Who Defines Marriage?

A close friend who is a psychology major at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) lent me several of his college psychology books. I found a few sentences from the topic “Why Do People Marry” from a heavy text called ‘Human Sexuality’ quite interesting.

“Not until the nineteenth century did the notion of love as a basis of marriage become widespread in Western society.”

“Marriage provides a sense of emotional and psychological security, however, and opportunities to share feelings, experiences, and ideas with someone with whom one forms a special attachment. Desires for companionship and intimacy are key goals in marriage today”.

“Broadly speaking, those people who want to get married do so because they believe they will be happier if they get married.”

This suggests two things to me. (1) Our notion of what marriage is is evolving and changing – it is in somewhat of a flux – and to carve it in stone into our State and Federal Constitutions may have substantial negative repercussions in the future. And (2) VCU, a Virginia state university is teaching a concept of marriage that seems so opposite to the arguments used by Virginia’s legislators to rush this legislation through.

Amazingly, almost any couple in Virginia can get married”

- an 18 year old to a 98 year old
- handicapped
- interracial
- rich can marry poor
- educated can marry uneducated
- infertile couples
- couple who don’t love each other
- couple who marry for financial reasons
- elderly
- couples who have no intention of having children
- even someone on death row

In fact almost any two loving adults can marry – EXCEPT HOMOSEXUALS.

We in America have a sordid history of trying to impose extremist religious bigoted beliefs on the minority – the tyranny of the majority – and Virginia’s proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage is just one more.

A racist postcard from the 1900s. Depicts a white man kissing a black woman, with the verse:

Not Particular
I know you're not particular to a fault
Though I'm not sure you'll never be sued for assault
You're so fond of women that even a wench
Attracts your gross fancy despite her strong stench

Do we need to be reminded of the fight by these same conservatives to ban miscegenation? And from many Southern Baptist pulpits pastors found Bible chapter and verse to support marriage only within one’s race and to decry the end of family and society if marriage across races were to be allowed.

The constitutionality of anti-miscegenation laws was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1883 case Pace v. Alabama. In 1965, Virginia trial court judge Leon Bazile sentenced to jail an interethnic couple who got married in Washington, D.C., writing:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red (sic), and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix (sic)

This decision was eventually overturned in 1967, 84 years after Pace v. Alabama, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Loving v. Virginia that

Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law.

As imperfect an analogy as this may be – certainly men of open minds and good will can begin to see that civil marriage is a government function to be applied equally to all citizens regardless of sexual orientation. And intrusion of religious beliefs into this matter is most certainly a violation of the separation of church and state, which has been an agreed upon separation now for over 200 years.


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