Monday, July 28, 2003

Kurtz's Warning Shot: Stan Kurtz takes the anti-gay marriage issue to the Weekly Standard with a manifest of all the dangers and threats of gay marriage. Every time he writes, he has some new horrible possibility to ponder, some new combination of the institution of marriage and a group that will misuse it. Here's the scare du jour:
Ironically, the form of gay matrimony that may pose the greatest threat to the institution of marriage involves heterosexuals . . . an all-too-likely scenario in which two heterosexuals of the same sex might marry as a way of obtaining financial benefits. Consider the plight of an underemployed and uninsured single mother in her early 30s who sees little real prospect of marriage (to a man) in her future. Suppose she has a good friend, also female and heterosexual, who is single and childless but employed with good spousal benefits. Sooner or later, friends like this are going to start contracting same-sex marriages of convenience. The single mom will get medical and governmental benefits, will share her friend's paycheck, and will gain an additional caretaker for the kids besides. Her friend will gain companionship and a family life. The marriage would obviously be sexually open. And if lightning struck and the right man came along for one of the women, they could always divorce and marry heterosexually.

In a narrow sense, the women and children in this arrangement would be better off. Yet the larger effects of such unions on the institution of marriage would be devastating. At a stroke, marriage would be severed not only from the complementarity of the sexes but also from its connection to romance and sexual exclusivity--and even from the hope of permanence.

This is so bizarre I hardly know where to begin. First of all, we have the term "marriage of convenience" already because this possibility already exists. The single mother could "marry" a gay man with good family benefits. Where's the stampede? Second, "marriage . . . severed from its connection to romance and sexual exclusivity," frightening as that may sound, posits a that such a connection ever existed. Adultery is as old as marriage, and . And the idea of romance? Hogwash. Romance has only been an issue for as long as modern society has offered us the luxury of not living a clannish life of arranged marriage. Think that kind of stuff is old as the hills? It's still practiced all over the world. Even in modern western society, customs like dowry (the purchase price of a husband, in essence) still hang on. Kurtz is reduced to arguing fairy tales in which marriage is a handsome prince and a beautiful princess in endless love. Marriage comes in all flavors as it is, and I would argue that few of them are based on romance, at least after the first couple of years. Romance may bring some married couple together (as it does with gay couples, too), but that doesn't mean marriage is based on romance at all.

I wonder what Stanley's wife thinks.

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