Monday, January 10, 2005

Gosh, Marriage is Such an Awful Thing

Andrew Sullivan today pointed to this argument in favor of gay marriage from a self-described conservative.

The post itself is quite good and makes many points I've seen numerous times. Always a nice change to read a conservative blogger and NOT have my blood pressure shoot up.

But then I went and read the comments. A commenter named JimBob began insisting that marriage is about the government restricting your behavior, not about the benefits. He presents this example:
Sorry, but marriage is a restriction of rights. Anyone with half a brain can see it. Simple example. Man with good job marries a poor woman. He buys them a house, she leaves him a few months later and files for divorce. She claims half the house even though the husband paid for it with his money.

Now if the man had just invited the woman to move in and then she leaves a few months later, she has zero claim to anything.
This was followed by a demand that sodomites should shut up.

Is it just me, or is this a really strange way to "defend" marriage? This man is basically saying that there is nothing positive about marriage - it is just a nasty scheme that poor women can use to wrest property and money from men with good jobs. If marriage is such a crummy thing, why on earth does it require "defending".

This isn't the first time I've seen arguments like this that push the idea that the benefits of marriage really aren't that great, so gays don't need them or shouldn't want them. Sometimes they like to point out that many gay couples would be adversely affected by the marriage penalty taxes, for example.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a co-worker several years ago. He was newly married and had just been hit with the "marriage penalty" on his taxes. He said something to the effect that, other than the emotional side, he didn't really see any benefits to marriage. I pointed out that many of the benefits really only become noticeable when something bad happens - your spouse is in the hospital or dies, etc.

I often wonder if people advancing this sort of argument will find it backfiring on them as more heterosexuals believe them and decide that there is no point to legal marriage after all.

Of course, the truth is that marriage is not some nasty scheme for stealing property. This argument conveniently forgets that marriage is a package deal with both benefits and responsibilities. Those of us in favor of gay marriage understand this and are willing to accept both. I am willing to risk my partner "stealing" our house (bought with "my" money) if it means that I don't need to hire lawyers to ensure that we can visit each other in the hospital. It really is as simple as that.

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