Let’s Tell the Truth about Marriage

'Protest against a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage' photo (c) 2011, Fibonacci Blue - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

It’s hardly
a surprise that during an election year that marriage equality is a hot button
issue.  We have seen the president shift
his position to move beyond his support of civil unions to approval of same
gender marriage.  Barack Obama is the
first sitting president to make this announcement and it is absolutely
historic. The republicans however continue to be on the wrong side of history
and civil rights on this issue.

Focus on the
Family works actively to oppose marriage equality and its founder James Dobson,
co-author of the Left Behind series, has
an extremely long history of promoting ex-gay therapy.  His approach specifically stigmatizes
homosexuality and has had
negative consequences to those members of the GLBT community who have
.  He bases all of his
beliefs, in a fundamentalist anti-woman Christian theology.

Paul Ryan
who is Romney’s running mate has a solidly
anti-gay voting record
in Congress.  Jim Daly, the current president of Focus on
the Family recently had the following conversation with Paul Ryan.

Daly: “Focus on
the Family has been behind the scenes working for years to defend marriage and
to speak out for marriage and the importance of marriage. I think thirty-two
out of thirty-two states where we have helped put a ballot initiative or some
other mechanism in front of the people, we have won that thirty-two out of
thirty-two times. It seems like when it’s in front of the people they vote for
it, if it’s the state-level judges they will try to do it by fiat or if it is
simply some other mechanism, the State House passes it without the vote of the
people. For the Romney-Ryan ticket, when you look at marriage, what do we need
to do in the culture to lift up and strengthen the very core building block of
society and that’s family.”

Ryan: “It’s the
foundation for society and for family for thousands of years. First of all,
Mitt Romney and I — I’ll just say it, it’s worth repeating — we believe
marriage is between one man and one woman, that’s number one. Number two, you
know where I come from we had one of those amendments in Wisconsin, I was a big
supporter of it and we passed it like you say, where it’s put on the ballot it
passes. The second point is, President Obama gave up defending the Defense of
Marriage Act in the courts, I mean, not only is this decision to abandon this
law the wrong decision, it passed in a bipartisan manner, it is very troubling
because it undermines not only traditional marriage but it contradicts our
system of government. It’s not the president’s job to pick and choose which laws
he likes. A Romney administration will protect traditional marriage and the
rule of law and we will provide the Defense of Marriage Act the proper defense
in the courts that it deserves.”

are very fond of floating the lie that marriage is the foundation of our
and family life for thousands of years. 
Each time this get brought up, it’s a bold face lie and an engagement in
revisionist history. The foundation of modern day society is the oppression,
rape and murder of women and indigenous populations through male White male led
violence, in pursuit of capitol and power. 
The traditional patriarchal family is nothing more than one of the many vehicles


Marriage as
we understand it today is relatively new historically speaking and certainly
should never be referred to as the foundation of our society.  For centuries, when people married, it was to
align property, or to create some kind of political alliance.  It had nothing to do with romantic love or starting
a family. Marriage was a way of sealing a contract between two families.  For instance, when Julia Caesaris, daughter of
Gaius Julius Caesar, married Pompey in 59 BC, it was because Gaius sought a
political alliance between the two strong families.  Marriage didn’t even necessarily mean
cohabitation between husband and wife or any children produced from that union.
Most would agree that many of the principles we hold dear today come from the
Roman Empire and it is clear that they certainly didn’t see marriage as
anything but a business transaction.  Even
more to the point, they didn’t stigmatize homosexuality.

In more
recent times, marriage was restricted to those of the propertied class until
1868 when a law was passed by the German league. Prior to that time, freedom
for the working class to form a family was something which actively had to be
fought for. One of the platforms for the German delegation of the 1863 Congress
of Workingman’s Association was the right for non propertied class to marry. This
was seen as a progressive right and this freed the working class from forced
celibacy. From this point on, the subjugation of women intensified and though women
fought valiantly against it, laws prohibiting abortion quickly followed. Our
concept of family was created by coercive laws and religious shame to create
workers and soldiers for the state, but more importantly, to create the housewife,
who became an agent of consumption, even as she provided the free labour which
would support the public sphere. A family in the bourgeoisie understanding is
nothing but a built in market for products.

The concept of
romantic love, which we now believe to be the foundation of marriage, was
created by the English as recompense to women for the loss of sexual and
economic freedom.  The creation of the traditional
patriarchal family was to be the final step in the subjugation of women, which
began with the Spanish Inquisition.  The
new bourgeoisie creation established a gendered division of labour, with the
goal of controlling the poor.  A man with
a wife and children to feed, clothe and house is reluctant to take measures
which risk his livelihood. The housewife, though she provided free labour, was
used as a weapon against raises simply because it became her job to be thrifty
with the man’s wages.  Women who were
dependent upon husbands for subsistence existed with no economic power and
became dependent and docile. Even the few opportunities that did exist for
women to earn a living were poorly paid and difficult to negotiate because with
the elimination of abortion and contraception, women were tied to the house
raising children.

If we are
going to talk about the meaning of marriage in a historical context, it needs
to be an honest conversation rather than the throw away lines the Republicans
employ to justify their homophobia.  If
anything, our understanding of marriage has constantly been in a state of
evolution largely shifted by capitalism and sexism.  It is time that our definition of marriage
widens to include people of the same sex who wish to marry.  Inequality under the law is an injustice and
no matter what wiggling conservatives do, this is a fact they cannot escape.
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