The corporate world is increasingly jumping on board liberal causes. Recently for instance the ANZ bank has come out in support of same sex marriage. The bank posted tweets in support of same sex marriage; after some criticisms in response to this they followed up with this tweet,:
I left this response:
Which led me to think about the nature of marriage. It seems to me that marriage is, in part, an anchoring
institution. As you get older you become aware that the distinctions between men and women are not only a source of attraction, but also a source of difficulty in keeping relationships between men and women stable.
Men do need, at the deepest level, a physically and emotionally intimate relationship with a woman. However, this is not easily achieved. Even with the best intentions, there are any number of differences in the way that men and women perceive and process relationships that can bring about a failure to hold things together.
So why not then just accept a whole series of relationships throughout life? One reason is that we are given a period of time in our youth when our passions run high so that a bonding with another person might be well secured, leading to a stable companionship in later middle age and beyond.
This period of life doesn't last forever. If we don't take advantage of it to bond with one person, but instead experience repeated relationship failure, then relationships later in life become very difficult (for instance, after the age of 50 only 7% of single women will ever again cohabit with a man).
So marriage serves its purpose when it anchors our commitments in our youth, enabling a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman, in spite of the inevitable frictions that arise in joining together the male and the female.
Marriage is also an institution of transmission
, and as such its anchoring role takes on added importance.
Through the institution of marriage, we transmit in a stable way a bloodline, a family heritage and history, property, and culture and values. It is how we reproduce ourselves across generations, it is how we honour our forebears, it is how we enact our instinct to impart something of ourselves to our children and grandchildren. Here too marriage is an anchoring institution, without which there can be no secure transmission across generations.
What all this means is that it is in the nature of marriage that commitments be stable and exclusive. Without this marriage loses its value and meaning as an institution.
Modern liberal societies have already significantly undermined the institution of marriage. Many people now see marriage only as an expression of love so that if love is no longer felt the marriage is readily dissolved. There is no longer an anchoring of the relationship.
Similarly if marriage is only an expression of love then it is not intended to carry on a family tradition in a stable way across generations. It need not be fruitful, it need not be grounded in a larger, meaningful enterprise that not only helps to bind the spouses together, but which also ties together their own identity and life purposes to the role of the marriage.
So the question then is do we uphold the deeper traditional understanding of marriage as an anchoring institution, and as an institution of transmission, if we include within it the marriage of two men or two women.
I believe the answer is no. Although it is true that some homosexual men and women have enduring relationships, in general the culture of homosexual relationships is not based on an exclusive anchoring of two people together. Male homosexuals often have open and promiscuous relationships, and polyamory is also common within a homosexual subculture. There is also a tendency for sex to be understood in purely hedonistic terms within the homosexual subculture.
This helps to explain why queer theorists are just as likely to talk about the need to subvert the norms of heterosexual marriage as they are to seek the right to be included within it.
If marriage is just about equal rights, specifically the right to marry anyone we love without any discrimination, then as a matter of logic we have to accept easy divorce, polyamory, as well as same-sex marriage. But marriage then becomes something radically different to its original meaning and purposes. It is not hard to see that this new understanding of marriage will leave many people adrift in life.
If anything, we need to go the other way and restore something of the original culture of marriage rather than continuing along the liberal modernist path.