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27 May, 2009

In the Aftermath of Prop 8: Please Correct Your Fucking Ignorance

Dear the internet:

Marriage is not a religious ritual.

It may be a ritual in your religion. It may be treated as a ritual in common implementations of your religion in order to 'pass' under the hegemonial status of Christianity. You may be sufficiently swamped in the hegemonial status of Christianity that you can't imagine a religion that doesn't treat it as a matter of theology.

Your ignorance is not the same thing as historical fact.

You know when the Christian religion held sole sway over marriage in England (the law of which supplies the backstory for the legal systems of many and probably most of the people who might have a chance of reading this rant)? Between 1753 and 1837. There's your historical basis for the exclusive ownership of marriage by the Church (with exceptions for Jews and Quakers, IIRC).

Before that, in England, people could, if they so desired, get married by claiming they were married and fulfilling certain social parameters (common law marriage). Afterwards, there was established a public registry of marriages (civil marriage). In England's colonies, things varied widely - my Puritan ancestors were totally squicked out by marriage as a religious thing, as I've noted before, not that anybody damn well noticed. Various other cultures have treated marriage as falling under forms of trade, of contract law, of sundry other things.

I don't want to hear anymore about how this upholding Prop 8 separates church and state. I don't want to hear anymore about how this religious thing should never have gotten legal status in the first place. I don't want to hear anymore about how the government - enforcer of contract law - should be out of the business of enforcing the contract of marriage because somehow marriage is magically different because the right-wing asshats think they own it.

Marriage is a human universal. Anthropologically, it is the formation of a family under the witness of the community, with the creation of the responsibilities and benefits that that community considers a part of that process.

You may think it weird that I don't consider marriage a religious thing.

That's fine, I think it weird that the loud religions in my vicinity don't consider childbirth a religious thing.


Anonymous said...

Yes. This.

Eve said...

Oh, yes, exactly what you said here. Brilliantly written.

I came here through your similarly worded comment on Figleaf's blog. Also brilliant.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Yeah, I left that comment on Figleaf's, jumped up and down a wee bit, and then wrote this entry. ;)

Cranky pagan is cranky.

Eve said...

That comment on Figleaf's blog inspired a rather long comment of my own. Looks like I'm a cranky pagan too. :)

figleaf said...

Exactly! What's so nettlesome about the entire Proposition 8 debacle is that California had the kind of definition of marriage you and I believe is the right one.

I agree with you that Western churches have only recently (last 1000 years or so) taken interest in marriage, and that for many people in many cultures marriage has been and is secular, social, cultural, economic, and personal without being particularly religious at all.

Marriage laws may once have discriminated against non heteros but, as you and I would know from our shared Puritan ancestry, the discrimination wasn't particularly based in religion. And in California when the original law was overturned because it on grounds of discrimination, not religion.

It didn't become religious until the religious backers of Proposition 8 made *their religious definition* of marriage the *legal definition* in California.

Since I agree with you that marriage isn't inherently religious I have a serious moral problem with the way it's been hijacked in California.

There are other, still properly non-religious unions available to Californians. I think heterosexuals who don't wish to participate in state-sanctioned religious ceremonies ought to consider them. But not because I think only what happens in church should be called "marriage." Nothing could be further from the truth -- I think *everybody* should be able to get married whether they go to church or would never consider it.

It's just that, for the moment anyway, in California and too many other parts of the country, that's not possible.



Anonymous said...

Something related to this came up in an offline convo recently. I was discussing a lesbian couple that was on the skids and how broken up one was, and mentioned their children. And my convo's other half spouts out "Well, maybe this would be the perfect time for ___ to decide if she REALLY is lesbian; cause you know, she had a 'normal' marriage first---maybe she could re-examine her feelings about men." Yeah, I had to grab my chair to stay in it.

And I think this is what all the legal wrangle is about....some folks just don't BELIEVE that anyone can be different from them, and if given opportunity, the lines will all be toed again by those 'outside the lines' types. Not. WTF is with this need to homogenize the crap out of the human race?