Musings Of A Spiritual Atheist

Marriage is an ancient practice, its origins lost in the mists of the distant past. It has always had several components to it, the importance of each varying from time to time, place to place and circumstance to circumstance.

Those components have included the following:

This list is not exhaustive and any marriage may include more than one component, but it does illustrate the historically diverse nature of the arrangement. Even the Bible includes descriptions of several marriages that involve different components of this list. Solomon's marriages to hundred of daughters of kings would undoubtedly have been for political alliance, for instance, whereas Jacob's working for 14 years to marry Rachel was obviously an act of love and emotional bonding. During their conquest of Canaan Israelites were allowed to take virgin girls, probably those in their early teens, as the spoils of a genocidal war after killing all the males and married women. I strongly suspect that these young women did not want to have sexual intercourse with the killers of their parents and siblings and many would have had to be coerced or, in plainer words, raped.

Even in relatively modern times, in European tradition, marriage was frequently used as a tool of state diplomacy, and princes married princesses to cement alliances or extend national territorial holdings. The marriage of Bloody Mary of England to Philip of Spain was of this kind, although it failed to fulfil the political aims of either the state or the church. At the other end of the scale, black slaves married without the church or state being involved by simply jumping over a broom. This is an old tradition in many societies and is still practiced by some today, although most common law marriages happen by people simply moving in together.

The fact is that individuals marry for numerous reasons, and who can say the reasons are valid or invalid. All Canadians are entitled to determine their own destiny within the bounds of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and no one group has the right to impose their views on another, nor to confine marriage to one set of circumstances and one purpose alone.

How marriage started in the dim, distant past and questions about whether it was the exclusive province of religion or not are irrelevant today. Canada's constitution gives control of marriage to both senior levels of government. Laws about marriage and divorce are within the jurisdiction of the federal government, laws about the conducting of marriages are within the jurisdiction of the provincial governments. Those are the only relevant criteria now.

What constitutes a family? For aeons it was composed of a male and a female, who had formally bound themselves together in a marriage relationship, and their children. The male and female were usually unrelated genetically. That is, persons of separate families came together to create a new family or enlarge an existing family by blending with another.

In most societies it was considered undesirable for genetically related individuals to be married to each other, although exceptions to this were not uncommon. Closely related individuals have a higher incidence of genetically defective children, and for this reason marriage to close relatives became taboo. The closeness of the family relationship between two individuals accepted as being suitable to marry differs in different societies. Notably, this taboo also applies to sexual relations between the same individuals, even when no children can result.

It must be noted that not all societies rejected marriage between close relatives. In ancient times the book of Genesis records that the patriarch Abraham married his half sister, Sarah, and that they had a child, Isaac. It is also well known that the Pharaohs of Egypt frequently married their sisters as a matter of course.

Even under the male, female, child arrangement there were very frequent variations and one male often had several females with children who were consequently only partially related genetically. It was rarer that one female had several males, but that arrangement has existed as well. Who is unfamiliar with the concept of adoption? An unrelated child is brought into a family and absorbed as a full member, even though there may be no genetic relationship at all. These common variations all show that the concept of family is a fluid concept, and can change according to circumstance. It is so common, in fact, that for millennia individuals who were close friends often referred to each other as “brother” or “sister”, as do members of many religions today, thereby showing that the concept of family does not only refer to those with common ancestry and genetics. As society develops and changes, so does the concept of family develop and change.

In our own time, relationships between persons of the same sex have become more accepted. In some communities such relationships have been given the same status as the relationships between men and women. That is, the state involved recognises marriages between two male homosexuals or two lesbians as being the same as marriages between two heterosexuals of different sexes, with all the same obligations and privileges. It is quite obvious that the participants in those marriages form families in the same way as the participants in marriages between men and women.

In almost all cases, objections to recognising same sex marriage revolves around the opponents’ religious beliefs, often based on texts from ancient cultures. It is the dogma of their religious community that homosexuality is wrong and is condemned by their god that forms the underpinnings to the opposition. However, the concept and feelings and practices of homosexuals and lesbians are as much products of evolution as are the concept, feelings and practices of heterosexuals. Homosexuals feel emotions the same way as heterosexuals because evolution provided for that to be so.

While it is the right of society to decide what is right and wrong, it should be based on the principle that individuals should be able to live in a manner which satisfies their own desires without infringing on the desires and lives of others. In other words, if two individuals of the same sex want to form a family and doing so does no harm to other people, then what valid basis is there to stop them? What harm to others could possibly come from two individuals forming a loving family?

Two lesbians that marry can still give birth to natural children by the simple expedient of having sexual relations with a male or being artificially inseminated. If two males want natural children it is not so simple because they cannot give birth and must rely on a woman outside their family to bear a child for them. Depending on local attitudes, surrogacy may or may not be a viable option for them. Rather than deal with the problems that surrogacy may cause, many homosexuals decide to adopt children. Initially there was strong resistance to this, but the resistance calmed down quite quickly among most of the population and it is now not uncommon for homosexual families to adopt. The resistance was based on the unfounded and erroneous notion that all homosexual people are also, by definition, pedophiles. That belief is plain, bigoted rubbish and was soon shown to be such. The fact is that homosexual parents are no more likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexual parents, but they are as likely to make responsible, loving parents as any other adults are.

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