The Marrying Kind

Friday, November 14, 2008


Last week’s Proposition 8 in California and this week’s same-sex vows in Connecticut have been about one thing: whose loving unions can legally be described as ‘marriage.’ Bob speaks with EJ Graff, author of What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution, about the semantics of the ‘M’ word and whether changing the term changes the struggle.
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Comments [17]

Melissa G.

I agree with the pod when expressing that the rules of marriage should and will eventually be changed. I aslo agree when she discusses that mariage is two people coming together and in love, they may own their own property or both work but they come together as one. I believe that you need someone in our life to be happy and if that someone happens to be same sex orinited than it's not the end of the world. If two people love each other and want to be together who are we to stop them. I figure if they consider a "regular couple" after being together for 2 year common law marriage, why not just accept it for what it is. And I would love to see them test the divorse rate among same sex marriages, because am sure it wont be high.

Apr. 26 2011 11:13 PM
ablefable from Canada

This controversy is so Gay!
Marriage is not a Christian institution. Marriage pre-ceeded Chritianity by thousands of years. Christian dogma should not be used to interpret or justify the meaning of marriage.
Marriage evolved as a hedge to help offspring survive. Where resources are limited (Himalayas) often two brother's will marry one woman to ensure that some of their genes will get passed on. In many asian and middle-eastern countries; those with wealth (or resource abundance) were able to marry multiple partners. Currently in the USA, resources are plentiful but time and love is not. Children with two parents are better adjusted and more succesful then their single parent (& absentee parent) peers. (regardless of gender or sexual orientation) What is best for the parent and what's best for the child IS BEST FOR SOCIETY.
Leave'em be, how does someone else's marriage hurt you? Are you so insecure that if a homosexual has the same "title" as you, you feel less valuable? That is pathetic! Where is the risk? I'm sick of "faith" based arguments. No evidence, no scietific inquiry, no critical thinking, just follow what your leader tells you and if anyone disagree's; cloak yourself in religious biggotry. Dear Christians, your leaders are false idols and your idol is a sun-god who has been lost in translation. Battle on babel folks.

Nov. 19 2008 05:59 PM
L.D.F. from Alameda, CA

S. Bruslind: "Reach a civil truce." "Huddle in intentional communities and ask only to be left alone. Make the state have others do the same."

What about a religious truce? Many churches marry gay couples now and will in the future.

You want to "huddle" and be "left alone" yet "MAKE THE STATE have others do the same"?!

You know little of religion, government, or history.

Nov. 18 2008 06:12 PM
Scott Bruslind from Lacomb, OR

It will be religious communities who will advocate that the state record only civil unions. Why?
1) Protect the sanctity. Religious communities reinforce the commitment of marriage. Some pastors already advertise that the marriages they perform will endure and offer lifetime counseling to back it up. A church marriage will mean something more than a 50% chance of survival.
2) Reach a civil truce. We can retire our moral approbations behind our church walls. Huddle in intentional communities and ask only to be left alone. Make the state have others do the same.
3) Inject a civil discourse about the line between church and state. After the usual pleasantries about sports and the weather, a polite inquiry into our domestic relations can lead to a testament of faith. I was married in 'x' church, or our union was recorded in 'x' courthouse. At least, we'll have the dignified opportunity to share what has meaning for us.

Nov. 18 2008 12:55 AM
Mariam Touba from New York City

Oops! I meant the marrying of eldersly widows and widowers! That was an amusing slip!

Nov. 17 2008 03:35 PM
Mariam Touba from New York City

Just speaking for myself, I said nothing about procreation. I spoke of the complementary nature of the opposite sexes. (And yes, sexual intercourse was always a major part of it, as unconsummated marriages were considered null in many cultures.) Certainly the marrying of elderly widowers and widowers was encouraged, with the possible Biblical exception of a demurral by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. I do not believe that one can read from that, as Ms. Graff seems to, that marriage was vehemently discouraged in early Christianity. It is more that the stigma was taken from celibacy, and chastity became a virtue.

As for the claim that same-gender sexual unions were recognized in early Christianity (Zonderling), I encourage others not to accept it by reading it as an assertion here. History does not support it. But, by the way, I will concede that the piece was ethnocentric.

Nov. 17 2008 03:28 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

And I wrote "potatoe" the same day Quayle spelled it, over the objection of a sixteen year old. Lost that job.

Nov. 17 2008 12:22 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

I can't resist it!

There's more than one way to skin a moose, Governor Pailin, and more than one way to make the Chile spicy.

Put lipstick on that!

Nov. 17 2008 12:08 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

L.D.F., I basically agree with you about the evolution of marriage and quite enjoy the phrase "blessed unions" but I still cling to the feeling that marriage is a term meant to denote the founding of a family, an endeavor I only ever briefly imagined that I would have the resources upon which to embark.

Perhaps I am especially singular person and do not require a life partner. I also have deep attachments to family, friends and community to sustain me but I always imagined marriage as an act of child-raising, though not necessarily of procreating. I have always suspected that I like a sibling are sterile.

Despite never fathered a child, I have engaged in some informal child-raising as a single, oft referred to Uncle Chris Gray, to distinguish from my nephew.

As you rightly point out, we are overpopulated and, moreover, far under parented and, so, I look forward to marriages founding new families to provide wider opportunities for more healthy children. There are others who have other visions, like you and like the proponents of Prop 8. This is mine.

I keep recalling the young hockey player whose team proudly celebrated his two mothers on Mothers Day. Perhaps he will run for President someday.

Nov. 16 2008 11:49 PM
L.D.F. from Alameda, CA

Ms. Graff was reporting on history in texts, Mr. Hill.

Not fiction in a bible. We need to see how historical texts depict marriage, not a bible re-written so many times for different purposes historical facts becomes fictionalized political tracts?

As for France: A much longer and painful history of religious persecution gives them the cultural knowledge and foresight to head off a new round of religious bigotry.

Americans are just beginning to relive our colonial experience through equal-sex marriage.

By all means, quote your bible, just keep the quotations out of our state Constitution. We will all be better for that.

Nov. 16 2008 08:38 PM
Micheal James Hill from Milwaukee

Mr. Garfield,

I expected a lean to the left on this issue. It is appalling, however, that Ms. Graf's abuse of facts was given a pass by you.

Christianity came late to an understanding of marriage? Rubish. The Gospels and Epistles are full of instructions on marriage. Early Christianity practiced celebacy? There have always been sects which practice celebacy. That does not mean that marriage was not an honored institution in Christianity.

You sat there and allowed Ms Graf to nullify thousands of years of Christian doctrine on marriage with few overly broad statements that any undergraduate could have called her out on.

There was hardly a sentence that came from Ms. Graf's mouth which could not be disputed. She states and the United States is unique among Western nations in its marriage practices and as an example points to France.

France! This country is so militantly securalist that wearing a burqa to school is a national problem. Any consistant civil libertarian should be thankful that this country has not taken the distinction between Church and State to that extreme.

It has become painfully obvious that OTM in particular and NPR on the whole, is opposed to defeat of proposition 8 in California. This means that any real and honest discussion of so-called gay marriages will have to go on elsewhere.

Shame on you.

Michael James Hill, M. Div.

Nov. 16 2008 07:43 PM
L.D.F. from Alameda, CA

Critics of Ms. Graff make a common and glaring mistake. Marriage is not the same as reproduction. Neither is dependent on the other. Yes, history is not biology (M. Touba), or law, or religion.

When you look at ALL of nature there is little support or example of a human institution called marriage as an ideal model for two genders, or one that promotes and raises young. Long gone are days when we need worry about our species continuing due to a lack of children. Quite the opposite is true.

If human male and female traits were more like those in nature, we'd all be better off. Gay males seem to have noticed.

If marriage, civil or religious, focused on the requirements of parents after THEY married, then arguments about procreation and what is best for children might hold sway.

Fortunately, marriage has evolved, like species do to adapt, to encompass and recognize couples completely devoid of some "mythical" procreative or "complementary" union.

The basic biological fact? There is great diversity in nature and human institutions reflect that.

Everyone goes to City Hall for a marriage license. Afterward, some feel a need to go to a church. Let that latter group call theirs "holy unions." And only after children: "sacred, procreative unions." They can have all the special respect they want. Whether they like it or not.

Nov. 16 2008 05:46 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

So, here is the thing. America already outlawed polygamy. While mainstream Mormonism has abandoned the practice, it is hard for me to believe that some of these children raised in polygamist families are not, indeed, healthy by most objective standards. Living among mainstream Mormons for some time, I can find no long term harm from the genetic legacy from prior to the legislation.

Pedophilia by any parties is by no means an expression of love, however, and where that is present in any of these families or institutions, I condemn it.

Love is a sincere concern for the welfare of another.

Sex can coincide with love, but so just as easily with hate and violence. It is important not to confuse the two.

“And, when did you stop beating your wife, Mr. Gray?”

I once hosted a phone-in show at Yale’s radio station with a used car salesman who wrote a book called “On the Strong Family”, which I’d read from an unpublished copy years before, in which he advised beating your wife once in a while to show her who was boss. He didn’t understand that it was a crime and threatened to sue me for my opinion.

Nov. 16 2008 05:19 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

In my view, from pre-history onward the purpose of marriage is biological. It is people raising a healthy family. Novels about the great variety of groups of people; workhouses, orphanages, and other state, church or other private institutions; have a terrible track record in this regard but, over history, a great many informal families have developed simply through happenstance; the maiden aunts raising their deceased brother's or sister's children. In the '50's there was Bachelor Father and his niece Kelly. He wasn't gay, but he exemplified the relatives who have replaced the Adam and Eve model of raising a family.

Come to think of it, that worked out a little weird anyhow. It isn't a very hopeful, uplifting construct to have the first fratricide.

Many, many children have been raised in healthy, loving gay families for centuries. It's just that no one paid attention if they didn't really have to. With people dumping their children in Nebraska from across the country, it is about time to realize that parenting is about more than sex stereotypes, it is about love and family.

Nov. 16 2008 05:08 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Zonderling, I so heartily agree with what you wrote, while fully admitting that I had no language with which to express what you did, that I am speechless.

Luckily, I can type.

What I thought to write was that Margaret Atwood just about got it right with a future America (and world, for that matter) split by religious feuding over the definitions of marriage and love.

Meanwhile the Earth begins to burn us up and the money in our pockets is burning up with us.

Nov. 16 2008 03:39 AM

Except there is a history of same-sex marriages in Asia and the Americas. The problem with the segment was the ethnocentrism, that only Christianity was covered --to the absence of pre-Christian Europe/Southwest Asia or cultures outside this area. As for the Western world, early Christianity accepted what we would today call homosexuality and even Roman Catholicism (i.e. as Christianity became an organized religion) did for the first several centuries. It also condoned same-sex civil unions, although it's unclear exactly how these were regarded in comparison to institutions (plural) of marriage at the time. Jesus, himself, in Matthew 19:4-12, may condone unions; regardless, the clear message throughout his teachings is acceptance.

Nov. 15 2008 06:59 PM
Mariam Touba from New York City

E.J. Graff tells us how much the institution of marriage has changed by failing to tell us the single way it has stayed the same: it has always—presumably from the dawn of civilization—been about the creating of a durable union between opposite or complementary sexes. Dynastic marriages, arranged marriages, polygamous marriages, good or bad, moral or amoral—you name it—have this basic biological factor in common. How does an expert on the history of marriage neglect to tell us this? I don’t know if the fault for this tendentious presentation lies with Graff, your interviewer, or your editor, but your disingenuousness begets the very distrust and disdain that make the culture wars just that: wars.

Nov. 15 2008 05:10 PM

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