Musings Of A Spiritual Atheist
Demeaning Marriage

One of the arguments used against permitting same sex marriages is that allowing two people of the same sex to marry would alter the concept and institution of marriage in a fundamental way. It is argued that the change in concept itself would have an effect on the way that every heterosexual married couple viewed their relationship with their spouse. It is argued that those who married prior to the time same sex marriages were allowed had a view of marriage that encompassed heterosexual intimacy alone and their relationship with the person they married was irrevocably bound up with that. By permitting people of the same sex to marry each other, society would be changing the fundamental premise on which these previous marriages were based, irreconcilably changing the very nature of the relationship as a consequence. Due to that, permitting homosexual marriage would alter and demean every heterosexual marriage.

As is usual with many such arguments there is an appearance of reasonableness to the claims. It is true that many heterosexual marriages between strongly religious couples are of that nature. I would ask, though, how does someone eating an apple alter another person’s enjoyment of an orange? Those who married on the basis of heterosexual intimacy may still live a married life based on heterosexual intimacy. That does not change. The perception that the circumstances of one marriage affects the circumstances of another is false.

Marriages have been of many differing kinds for many millennia. The reality is that different cultures in different times have had differing views on what the proper basis for marriage was. In some cultures, even today, multiple marriages are common. One man may have more than one wife. Does this demean our concept of spousal intimacy? Even in Canada polygamous marriages are not unheard of. There is a community in British Columbia where it has been practiced for many years. Yet polygamy is surely more damaging to our concept of the exclusivity of intimacy in marriage than another exclusive relationship would be just because the couple were homosexual.

From a Bible point of view "polygamy" may be far more common among the Christian population in Canada than many Christians are willing to admit. This is one aspect of our society which has deviated from Biblical standards quite considerably. Jesus permitted divorce only on the ground of sexual misconduct. He said that any man divorcing his wife for any reason other than sexual misconduct made her an object for adultery, in other words he considered they would remain married to each other unless there was sexual misconduct. If the wife was still married then so was the man, of course. It is at Matthew 5:32 and is repeated later in chapter 19:9:–

“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

The significance of this from a Biblical perspective is that a Canadian who has married a divorced person may be in a polygamous marriage. This would be so if the divorce was for anything other than sexual misconduct. In that case either the man or the woman, or perhaps both, would still be married to someone else according to Jesus. To how many Canadians does this apply? How many polygamous marriages are there in Canada, if Jesus' standard is applied? With the divorce rate as high as it is, and with most divorced Canadians remarrying at some point, it must be obvious that a substantial number of Canadian marriages are polygamous if we accept Jesus' comments as being relevant to modern society. Surely, for Christian couples living a Christian marriage, this would be far more demeaning to their relationship than the marriages of a few same sex couples could possibly be.

It is an interesting anomaly that such large amounts of energy are directed towards inhibiting same sex unions, while almost none is directed towards prohibiting remarriage of people divorced on grounds other than adultery. Parliamentary hearings on the one, but nothing on the other. Why? Do Christian ministers not accept Jesus' restriction? Are Jesus' opinions on the subject not important? Whatever the basis for this lack of action, surely, if ministers can accept the concept that one basic aspect of marriage can be changed, then so can other basic aspects of marriage.

Divorce on grounds other than sexual misconduct has been permitted for many years, yet marriage survives. Christian marriages are as firmly based on the same fundamentals as they ever were in the past. Christian heterosexual intimacy has not been damaged as a consequence of easy divorce, since the personal commitment to one’s spouse overrides all other considerations. The reality is that same sex marriage will have absolutely no effect on the personal commitment of one person to another in a loving heterosexual relationship culminating in a marriage.


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