Thank you, becausilive , for putting a_soap_box in your friends list. I don't know what the generally accepted conventions are for jumping around reading friends pages but I've found it infinitely fascinating and a way to open up my LJ horizons. As a matter of curiosity, I wonder just how far a linear trek through them can be taken (fifty thousand degrees of separation?).
This soap box has especially picqued my interest. I'm sure there are innumerable LJ places for discussion but I've only seen a few so far and this is the first one where the discourse in the realm of religion and/or politics, two of my favorite topics, has been civil. Since I haven't been invited yet (hint hint ;Þ), I'd like to throw out my two cents' worth here on one of their latest threads, namely marriage; as it's currently in the news as well as jumbling around in my overworked mind.
First off, a caveat: I've never personally been in a close enough relationship to seriously consider getting married so take whatever I say as one looking in from the outside.
As to when or whether persons should get married I say go for it if you think that will help you be happy-it's the only way to find out. But given the ambiguous nature of the marriages in my immediate family I'd have to add that I think human beings in general aren't equipped for lifelong monogamy, so don't expect your present feelings to last. Everything changes; we don't live in bubbles or have castiron hearts.
In the political arena I think marriage should be completely liberalized. A few of the persons in the 'box' said that they think polygamy and/or gay marriage should be legalized and a few others said that they shouldn't. I'll go much further. I think that as long as all the participants are fully knowledgeable consenting adult humans (and the definition of adult be made legal nationally) it shouldn't matter who is involved. I think not only should gay marriage be allowed but also polygamy, incestuous marriages, and ones based upon reasons other than emotion. The arguments against all of these have either been based upon moral, psychological, or social grounds and I believe they are all either flawed, disengenuous, or moot.
Arguments against gay marriage usually take the form of the proposition that homosexuality itself is morally wrong and destructive and that allowing it to become institutionalized in the same way that heterosexuality is would degrade or otherwise badly influence the status quo. This is invariably based upon either religious grounds or questionable psychological studies. I believe that religious beliefs should never be considered as a basis for law because these, either personal or doctrinal, are not facts but opinions; civil laws in this nation are meant to be enacted with the consent of all its citizens, not just the majority, and as such can only be based on empirical evidence. Specifically, the notion that homosexual activity should not be allowed has always been given in unjust terms. It is not the burden of homosexuals to prove that their choices, activities, or lifestyles are legitimate; it is the burden of their accusers to prove that they are not. In that vein, psychological studies that have apparently shown homosexuality in a negative light, to my knowledge, have always been nonstatistical spot studies based upon singular case files rather than sociological trends. In any case, no such studies should be used to argue against gay marriage because it has never been legally condoned in the USA and therefore no possible future impacts can be inferred from them. The specious nature of supposed future impact has been a cornerstone for constitutional arguments against newly written laws in the past; it should also be one for questioning those now existent.
Polygamy as a consenting union has also been argued against using mostly religious views. Using these bases against it are as false as using them for it. Saying that the one legally acceptable definition of marriage should be based upon a single dogma or traditionally held belief is in fact a governmental establishment of that belief and therefore unconstitutional. After many generations it became understood that the traditions of human slavery and unequal suffrage were unconstitutional (the Amendments and statutes enacted to end these were actually refinements of as opposed to fundamental changes in the original); it is time to recognize that any laws based upon religious grounds are thusly suspect. The prohibitions against unaknowledged plural marriage and those made under duress or with persons who are underage or mentally incompetent need not be changed to allow for consenting polygamy. Allowance for plurality is not an allowance for its abuse just as the legal control of potentially dangerous medicine or activity is not allowance of their abuse.
Incest between first-tier family members is almost universally condemned and that occuring between mentally fit consenting adults is exceedingly rare, nevertheless it does occur and, legally speaking, should be considered as acceptable as any other variety of intimate contact. To argue otherwise using moral grounds violates the same ideas I have outlined above. Whatever moral ideals that are held by society in general cannot be allowed to interfere with the free expression of individuals. Legally allowed marriage between such individuals is part of that expression and should not be banned as a suppressive statement against it. Again, however, the prohibitions against nonconsensual activity need not be changed to allow it. There is a balance between the rights of individuals to exercise freedom of expression and society's right to make legal judgements against it; and unless physical, mental, or emotional harm can be proven the judgement must be given to the individual-this is fundamental to the Constitutional notion of freedom.
The idea of marriages based upon reasons other than emotional ones is not a new one, it is exactly the contrary idea of marriage based upon romantic love that is. In fact, during the majority of written history marriage has been considered a melding not of two persons but of their families and their monetary holdings; this is why it has the present status of a legal contract. The idea of a prohibition against marriages based solely upon monetary, social, or other reasons is therefore antithetical to the legal underpinnings of the institution itself. Arguments here based upon tradition that is largely mythological therefore have no standing at all. Arguments based upon moral grounds likewise find no purchase-there has always been nonreligious marriage in the USA; persons in rural communities and those without suitable representation in their cities or in the military have always had the legal recourse of secular marriage. To try to place a legal restriction upon marriage in order to make it religiously based in principle would fly in the face of the entire legal history of the nation. An Amendment to the Constitution would have to be enacted for this because such civil marriages have withstood all legal battles as being a form of free expression. It is in precisely this context where all the above contests find their case, for the legality of marriage has never actually lay in the ceremony itself but in its documentation; and, because of the variety of marriage ceremonies, that expression is legally considered arbitrary and should remain so.