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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Let's Honour the Tradition of Marriage in Diverse Ways

The tradition of marriage is important, yet simple. It's all about two people vowing to commit exclusively to each other for life, with religion being involved most, but not necessarily all of the time. It was neither a legal contract nor did it need government approval. Of course, there was also no government approval of divorce, as a result.

Things have changed, and not for the better, I believe. Marriage has since been usurped by the government, and any road back to marriage privatization will be long and difficult (although we must not give up). Some celebrities have also, regrettably, trampled on the institution of marriage for their own publicity. Marriage is not always what it was, back then, nowadays.

Hence whilst we have to recognise that those who want to live the original spirit of marriage may now do so in a number of different ways. For example, there are some religious or very libertarian people who may object to the government being their God and ruling over their marriage. Such couples may choose to have a religious ceremony but not be legally married. On the other hand, other couples may choose a form of 'covenant marriage', wanting legally stricter rules for divorce, where it is available. Still other couples feel that, whilst they would vow to do anything to stay together for life, having the government as the agent discouraging divorce is subjugation to authoritarianism, and covenant marriages still have an unacceptably high failure rate (up to 20% from my memory), so they would instead rely on their own self-sufficient ways to keep their marriage intact for life. Some of these choices may take a form of the modern legal-social institution of marriage, some may come under another title, and some may be able to sit side by side with the standard legal marriage contract. What matters is they all honour the tradition of two people vowing to commit exclusively to each other for life, using the method considered most appropriate by the couple themselves.

This diversity also applies in the case of same sex marriages. Society now has to deal with how to include same sex couples in the social fabric, after their unfortunate exclusion for many centuries. Long stading traditions are being called to adapt to this new demand. Whilst I strongly believe in extending the institution of marriage to same sex couples as I believe they too should be benefitted by the tradition, and I also believe that laws everywhere should be changed in line with the principle of equality before the law (the US Supreme Court has recently agreed with me here), I do believe that those who sincerely believe in marriages being only between a man and a woman should be afforded their freedom of conscience. This includes churches and individuals. They should be able to perform, partake in, and recognise marriage only according to their personal beliefs.

Marriage is a long standing tradition, and like any tradition that lives and thrives over countless generations, adaptation to changing circumstances and hence evolution by diversification is inevitable. To say that there is only one way to honour the ancient tradition of marriage is necessarily wrong and maladaptive. What is important is that the original spirit of marriage continues to be honored in modern society, and is not forgotten in future generations.