Why I am not into Gay Marriage

I commented here that:

I think the issue of gay marriage is a proxy for a debate over social changes. I think what most so-cons really care about is the general failing state of marriage, and gay marriage is just the issue where they’ve decided to make a stand. And honestly I do not think most on the left really care about these issues, or even see them as positive developments (liberation from patriarchy!). You and others argue that gay marriage will actually strengthen the institution, and while I don’t doubt your sincerity, I think this argument is often advanced in bad faith.

Let me put it this way – I think anyone advancing your kind of argument should be required to state what positive legal/social/cultural steps they want to take to fight the rising tide of divorce, single motherhood, out-of-wedlock births, etc.

Here in Britain gays can form civil partnerships, which are basically marriages without the word marriage. But, just as in California, there is a legal challenge, from activists who want to redefine the terms. This is, in the true sense, political correctness, forcing a certain set of language on the population in the hope of gaining equal esteem for gay relationships as normal ones.

I’m generally hostile to that kind of quixotic project, but this one strikes me as relatively harmless. So if gay marriage activists are really serious about strengthening marriage not undermining it, I’ll support them if they give me something I want in return. For instance, I would happily support gay marriage if it came coupled with a reform of divorce laws to give fathers get equal rights of custody, eliminate divorce theft and make pre-nuptials enforceable. Or it could be benefit reform, or eliminating no-fault divorce, or whatever else.

Of course, if you aren’t willing to do anything positive to strengthen marriage, then I must assume that your argument that gay marriage will strengthen the institution is insincere.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Fathers have equal rights to custody and premarital agreements are enforceable in California. Neither seems to have much of an effect on divorce rates.

    Do you think bringing back no-fault divorce (forcing people to stay married unless they have a state-approved reason) would do more to decrease divorce, or to decrease marriage?


  2. I meant “getting rid of no-fault divorce” rather than “bringing back no-fault divorce.”


  3. Posted by I am not... on February 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Thanks for your comments. I live in England, so I am unfamiliar with Californian law. You may well be right that the particular measures mentioned here would not in fact strengthen the institution of marriage (although some might be desirable anyway). I wasn’t so much pushing these measures in particular, as suggesting some kind of proposal would both prove bona fides and assist politically.

    On the specific issue of no-fault divorce, I was not suggesting a single rule for all marriages. I come from an Arabic background, and in that culture the parties can specify anything they like in the marriage contract. So you can have no-fault divorce, you can have fault-only divorce, you can even have a marriage that’s not for life but only for a certain time period. We don’t have to make marriage completely à la carte if that’s too radical, but why does it have to be inflexibly table d’hôte? If couples want to sign up for a fault-only divorce, why not let them? And those who want no-fault divorce can have that too.


  4. I pretty much agree – I don’t think marriage should be treated any differently from any other sort of contract.

    But in terms of contract law, the remedy for a breach is money damages. Specific performance (forcing a party to perform his contract) is only awarded in special cases, and never in a personal service contract.


  5. Posted by I am not... on February 8, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    I think we’re in complete agreement then. I’m certainly not suggesting that courts give injunctions to carry out the terms of a marriage contract. But contractual damages would revolutionise divorce law, and provide an incredibly strong incentive for both parties to behave themselves.


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