it seems to me that this is less immediate of a concern.
Without such a class system (and I am NOT advocating a return to class systems), there is far less concern over protecting family property or even the name.
Despite the prevalence of genealogy websites, few people I know are really all that concerned with the legacies they have inherited or even feel particularly connected to their ancestors. They might take a certain pride in their ethnicity, but that's just a nod to the Old Country. When non-Hispanic married couples today don't merely take the man's name it's because the man doesn't really care all that much to preserve his patriarchal heritage, and the women is just asserting her equality (she doesn't really want to preserve her patriarchal heritage either...after all, that would be patriarchal).
Does this breed a similar lack of concern for future generations? Does a lack of feeling connected to the past (even if only through heirlooms or family names) breed a sort of contempt for the future?
Nobody is really worried about who will inherit their LCD screen TV, or PS3...because most of our stuff today is temporary, disposable. It's about taking pleasure in the now. We aren't even worried whether our children will inherit our names.
Children not only won't appreciate what we have or who we were...they are also immediate threats to our current material wealth and pleasure.
One assumes governments once protected and promoted marriage as a means of stability--because common sense dictated that sticking a boy and a girl in a house together would eventually and usually produce more boys and girls. It didn't even matter if they really loved each other; nature would take its course. Heck, even if the individuals didn't care a bit for inheritance, passing on legacies, stable societies--even if married individuals didn't want babies--nature had its charms to get what nature wanted...
For all of the talk that our society does regarding "the chiiiiiildren," the fact is that marriage has been reduced to our stuff, for us, right at the moment.
Long story short, this brings us to the now banal argument that when we divorced the likelihood of making babies from marriage, then government had little reason to protect marriage.
The only reason a secular society has to protect marriage between a man and women, or to give it a special privilege, is because that society seeks to replicate itself and its values in the next generation. We want Americans to have babies so we can teach them to be Americans and keep this American experiment going.
Property rights, inheritance laws, tax breaks to married couples are all designed for one reason really -- to make it easier for married couples to follow the course of nature and churn out future citizens.
This, of course, sounds downright sinister to anyone trained in a Marxist background (read the entire population of educated America)...so now we are left with a morbid, empty shell of what marriage used to be and how it used to function.
This is not--and cannot-- be the purpose of "marriage" between two men. They will never, ever, no matter how hard they try, produce a new citizen between the two of them. But, then again, so many heterosexual Americans would rather not produce new citizens. If it's no longer common sense that trapping a boy and a girl in a room will make more boys and girls, then what difference does it make to our government whether it traps a boy and a girl or two boys or two girls?
This is the cold, secular, logical approach. I suspect that the passage of same-sex legislation owes just as much if not more to social bullyism...but that's another post.