On Dec. 13, in a big win for privacy and religious liberty, a federal judge ruled that laws that criminalize polygamy are unconstitutional. They were able to do so, in part, because of a June 2013 ruling against part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.
And, oy, did the DOMA-huggers howl.
Before we get into it, it should be noted that there are two types of marriages in this country: There are the religious, churchy-type nuptials and the civil kind—the kind recognized by the state. There's no question that religion and marriage are historically entwined in their own way. However, when it comes to civil wedlock, the two are clearly separate. We know this because you could have your wedding in Saint Patrick's Cathedral, officiated by the Pope with Christ himself bearing the rings, and it still wouldn't be recognized by the state until the legal requirements were met.
We know this because you can legally tie the knot in a thousand ways that have nothing to do with religion, such as having your heretic older brother marry you with a license from the Church of the SubGenius (as my younger brother did), or going through a drive-thru in Las Vegas and ordering the McMarriage (as my bride and I did), or hitchhiking Downtown with your favorite male prostitute to see the county clerk (as CityBeat's editor is rumored to have done).
All these less-than-sanctified weddings are as valid as a church ceremony, because the state has its own reasons to promote and protect marriage, and these reasons, thanks to the First Amendment, must not be to enforce or establish religious value systems.
So, the question about who should and shouldn't be permitted to marry comes down to one thing: What are those reasons? Why do we feel it necessary to register our friendships with the authorities? And does our culture benefit from it?
The compelling interest that has nothing to do with religion that's brought up time and time again, in courts all across the country, is that marriage is to promote childbirth. Take, for example, this DOMA-hugger's argument to the Arizona Court of Appeals (Standhardt v. Superior Court, 2003): "The state has a legitimate interest in encouraging procreation... and limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is rationally related to that interest."
And there's the ruling against gay marriage from the Washington Court of Appeals (Singer v. Hara, 1974), which stated that "no same-sex couple offers the possibility of the birth of children by their union."
And a decision by the Massachusetts Superior Court (Goodridge v. Department of Public Health) that argued that "procreation is marriage's central purpose," and, "Even with the availability of assisted reproductive technology, the majority of children are still born as a result of natural conception."
For starters, you have to be a dot-com short of a hyperlink to think it matters whether children are conceived "naturally" or as a result of alternative methods. What about heterosexuals who need a little help from science? People with low sperm counts, damaged uteruses, erectile dysfunction—should they be denied the right to walk down the aisle?
Secondly, if denying marriage to a group because they cannot procreate is permissible, then why are sterile people permitted to marry, or the elderly, or folks like me who have no interest in bringing another screaming leaker into the world?
But the best part about the scramble to use procreation as the reason to deny gay-marriage licenses is that the DOMA-huggers have unintentionally opened the door for legalized polygamy. Because polygamy absolutely meets their standards for marriage. The children of plural marriages indeed have one father and one mother. And we certainly know polygamists have no trouble plopping out leakers. If you want to encourage procreation, the polygamists are your go-to team. As for an emotionally healthy upbringing, I don't care if you're a homosexual polygamist-Satanist hit man for the mob, most people love and engage with their children, and those who don't don't fall into any particular group or class other than the class of deadbeats.
Now, in case there's any doubt (and I shouldn't have to say this, but I will), I'm obviously not talking about polygamists who take underage wives, or use violence, duress or other extreme forms of manipulation to force an unwilling bride of any age. But, make no mistake about it: The table has been set for consensual polygamy, and it won't be long until these families can finally emerge from their closets.
That said, I don't believe there's any compelling reason for the state to promote and support marriage. Given the intense and nearly universal human urge to procreate, I'm not sure why anyone felt that the institution needed any outside assistance. OK, maybe—maybe—it was justified when we were building this country. But now? Really? What with the global warming, long lines at the DMV and unsupervised leakers howling in every restaurant. We need to increase procreation the way Michael Moore needs to increase neck fat.
In this day and age, there's no reason to exclude anyone from getting married and, therefore, no reason to have marriage at all. I'm speaking legally, of course. Let those who want recognition in the eyes of God have their little church weddings, but as far as the police—er, the state is concerned, keep your stinking paws off my relationship, you damn dirty jackanapes.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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