Monday, December 30, 2013

Scholars: Marriage Has Changed Over Time

To listen to the Christofascists, marriage has been between "one man and one woman" since the beginning of time.  Like just about everything the Christofascists say, this claim is, of course, a lie.  Even the Old Testament where polygamy was the marital norm and the "biblical" form of marriage proves the lie to the claim.  Now, with the gay marriage ruling in Utah sending the Christofascists and Neanderthals of the Mormon Church - who are demonstrating incredible hypocrisy given the Mormons' polygamous past - into hysteria, scholars are stepping forward and documenting that marriage has morphed over time and that the Christofascist claims are untrue.  Here are excerpts from the Salt Lake Tribune:

The state of Utah so far has banked much of its legal argument against same-sex marriage on the assertion that such unions threaten the traditional, "age-old and still predominant," form of marriage: heterosexual, monogamous marriage.

That marriage form, the state says, has been the norm for Utah since its "very existence as a state" and it should not have to abandon the "deeply rooted definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman for a genderless definition that severs the link between marriage and the vital societal purposes it has always and everywhere served."

It has proved to be a shaky argument.  In two different rulings — one legalizing same-sex marriage and the other decriminalizing polygamy — federal judges commented on the state’s claims about traditional marriage and its efforts to bar or penalize certain groups of people interested in committed relationships. 

And there’s this sticky point: It is accurate to say that polygamy — which the federal government 134 years ago barred the state from sanctioning — is the marriage form "found in more places and at more times than any other," as marriage historian Stephanie Coontz notes in her book, "Marriage, A History: from Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage." 

But, according to historian Nancy Cott, if there is anything traditional about marriage, it is its ability to adapt to changing social and ethical needs.

"Societal change over the centuries has produced new features in marriage that are commonly accepted today, although they would have been unthinkable at the founding of the United States," Cott said in a court document submitted by plaintiffs in the same-sex marriage lawsuit in Utah.

At the nation’s founding, traditional marriage was based on a "legal fiction" that married couples were one entity, led by a husband with sole legal, economic and political representation rights, she said.

"Many features of modern marriage that we take for granted today — such as the ability of both spouses to act as individuals, to marry someone of another race, or to divorce for numerous reasons — were fiercely resisted as they were coming into being, and were viewed by opponents as threatening to destroy the institution of marriage itself," Cott said in her affidavit.

Utah was among a majority of states that did not permit interracial marriages, a law adopted in 1852 — the same year The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publicly acknowledged polygamy as a key tenet of the faith. Utah repealed its anti-miscegenation statute in 1963.

Such laws were often justified on the basis that interracial marriage was "against nature or against the Divine plan," Cott said in her affidavit. "They contended that permitting cross-racial couples to marry would fatally degrade the institution of marriage."

"[T]he ability or willingness of couples to produce progeny has never been required for or necessary to marriage under the law of any American state," she said. "The notion that the main purpose of marriage is to provide an ideal or optimal context for raising children was never the prime mover in states’ structuring of the marriage institution in the United States, and it cannot be isolated as the main reason for the state’s interest in marriage today."

"Throughout American history, state legislatures and courts have made and altered laws governing the meaning and structure of marriage," she said. "Restrictions on marriage that were seen as necessary in their time have since been removed as unwarranted and/or unconstitutional."
Again, one must always remember that when a Christofascist's lips are moving, the best bet is to assume that they are lying.  

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