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A Moral Liberty
Contrary to popular (American) belief, real liberals are not Left (or Right), but pro-liberty.
The Ideas Lab is on a campaign to revive Moral Liberalism.
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Thursday, December 26, 2013

What Marriage Really Is, and How it Relates to Marriage Equality

One major concern of modern times is that marriage rates have declined, generation after generation. Non-marriage births have risen all over the West. Another concern with marriage right now is the sky high divorce rates. A society with divorce rates above 40% really is not sustainable in the long run, I believe.

The proposed solution is to restart a conversation about what marriage is and what the commitment means. Remake the case about marriage, procreation and family - specifically how marriage is a commitment that is not just about the 'love' and desires of adults, but rather a stabilising institution that forms a good foundation for a family. I totally agree that this would help a lot. As a society, we should discuss and hopefully come to a conclusion that marriage is not just about love or adult desires, but is about the formation of families and providing for them a stable structure.

Some people have suggested that including gay couples in marriage would take us further away from the above consensus. In fact, some have even suggested that it is because society has lost the above consensus regarding marriage that the idea of gay marriages has become appealing to young people in society. I disagree with all of this. In fact, I not only disagree with all of this, but I will take the opposite view: embracing marriage equality is the first step in having the public conversation about marriage, in getting the public to be receptive of our arguments, and the only way in which a consensus about the nature of marriage can be re-established.

Honestly, if the arguments about marriage, procreation and stable families are tied to necessarily excluding gay couples, it wouldn't work. It would severely turn off at least a significant proportion of society - many of which will be young people, the very people who the conversation ought to engage to be successful. Many young people now believe that excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage is unacceptable, period. Through these lens, any argument purporting to make a case to exclude gay people from marriage will be seen as bigoted.

I propose an alternative: we need to allow gay and lesbian couples to get married as a matter of equal compassion and inclusion. Once this issue is sorted out, the clean air then lets us deal with the matter of what marriage is. No longer will idea about marriage, procreation and stable families be associated with bigotry. My critics say that including gay couples necessarily defeats the procreation and family idea of marriage. I strongly disagree. We already do include infertile and childless couples in marriage - as a society, we have long believed excluding them will be too cruel an act, whilst including them will not affect the function and ideal of the majority of procreating marriages and families. Whilst the older generation may be used to the idea of marriage excluding gay couples, for much of the younger generation, their exclusion is just as cruel as excluding infertile couples. Including gay and lesbian couples, who are by definition infertile couples, would not really distract from the idea of marriage being for procreation and for the stability of families resulting from the procreation act, any more than allowing heterosexual childless or infertile couples to marry (as we currently do) would. In reality, being rigid rarely works. I believe it would make perfect sense to say that marriage was meant to help couples set up family by encouraging procreation and then providing a stable structure for the resulting family, but being an inclusive society, we also extend this institution to cover those couples who unfortunately cannot procreate but are living in similarly committed arrangements.