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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Marriage. Civil Unions. Sex. Why do people care?

I have stumbled on the Maxim Institute website. What a fascinating place!

Anyway, they are supporting the Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill which they say will do these things:

  1. It specifies that a marriage can only be between one man and one woman, and provides that 'marriage' between people of the same sex is prohibited.
  2. It specifies that same-sex 'marriages' registered in foreign countries are not recognised as marriages in New Zealand.
  3. It amends the Bill of Rights Act 1990 to ensure that measures intended to promote or advance marriage (for example pre-marriage counselling) are not considered discriminatory.
(Background: last year the NZ government passed the Civil Union Act which establishes a parallel form of marriage and is available to same-sex couples.)

The thing I don't understand is why people are so opposed to the idea of same-sex couples marrying. I also don't understand why any-sex couples would care whether they were officially "married" or "unioned."

I think my lack of understanding is partly due to my thinking that marriage is just a piece of paper (albeit sometimes a very convenient and useful piece of paper) , mostly due to my religious beliefs (or lack of), and maybe an eensy weensy bit due to my continual lack of a marriagable/unionable partner.

Yes, I know marriage matters to many people. I think a lot of it is fear based.

Actually, let me change my mind. I think I do understand both sides, but I think the whole debate is ummm...I was going to say stupid, but I don't think it is that... lets just say that the whole issue doesn't exist in my Universe. I think marriage (and now civil unions) is just one of those social scripts that make the trickiest part of life (ie relationships) easier.

Actually, let me change my mind again. Most people are crap at relationships. Maybe marriage is a good idea until they get better at life. But that still doesn't mean

Personal. Marriage, as with religion, is personal. Your choice should not affect those around you nor should it be the yardstick by which you measure them.
It is a question of degrees. How many degrees do we each turn before the light goes off?

1. Civil Unions
2. Legislate to make a church marry a same sex couple even if against the beliefs of the church.
3. Lower age of marriage to 13.
4. Allow bigamy.
5. Allow polygamy.
6. Allow marriages between close relatives (their decision, right)
7. Allow marriage between very close relatives (brother and sister, father and daughter)

The fabric of society is changing by degrees. What once seemed unthinkable is now commonplace. What is currently unthinkable becomes attainable.

As society gets more permissive, you can see the effects with the "spoilt child" syndrome. A culture of instant gratification and "me-me-me" is not (may not) conducive to building strong community bonds.

Not that I'm saying I know all this or have a definite opinion, but some of those items on the list might trigger stronger reactions from people than the civil unions bill. Maybe they will be the raging topics of the year 2020??
If one truly believes in personal freedom, then all the above except number 3 should be allowable.

Really, marriage should not be a realm of legislation. Whatever agreement two (or more) adults decide to enter upon should be purely up to them.
But to answer your question more directly, Suze, as to why do people care what others do, I am reminded of the H. L. Mencken quote: "Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time."
I agree with the sentiment David. But I wonder how many people truly believe in personal freedom?

Many people see the government as the broker between the have and have nots. They take from the haves to provide for the have nots. The more you give to the have nots, the more it requires something from the haves.

Whilst that approach strikes many as either fair or unfair, others wonder how the haves got to have. And how the have nots lost theirs.

I understand these positions, and tend to side on the "with freedom comes responsibility" approach to the whole thing. I still think I'm missing a couple pieces of the puzzle though. I've really only started thinking about this since late last year, so I am fairly content with my progress.

As for your Mencken quote, indeed, that seems to explain many people's motives. Perhaps others could fall into "the deeds of others that you deign notice are mirrors into your thoughts. Some inspire, some challenge and others disturb."

(um, ZenTiger, but its the gist of what many others have noted)

I've enjoyed reading your comments here.

Suze, if you take of for the South of France, do keep in touch.
Zen, I like your quote! Thanks to you and Davidand now tcm for your inspiring and challenging comments and blogs. At a different time in my life all this political stuff would just pass by me unnoticed.

It seems not many people believe in personal freedom like I believe in personal freedom :)

An interesting conversation with a friend revealed that they believe that The Haves are only The Haves at the expense of the have nots...ie people can only have things if they take things away from someone else. That is almost the exact opposite of my belief.
It was a particularly interesting comment because in the same conversation they also said that they wouldn't want to live in a country with poverty because NZ has enough for everyone.

I know the two concepts are not totally related.

The other interesting thing is that all my friends who believe in taking from The Haves to give to The Have Nots are:
a) Very intelligent
b) Have relatively high incomes compared to me but especially compared to the population in general (or have the potential to earn a lot)
c) Are currently childless (so have a lot of disposable income)
d) Are University graduates

In other words they are The Haves. I suspect that many of them (the most rigid in their beliefs?)have been part of Have Not families when they were younger.
Suze and Zen,

I have a link to a long essay regarding how people really don't want freedom because of all of the things that freedom really means. I'm going to write something on that over on my site in the next couple of days...
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