Thursday, December 29, 2005

Spout Off: Marriage/Divorce

All right, here goes the dry run.

A veritable ton of food for thought here. I'm going the let them just go to. Fallout should take place in the comments field.

If you don't have anything to add to the discourse, please feel free to leave simply your thoughts on everything in the commentary.

Thanks,

TBO

Should It Be Harder To Marry/Easier To Divorce?

-------------
I'd like to say, first off, that my general feeling on the matter of government and marriage is that there should be far less involvement on the part of the former in the latter. It seems to me that if we could end the debate on, say, gay marriage by eliminating the civic institution of marriage altogether, creating civil unions that could apply to any consenting adults engaged in committed, interdependent relationships--straight, gay, polygamist, what-have-you--and leaving the question of "marriage" to churches and other non-governmental entitities, so much the better.

I'd even support a COMPLETE elimination of marriage on a civic level, to be replaced by nothing, provided that people could still get all the tax benefits for having children, and that cities and municipalities could still vote, of their own accord, to compel businesses that provide insurance to recognize certain kinds of unions and cover employees and their families accordingly.

But as it stands, we DO have the civic institution of marriage, and this institution is apparently plagued with higher divorce rates than ever (though, being most emphatically not a statistician, I can neither affirm nor contradict this).

Recent demagoguery on the matter seems to have posited that making divorce more difficult is a reasonable solution. I call hogwash. If regulation is to play a successful role in stemming the tide of divorce and dysfunction (a dubious proposition), making marriage harder and divorce easier is both more pragmatically viable (or viably pragmatic) and more morally defensible.

One presumes that the logic of making divorce more costly and difficult is that faced with such hurdles, people will simply stay in unhappy marriages. To the degree that this is correct, the results could be disastrous, particularly if, by "unhappy", we mean violent or abusive, deceitful, harmful to any children involved, patently or potently unequal with regards to economic or domestic power. The idea, of course, is that difficult hurdles for the would be divorcee would limit divorce to the extreme sorts of cases cited ever-so-vaguely above.

I find this thinking entirely counterintuitive; indeed, I may suggest that the most desperate situations are those most prohibitive to indulgence in bourgeois niceties of protracted court procedure. It seems to me that an abused woman facing a longer process to leave her situation is increasing her risk of being assaulted during the course of separation.

More difficult divorce proceedings also tend to mean more lawyers and more fees, which means that class--the true seat of all true inequity, IMO--will play a large part in determining whose divorce can actually happen. Basically, I don't think it strictly ethical to make it harder for someone to leave a legitimately bad situation just because the process has been abused by a few.

On a less dramatic note, we have to imagine that "frivolous" divorce is often the result of marriage entered into lightly; and even fully justified divorce--as in some of the examples above--could well be the result of character traits, or characteristics of the mutual dynamic, that didn't have time to emerge prior to making such a commitment.

While I wouldn't support making marriage any more expensive--I reject, summarily, all obstacles that turn participation in common social institutions into a class privelige--taking steps to ensure that people DON'T enter such a contract without a full understanding of its seriousness would seem to present the seed of a solution to the current divorce rate. It sort of pains me to imagine it, because it already seemed at the time like there were a lot of hoops to jump through (granting that I consider SHAVING to be a vast imposition on my time and energy, making me . . .well, not the best person to ask), and my marriage certainly doesn't seem like one that should have been prevented.

But, I've also witnessed a number of weddings that seemed to happen so quickly, so easily, that ended more or less the same way, with the outcome something of a foregone conclusion. Making divorce harder wouldn't have helped these people; it just would've busted their bank accounts. They DIDN'T BELONG TOGETHER, and if they'd had to confront that before walking down the aisle, a lot of heartache could have been spared.

So sure: Make marriage harder, keep divorce relatively easy (or make it even easier), if we're to rely on our governing bodies to solve this problem for us. It's probably the best they can be expected to do.

-thelyamhound
-------------
[To the proposition of making marriage harder and divorce easier, jjisafool replies:]

Uh, yeah, okay, but… why? What exactly is the suggestion addressing? Is there a problem with marriage beyond the fact that some people don’t want queers doing it? Because this suggestion would seem to address the gay marriage issue about as well as private accounts address solvency.

But, okay, what about it? First of all, as the Hound alluded to, there are some distinctions to be made. Marriage isn’t just one thing; it is at least two. I think willful confusing of the two is what feeds much of the rhetoric of the debate, making sure it never veers too close to common sense.

There is, and this was most closely outlined by His Houndness, the civic marriage. All of the benefits conferred by government recognition of a union. We’ll call this the source of spousal benefits, child tax benefits, all that good stuff. It amounts to the signing of a contract.

Then there is social marriage. The public covenant, presided over by whatever structures the couple chooses to recognize. This is the marriage that really matters, that is created by the couple.

The two are not necessarily connected, at least by little more than the rhetoric. One does not necessitate the other. A church can choose to marry same-sex couples or polygamous unions, and the state is not compelled to recognize it. Likewise, the state can marry two people legally with no more public covenant than is required for most contracts, and cannot compel any church to recognize the union. A social marriage can end while it lives on in civic status, and a church can tell followers that regardless of a civic divorce, they will be married forever in the eyes of God.

In terms of social marriage, there is little to debate. I doubt anyone (in the present audience, anyway) is interested in telling a church who it can and cannot marry, or to outlaw commitment ceremonies. Social marriage, the real joining of two people of their own accord and in honor of their own beliefs, is essentially a private affair, between the to-be-marrieds and their powers that be.

We can really only concern ourselves in any kind of “should” way with civic marriage, with recognition of a union by the state. I bristled somewhat with Houndster’s support for complete elimination of civic marriage, mainly because he would immediately replace it with a civil union system, which is merely renaming the system and therefore, to my mind, foolish and a capitulation to the lack of rigor in the rhetoric. This is one place where I agree with part of gay marriage opponents’ argument; I agree that civil union is simply marriage by another name. We just disagree in that I feel civic marriage should be available to everyone.

Because, really, that aspect of it is really about the benefits – insurance, tax breaks, survivor benefits. I enjoy the benefits of marriage that were conferred the moment the signed license was filed, but that act didn’t make me feel married in the way the ceremony did. The only reason I feel any need to have the state involved in my marriage is because of the power to confer those benefits.

So, do I want access to those benefits to be more difficult? Hell, no. I want as many people as possible to have access to them. I want to encourage people to form family units of their own design, to work together and be rewarded for doing so. I don’t think making it harder will necessarily show much difference in divorce rates. People don’t divorce just because they didn’t give it enough thought before. Sure, some do, but I’ve seen a lot of divorce up close and most often it has a lot more to do with things that happen after the marriage than it does with things that could have been foreseen with a few more months of hoops to jump through.

Make civic divorce easier? Maybe it automatically holds that you don’t encourage this without the corresponding increase in difficulty of marriage. But, I don’t see any reason why not. Why make the demands from the state any more difficult at a difficult time. Maybe there should be more encouragement from the people or entities involved in the social marriage to prevent divorce in cases where it is preventable (excluding the type of cases Houndy pointed out, such as spousal abuse).

I told a friend of mine, who eventually cast me from his life for my fealty to the concept of marriage, that I feel as though those people that attend a marriage make an investment in that marriage, have joined in the covenant. I said I think this entails recognizing the union as a thing that has worth, and which they should endeavor to help preserve. I think that promise should make divorce difficult, social divorce, but that civic divorce should be a rubberstamp, that the state has no place in demanding preservation of a union.

So, to review:

Social marriage nobody’s beeswax but involved parties.

Civic marriage essentially civil union with unfortunate rhetorical tie to social marriage, and should be treated as such – a contractual arrangement open to all, even the impestuous.

Social divorce bad, and should be discouraged if it is our beeswax.

Civic divorce should be a rubber stamp.

-jjisafool

42 Comments:

At 1:24 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

"Uh, yeah, okay, but. why?"

As I suggested, we may be debating a moot point. Why is government involved
in marriage to the degree that it is? On the other hand, people on the
right have been pushing for years to make divorce more difficult to acquire,
to the end of curbing high divorce rates. So a more appropriate phrasing of
the question might be, "Is making marriage harder and divorce easier a
preferable approach to this problem than the one currently being offered?"

"What exactly is the suggestion addressing? Is there a problem with marriage
beyond the fact that some people don't want queers doing it? Because this
suggestion would seem to address the gay marriage issue about as well as
private accounts address solvency."

I'm pretty sure the question wasn't designed to address gay marriage.

"There is, and this was most closely outlined by His Houndness, the civic
marriage. All of the benefits conferred by government recognition of a
union. We'll call this the source of spousal benefits, child tax benefits,
all that good stuff. It amounts to the signing of a contract."

To my mind, this is the only kind of marriage that matters in the debate.
The other is a highly personal construct, and it will mean exactly as much
or as little as the parties involved allow it to mean. My only real comment
on that matter is that some of the traditional norms associated with that
institution--monogamy and economic interdependence come to mind--while
certainly positive values, could stand to undergo some scrutiny and review.
But since we're talking about making marriage "harder" and divorce "easier",
we're presumably discussing legal and economic matters. I think that, on
the matter of social marriage, we agree more than we disagree; and where we
disagree, we probably do so more deeply than could be elucidated or expunged
in this forum. So I assumed that "civic" marriage was our area of concern.
The other should be beyond politics.



"I bristled somewhat with Houndster's support for complete elimination of
civic marriage, mainly because he would immediately replace it with a civil
union system, which is merely renaming the system and therefore, to my mind,
foolish and a capitulation to the lack of rigor in the rhetoric. This is one
place where I agree with part of gay marriage opponents' argument; I agree
that civil union is simply marriage by another name."

Are you listening to your own argument? This statement seems to contradict
this:

"Marriage isn't just one thing; it is at least two. I think willful
confusing of the two is what feeds much of the rhetoric of the debate,
making sure it never veers too close to common sense . . .The two are not
necessarily connected, at least by little more than the rhetoric. One
does not necessitate the other."

What I'm suggesting is that only one of the institutions we're talking about
it marriage. I'm of the opinion that marriage is the social institution,
and that applying the label of "civil union" to the other, we're codifying
the difference rather than leaving it for the likes of us to clarify these
definitions for everyone. Marriage's spiritual roots, in fact, should place
it outside the boundaries of a secular government almost reflexively. IF
unions are to be subsidized (and I have mixed feelings on this matter), and
if these subsidies are to apply equally, regardless of the number or gender
of people involved (and I'm unequivocal on this one), it seems to me that
distinction should be recognized in the way that has historically proven
most effective: through language.

As to "capitulation to the lack of intellectual rigor" . . . Isn't your
concern about media image precisely that: a desire to remove the veil for
people less inclined to dissect than we? I say that making it clear that
the civil union is something separate from the personal, spiritual union of
marriage serves the same function. It also offers a simple compromise with
social conservatives in that it doesn't redefine marriage per se, only
limits governments role in it to the civic/economic sphere, and broadens the
benefit availability in that sphere, while leaving the definition of
marriage to those private institutions that bless such unions. That's why I
suggest, not that we offer civil unions in lieu of marriage to gays and
polygamists while leaving marriage available to straight couples, but rather
that we take a stand in saying that while the government might have a stake
in subsidizing the creation of stable, multi-person households and broadened
definitions of families, it has no business dipping its hands in so
spiritually and emotionally charged an institution as marriage.

"The only reason I feel any need to have the state involved in my marriage
is because of the power to confer those benefits."

Sort of a side note here: Some fucking benefits--our taxes are HIGHER, and
while I can get my wife on my employer's insurance, it'll cost about 3/4 of
one 2-week paycheck each month to do it. OUCH!!

"So, do I want access to those benefits to be more difficult? Hell, no. I
want as many people as possible to have access to them. I want to encourage
people to form family units of their own design, to work together and be
rewarded for doing so. I don't think making it harder will necessarily show
much difference in divorce rates. People don't divorce just because they
didn't give it enough thought before. Sure, some do, but I've seen a lot of
divorce up close and most often it has a lot more to do with things that
happen after the marriage than it does with things that could have been
foreseen with a few more months of hoops to jump through."

I don't disagree, necessarily, although I think you underestimate how many
marriages are entered into lightly, especially in some of the rural,
religious areas where I grew up and went to school.

"Make civic divorce easier? Maybe it automatically holds that you don't
encourage this without the corresponding increase in difficulty of marriage.
But, I don't see any reason why not. Why make the demands from the state any
more difficult at a difficult time."

Agreed 100%.

"Maybe there should be more encouragement from the people or entities
involved in the social marriage to prevent divorce in cases where it is
preventable (excluding the type of cases Houndy pointed out, such as spousal
abuse)."

Agreed . . . But "preventable" is broad, and some apparently minor problems
can be major depending on how those matters relate to the parties involved.
Considering that the two most common catalysts (if not causes) of divorce
seem to be infidelity and financial woe, what we may need to look at are new
ways of understanding and defining monogamy and the presence of more
financial aid to help middle-class married couples deal with debt. The
first is a social matter, but the second is clearly civic. Hmmmm . . . I
may have to chew on that one a bit.

"I told a friend of mine, who eventually cast me from his life for my fealty
to the concept of marriage, that I feel as though those people that attend a
marriage make an investment in that marriage, have joined in the covenant. I
said I think this entails recognizing the union as a thing that has worth,
and which they should endeavor to help preserve."

Agreed.

"I think that promise should make divorce difficult, social divorce, but
that civic divorce should be a rubberstamp, that the state has no place in
demanding preservation of a union."

I agree in practice, but have some trouble in theory: The state obviously
has an interest in preserving unions, considering the effects of divorce on
everything from health and job performance to life expectancy and crime
rates. I just don't know if the social benefits of preserving unions is
worth allowing the government to dictate the difference between a "worthy"
or "unworthy" divorce request. So your "rubberstamp" approach wins on the
sheer ugliness of the alternative.

I think this is one of those situations Jose was talking about wherein we're
arguing on a matter where we essentially agree. I don't think marriage
should be harder necessarily, but don't oppose the notion of it being so
(it's similar to how I would feel about a President John McCain: I would
never vote that way, but at least it's got a brain). And I agree that, on
balance, civilization will be better off if divorce is relatively easy.

Thelyamhound

 
At 5:23 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

>>"Uh, yeah, okay, but. why?"

As I suggested, we may be debating a moot point. Why is government involved
in marriage to the degree that it is? On the other hand, people on the
right have been pushing for years to make divorce more difficult to acquire,
to the end of curbing high divorce rates. So a more appropriate phrasing of
the question might be, "Is making marriage harder and divorce easier a
preferable approach to this problem than the one currently being offered?"<<


Yeah, I'm not sure I'm buying that. Changes to divorce law isn't exactly a rallying cry out there. I think an entity needs to be involved as the record keeper, the holder of the paperwork others look up when conferring union-related benefits. If I die, any number of women could come forward to claim my vast fortune by representing themselves as my wife, but Tricia has the Golden Ticket. Any role beyond that seems unnecessarily invasive.


>>"What exactly is the suggestion addressing? Is there a problem with marriage
beyond the fact that some people don't want queers doing it? Because this
suggestion would seem to address the gay marriage issue about as well as
private accounts address solvency."

I'm pretty sure the question wasn't designed to address gay marriage.<<


No, I don't think it was designed to address gay marriage, but the question is what is it addressing. My point was it doesn't seem a response to the main debate over the issue of marriage these days, because it wouldn't address that, so maybe it is just tilting at windmills.

Are divorce rates a problem? One would have to define and prove the existence of the problem to me before I'd accept the proposal as an improvement. And if not divorce, what is it? Why is there any need to tamper with marriage other than the question of access?

I'm not saying marriage as stands is perfect, but without some clarity about what exactly the problems seem to be, we're just going to slog through semantic bullshit.

>>"There is, and this was most closely outlined by His Houndness, the civic
marriage. All of the benefits conferred by government recognition of a
union. We'll call this the source of spousal benefits, child tax benefits,
all that good stuff. It amounts to the signing of a contract."

To my mind, this is the only kind of marriage that matters in the debate.<<


Yeah, agreed, to the point it should be sorta off the table, except as a point of reference or comparison.

>>The other is a highly personal construct, and it will mean exactly as much
or as little as the parties involved allow it to mean. My only real comment
on that matter is that some of the traditional norms associated with that
institution--monogamy and economic interdependence come to mind--while
certainly positive values, could stand to undergo some scrutiny and review.<<


That assumes they have never undergone such. Is it not possible that they have and that the parties that subscribe to those norms have come to a different conclusion than you or I might? This is why it should be off the table. I have big problems with any kind of "should" mentality when discussing the faith of others.

>>But since we're talking about making marriage "harder" and divorce "easier",
we're presumably discussing legal and economic matters. I think that, on
the matter of social marriage, we agree more than we disagree; and where we
disagree, we probably do so more deeply than could be elucidated or expunged
in this forum. So I assumed that "civic" marriage was our area of concern.
The other should be beyond politic.<<


Agreed, at least up until the points where we really disagree, which I'm unclear on, but, you are right, should be plumbed from a different angle.

>>"I bristled somewhat with Houndster's support for complete elimination of
civic marriage, mainly because he would immediately replace it with a civil
union system, which is merely renaming the system and therefore, to my mind,
foolish and a capitulation to the lack of rigor in the rhetoric. This is one
place where I agree with part of gay marriage opponents' argument; I agree
that civil union is simply marriage by another name."

Are you listening to your own argument? This statement seems to contradict
this:

"Marriage isn't just one thing; it is at least two. I think willful
confusing of the two is what feeds much of the rhetoric of the debate,
making sure it never veers too close to common sense . . .The two are not
necessarily connected, at least by little more than the rhetoric. One
does not necessitate the other."<<


Maybe best to clarify this way: there is nothing but semantic difference between opening civic marriage up and abolishing it as it is and replacing it with an open civil union system. I am of the opinion that you don't clarify by renaming, that the connection between marriage and civil union has fired so often together it is wired together. I believe it would be better to clarify by addition, that by opening civic marriage wide and adding to our understanding of the concept, we move forward, and that renaming is a step backward or an unnecessary step sideways that diminishes the institution.

>>What I'm suggesting is that only one of the institutions we're talking about
it marriage. I'm of the opinion that marriage is the social institution,
and that applying the label of "civil union" to the other, we're codifying
the difference rather than leaving it for the likes of us to clarify these
definitions for everyone. Marriage's spiritual roots, in fact, should place
it outside the boundaries of a secular government almost reflexively. IF
unions are to be subsidized (and I have mixed feelings on this matter), and
if these subsidies are to apply equally, regardless of the number or gender
of people involved (and I'm unequivocal on this one), it seems to me that
distinction should be recognized in the way that has historically proven
most effective: through language.<<


Perhaps we can add the term "civil union" to the canon?

Powerful as the act of naming can be, it is very wrapped up in power dynamics. Changes to language, especially in this age of great mimetic malleability, don't have quite the power you claim. Exactly how has it been historically proven that language is the most effective in making distinctions? You'll have to sell me on that.

Because, y'know, David Stern doesn't have to call 'em n*****s to treat them like n*****s.

>>As to "capitulation to the lack of intellectual rigor" . . . Isn't your
concern about media image precisely that: a desire to remove the veil for
people less inclined to dissect than we? <<


I believe that supplanting marriage with a nigh-identical civil union system is just a new veil. Ripping off the veil would entail explaining to people that many of the restrictive notions about marriage that they hold are tied to children, and in that light a sterile couple should be refused marriage as soon as a same-sex couple, to claim the term marriage, even when just in its civic marriage function, and expand the meaning to what is right.

It is always a fine line to walk - counter-spin becomes spin, deconstruction becomes reconstruction very easily.

>>I say that making it clear that
the civil union is something separate from the personal, spiritual union of
marriage serves the same function. <<


Separate but equal? Good legal precedent, that.

>>It also offers a simple compromise with social conservatives<<

Fuck them. I won't tell them what their institution should do internally, ever, but when it comes to the public sphere I'm not inclined to compromises of this sort. It is our damn progressive open-mindedness getting in the way of fighting the good and right fight.

>>I don't disagree, necessarily, although I think you underestimate how many
marriages are entered into lightly, especially in some of the rural,
religious areas where I grew up and went to school. <<


Hindsight is 20/20, as is emotional detachment from the situation. Maybe you're right, but the evidence is anectdotal, or incomplete regression analysis of divorces. Not enough to form sound policy or arguments on.

>>Agreed . . . But "preventable" is broad, and some apparently minor problems
can be major depending on how those matters relate to the parties involved.
Considering that the two most common catalysts (if not causes) of divorce
seem to be infidelity and financial woe, what we may need to look at are new
ways of understanding and defining monogamy and the presence of more
financial aid to help middle-class married couples deal with debt. The
first is a social matter, but the second is clearly civic. Hmmmm . . . I
may have to chew on that one a bit.<<


Sure, but that is the slippery slope we all have to occupy anyway. I know that the spouse being beaten needs out, and the couple fighting over money need help, and the struggle will always be in the middle.

>>I agree in practice, but have some trouble in theory: The state obviously
has an interest in preserving unions, considering the effects of divorce on
everything from health and job performance to life expectancy and crime
rates. <<


If we allowed the government to exercise vested interest in everything you mentioned, we'd live in the Nanny 911 state.

>>I just don't know if the social benefits of preserving unions is
worth allowing the government to dictate the difference between a "worthy"
or "unworthy" divorce request. So your "rubberstamp" approach wins on the
sheer ugliness of the alternative.<<


Cool. I think so, too.

 
At 6:41 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Yeah, I'm not sure I'm buying that. Changes to divorce law isn't exactly a rallying cry out there.

Then you've obviously spent less time than I have a) living in red states and b) reading conservative opinion. And that's to your credit: I'd gladly do neither ever again.

I think an entity needs to be involved as the record keeper, the holder of the paperwork others look up when conferring union-related benefits. If I die, any number of women could come forward to claim my vast fortune by representing themselves as my wife, but Tricia has the Golden Ticket. Any role beyond that seems unnecessarily invasive.

Agreed. But wouldn't tax breaks and a mandate that businesses offer your spouse insurance qualify as a role beyond that of record keeper? This is part of the whole slippery slope of civic involvement in marriage, and that's why I'm of (at least) two minds on the matter.

"Are divorce rates a problem? One would have to define and prove the existence of the problem to me before I'd accept the proposal as an improvement."

Again, I never supported the notion that the proposal was an improvement, only that it was acceptable, and that easy divorce is preferable to bureaucratically fraught divorce. That said, of COURSE divorce is a problem. Show me one statistic that DOESN'T show divorce rates skyrocketing over the last couple of decades, and I'll concede that it mightn't be. That doesn't mean, however, that some divorces aren't necessary. The optimist (in this case, you) may suggest that it's better to have a lot of marriages, pass or fail. The pessimist or moralist tends to feel that all unions entered should be seen through.

I'm not saying marriage as stands is perfect, but without some clarity about what exactly the problems seem to be, we're just going to slog through semantic bullshit.

I think we can assume, given the nature of the question, and the fervency with which many people with whom you aren't conversing address the matter, that we're talking about trying to reduce the divorce rate. If you don't think there's any there there as far as that goal is concerned, I agree. Part of the exercise is pretending that we care.

Agreed, at least up until the points where we really disagree, which I'm unclear on, but, you are right, should be plumbed from a different angle.

I was thinking of points where we may disagree, not of any on which we know that we do.

Maybe best to clarify this way: there is nothing but semantic difference between opening civic marriage up and abolishing it as it is and replacing it with an open civil union system. I am of the opinion that you don't clarify by renaming, that the connection between marriage and civil union has fired so often together it is wired together. I believe it would be better to clarify by addition, that by opening civic marriage wide and adding to our understanding of the concept, we move forward, and that renaming is a step backward or an unnecessary step sideways that diminishes the institution.

My contention is that the civic aspect of the union should be diminished, so it's clearer to social conservatives that we're not asking them to support a moral and spiritual insitutution (and marriage, by definition, is that), but rather an economic one, with their tax dollars. The semantics represent more than letters in this case.

Powerful as the act of naming can be, it is very wrapped up in power dynamics. Changes to language, especially in this age of great mimetic malleability, don't have quite the power you claim. Exactly how has it been historically proven that language is the most effective in making distinctions? You'll have to sell me on that.

I submit that marriage only exists because we have named it. How powerful is that? Differentiating between art and entertainment, defining each, melding teutonic, norman and celtic cultures on the continent . . . I don't know if I can make the case for the power of language without a 100 page dissertation on the history of western culture, literature and art; but I'm a bit surprised that a person of your reading wouldn't see the dismissal of language as a self-defeating proposition.

Because, y'know, David Stern doesn't have to call 'em n*****s to treat them like n*****s.

True. But by calling them that, his feelings have been laid at least partially bare without him having to treat them any way at all.

I believe that supplanting marriage with a nigh-identical civil union system is just a new veil. Ripping off the veil would entail explaining to people that many of the restrictive notions about marriage that they hold are tied to children, and in that light a sterile couple should be refused marriage as soon as a same-sex couple, to claim the term marriage, even when just in its civic marriage function, and expand the meaning to what is right.

And I still maintain that the word "marriage" is so tied up with subjective notions of morality and spirituality that we will make faster progress by changing what we call it.

It is always a fine line to walk - counter-spin becomes spin, deconstruction becomes reconstruction very easily.

It's all spin. We're organisms; culture and civilization are our collective, mutually consensual hallucinations.

Separate but equal? Good legal precedent, that.

Really disingenuous, JJ. I would only be advocating separate but equal if I were offering straight couples marriage and gay couples civil unions. What I suggest is that the CIVIC aspect of marriage--which you already AGREED is separate--be the same for EVERYONE, and that this be accomplished by eliminating the word marriage from the civic institution entirely. That's not separate but equal, but a distinction between civil and social spheres, leaving the WHOLE question of marriage to non-governmental organizations.

Fuck them. I won't tell them what their institution should do internally, ever, but when it comes to the public sphere I'm not inclined to compromises of this sort. It is our damn progressive open-mindedness getting in the way of fighting the good and right fight.

And, um . . . how's that fight working out for us, brother? Looks like they're winning from where I sit.
motional detachment from the situation. Maybe you're right, but the evidence is anectdotal, or incomplete regression analysis of divorces. Not enough to form sound policy or arguments on.

If we allowed the government to exercise vested interest in everything you mentioned, we'd live in the Nanny 911 state.

Agreed. That's why I agreed in practice and only placed my quandary in the realm of theory.

Thanks for being a good sport.

 
At 6:46 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Separate but equal? Good legal precedent, that.

Really disingenuous, JJ.


Noooo, very funny.

Haven't you been warned about me?

 
At 6:53 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

...but I'm a bit surprised that a person of your reading wouldn't see the dismissal of language as a self-defeating proposition.

This is the only other thing I feel any need to respond to before I let others chime in.

No, I'm not dismissing the power of language, but rather the specific (lack of) power of saying "Ok, this thing, we're going to call it another thing now." Language in use will override such attempts. It quacks, it waddles, water rolls off its back, you can tell me its a paper dollie but I know its a duck. Slipperiness of signifying in theory, but quite stickier in use.

And, I think, in a culture more versed, even when they don't realize it, in the politics of spin, the creation of narrative, it is better to build upon and expand then it is to try and rein back and control.

Thanks backatcha. I think this stuff is fun.

 
At 8:00 AM, Blogger Missuz J said...

As surprised as I was that beige chose this particular topic (I did suggest it, but mostly because I have wondered about it myself often, not because I thought it would be a great topic for debate), and as hesitant as I am to throw myself in the fray (be gentle guys. I'm a bit fragine) here's my two cents.

I don't want to enter the argument of what marriage is--social, cultural, religions, whateva. It is. And getting married is as easy as heading to the court house. Many people who make the decision to marry find shortly there after that they've made a pretty huge mistake--or think they have. Divorce hurts. It hurts the people involved. It hurts kids. It hurts pocketbooks. It hurts families. (ALL of my students are from homes without both original partents. SETTLE DOWN! My step son is bright and brilliang and caring--and I'm not saying children from non-traditional homes won't/can't succeed. Just that those who don't seem to come from this situation.)

If making the decision to get married included a 2 week period of living together. A sharing of eachother's credit report. A full disclosure of past police records. Of SOMETHING other than maybe a bloodtest and 15 bucks for a licence, would people who shouldn't get married in the first place save a lot of people a lot of trouble?

That said--yea, who's job should it be to set this law/precident? Certainly we don't want "the state" putting his filthy finger in more pies than it already is in.

Just some thoughts.

 
At 8:15 AM, Blogger Missuz J said...

Fuck--I'm not fragine. I'm fragile. Janzen is brilliant, not brilliang.

 
At 8:53 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I think I assumed fragine and brilliang were your hip-hop names.
----L-Hound

JJ,

Fair enough on all things but one: You yourself said that marriage (social) was different from marriage (civic). By your own definition, then, marriage (civic) doesn't necessarily waddle like a duck, and renaming it entirely doesn't really qualify as much of a subterfuge.

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Both waddle like ducks. So, instead of calling the brown one a duck and the white one a qwert when clearly both are ducks, we expand and complexify (to coin a funny word) our understanding of the different kinds of ducks.

I believe that is the way language and linguistic understanding evolve, rather than attempts at manipulation.

But I'm willing to settle upon that as a matter of opinion.

My question about divorce, as a child of divorce, is about the nature of the relationship between it and the associated evil. Is it causal, or correlative? Steven Levitt, the freako economist, makes a clear distinction between the two for me, and this anecdote I think shows the danger of confusing the two.

Leavitt decided to look for the true causes of the violentcrime decrease in the 90s, which had been credited to better economy, the Brady Bill, an increase in cops and other. Using regression analysis, he eliminated each of the prevailing theories, showing each had a weak correlation. He identified a strong correlation to the effects of Roe vs Wade - fewer children being born to mothers who would, at the least, rather not have them, and a strong correlation between being born into the situations prevented by abortions and later violent criminal behavior.

But, he is careful to point out that Roe vs Wade did not cause the drop in crime, but rather that the factors created by Roe vs Wade had strong correlation with drops in crime. The causal pathway is often more complex than A-to-B correlations.

Then, former dickhead czar William Bennett takes this idea, the meme of correlation released by Leavitt, and says that one sure way to reducecrime is to abort black babies. In his tiny, twisted mind, the causal pathway was simple correlation.

Granted, the consequences aren't quite so dire here, but I'd want to look a lot more at divorce before I was willing to judge suggestions. Theorizing causation from anectdotal evidence is a dangerous game.

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Disagreed on the duck/marriage matter, but conceded that it's a matter of opinion. My primary concern is that expanding marriage to include gays and polygamists--and legally, civically, MORALLY, I think we should--entails a more radical reconfiguration of the language than simply renaming the civic institution and allowing the definition of marriage to be hammered out in institutions that specialize in the subjective.

FULLY agreed on theorizing causation. Taken to its logical conclusion, however, it seems to me that we can't really deduce the cause of ANY social phenomena . . . which is probably true, but that suggests that ALL social policy is folly . . . which is ALSO probably true.

 
At 11:13 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Also, I tend to think Americans are resistant to, and often incapable of, "complexification".

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger Stine said...

If making the decision to get married included a 2 week period of living together. A sharing of eachother's credit report. A full disclosure of past police records. Of SOMETHING other than maybe a bloodtest and 15 bucks for a licence, would people who shouldn't get married in the first place save a lot of people a lot of trouble?

- This, I think, is a brilliant idea.

Other than that, not really much to add other than thank God my parents were allowed to divorce. As a child, it sucked at the time, but in retrospect, I am very glad that it ended up that way. I would not be the person I am now if it hadn't come to pass.

Carry on intellectuals.

 
At 11:48 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Is the divorce issue kind of incumbent upon there being children involved? Is it really much of a bad thing at all if two people with no children decide they'd rather not be married?

Because, if that is the case, you would run into some sticky issues. Like, is itreally reasonable to ask two sixty-plus people who have lost spouses and who are no longer able to have children to wait a few weeks just to make sure?

Seems that the suggestion of waiting time is specific to certain kinds of couples - we only want the frivolous marriages to be reconsidered. It is problematic, and smacks of moral high ground to me.

 
At 6:02 PM, Blogger Missuz J said...

You know--several of my students are married--but don't have a driver's license. That's because it's a hell of a lot easier to get married in Utah than get a license to drive. To me, that just seems bizarre. Is it high ground to suggest that before creating a state sanctioned union (whether that's a good thing or not) there are some basic things that could/should happen first?

 
At 7:06 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

If your students have a disastrously bad marriage, they won't harm others (short of children in the marriage). If they are disastrously bad drivers, they may.

I'm just not comfortable with saying "you should" until I know exactly why, until I have a justification for it.

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger 2ndaryHighway said...

Hey kids, sorry to interrupt, I don't have anything to add as y'all's way too smart for me, but wanted to comment that this is all very fascinating, and this format is working quite well.

In my head I see you all sitting around a table as you're discussing this. Some of you are made up because we've never met. My appologies for whatever my head makes you look like. - Jhen

 
At 9:01 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Hey, Jhen . . . since you're picturing some people anyway, could you just imagine me much sexier than I really am? Sexy and, you know, scholarly and shit. That'd help a lot. Oh, and picture us all with really good cognac.

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger 2ndaryHighway said...

Sexy(er)... check.
Scholarly... check.
Cognac... check.

Although you realize you're all hot stuff to begin with, right, and my initial mental image involved scotch and cigars.

 
At 10:25 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Oh, OK, cigars & scotch'll work . . . I find Honduran cigars the best, no matter what they say about Cubans, and I like my scotch peaty (think Laphroaigs [sp?]).

 
At 1:33 PM, Blogger patrice said...

I didn't read every word of the comments, but what I did read initially, and what I did read in comments - at the core, you guys are kind of agreeing on most things. or at least the question, anyway. how you got to your answer of the question is a little different, but in the big-picture sense, not much.

my opinion is that letting the courts (the ones doing the joining and doing the unjoining) be the conscience of the people is dangerous in this case. what we want is people to really think about marriage before getting married, and really think about divorce before getting divorced. more or less, the same can be said about abortion and the death penalty. but can courts make you think, or can they just penalize you for not thinking? they can't take the place of making a grown up decision either to get married or get divorced.

 
At 2:04 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I think that's a fair reading, and I think, given that, both JJ and I have a classic "libertarian" (in a left-leaning sense) discomfort with regulating behaviour so blatantly. I was more interested in comparing the posited change with the conservative-supported opposite (easy marriage, difficult divorce), with which JJ has obviously been less inundated than have I.

I, too, am uncomfortable with letting the court be the conscience of the people . . . but then, I tend to mistrust the idea of letting people be their own conscience. The biggest flaw in all forms of law and government is that they're reliant on human beings, either individually or collectively.

 
At 2:22 PM, Blogger patrice said...

but because we're so vastly different, there is no one governing body that can effectively be our conscience. because that body may feel very differently than I do about things - for instance, gay marriage, since we're on the marriage topic. but there are myriad other examples. there are always things we can agree on - murder is bad. rape is bad. you can't punch someone. but it's the little things, the gray things, how can you allow someone OTHER than individuals be that kind of conscience?

 
At 2:43 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

I tend to mistrust the idea of letting people be their own conscience.

Holy shit! Are you serious?

Y'know, usually when I hear this, what I actually hear is "I mistrust the idea of letting other people be their own conscience.

Who, exactly, would you like to be your conscious?

 
At 2:46 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Read a little on the divorce reform movement over the weekend. Can't see as they present much of a compelling case beyond "divorce is bad, m'kay, so don't divorce, m'kay."

I still wonder how high this rank's on the right's priority list. I read a lot from the other side's evil minions, and hear little about this. Maybe just because theyare so focused on "protecting marriage" these days.

And, wait, who out there is proposing easier marriage? I've come across nothing pushing that idea.

 
At 2:46 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Not "your conscious" but rather "your conscience."

Suffering toddler fatigue today.

 
At 2:49 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Oh, agreed. I think I was referring more to my general mistrust of democracy. Your argument--that the court oughtn't be the arbiter of matters that ought to be decided democratically--is precisely the reasoning Clarence Thomas used when he cast a dissenting vote saying that the Supreme Court shouldn't strike down the Texas sodomy law. There, to me, is an example where democratic will (the only way I know of in which personal conviction can be codified into law) NEEDED to be overturned in defense of the moral imperative of personal and sexual liberty.

It's a tough example, because it seems to be a place where the overriding of democracy by an autocratic body actually created MORE liberty. But that's where the trouble lies--if we grant courts such power to eliminate restrictions, the same precedent can apply when they rule to impose (or re-impose, like if we were talking about, say, Roe vs. Wade) restrictions.

We're getting into territory beyond the question, touching on questions of when can government entities in a democracy implement change undemocratically; does any government, democratic or otherwise, have the right to regulate ANYTHING beyond empirical harm to person or property; are laws like speed limits consistent with the notion that personal choice oughtn't be legislated; what's the threshhold of proof regarding the social costs of individual behaviour? We're talking about marriage, but we COULD be talking about sex, drugs, art, health . . .

And are you SURE we all agree that you can't punch someone? I've definitely run into a few people whose severe beating would make the world a better place. It's probably best that I'm not allowed to see to this, but it does raise an interesting question as to how we measure and define morality, and/or how we identify a "universal" principle. I mean, maybe ALL morality is at least a little grey. Which leaves me wondering again (still?) how we figure out what behaviours can be confined legislatively.

 
At 3:00 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I tend to mistrust the idea of letting people be their own conscience.

Holy shit! Are you serious?

Y'know, usually when I hear this, what I actually hear is "I mistrust the idea of letting other people be their own conscience.

Who, exactly, would you like to be your conscious?


I think you're mistaking my misanthropy for a political assertion. The problem with everything from democracy to fascism is that, at SOME point, a human being has to make the decision. And MOST are unqualified to do so MUCH of the time, myself included. This argument speaks as much to my mistrust of totalitarianism as to my mistrust of democracy.

As such, I AGREE that individual choice is tantamount, because it's easier to negotiate with and through the people who actually participate in your life than with a distant entity legislating from above.

I wonder, though, given your hesitation to regulate marriage--a hesitation I agree with, although I seem to keep having to reiterate that position (apparently something I'm saying is letting people think I advocate more regulation on, well, anything, despite my support for the legalization of drugs and prostitution, and my opposition to any but the most rudimentary gun control)--how you feel about, say, speed limits. At some point, don't most of us support SOME regulation of behaviours that aren't quite so cut & dried as murder and theft?

 
At 3:04 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

And, wait, who out there is proposing easier marriage? I've come across nothing pushing that idea.

What about Bush's program a coupla years back to "promote" marriage as a facet of welfare reform? Leaving aside, for the moment, the inherent racism and classism in his proposal, doesn't that strike you as a move to take the brakes off of any of the usual hesitation to marry, i.e., making marriage easier and, indeed, more lucrative?

 
At 3:07 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Somewhere up there, I said "tantamount", when I think I meant "paramount". Trying to spit out too many thoughts with too little time.

 
At 3:12 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Lots to comment on, but I've got to whip out some 14/48 website updates before my beautiful little crumb-gobbler wakes up, so I'll just add this consideration, which isn't to refute but to add to the discussion.

With any freedom comes responsibility. It isn't that you are prevented from speeding or punching someone, but that you must accept the responsibility for those actions.

OK, maybe two things. I think democracy is more than majority rules, which is why our imperfect (and perfection may well be an unattainable concept) democracy includes more than referendums. Protecting the minority from the tyrrany of the majority seems an important part. Protecting people from themselves does not.

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

Wow, y'all...This is going exactly as I had hoped! Has anything been solved? No, but we've been engaged, haven't we?

Interesting points raised by all, though I don't have much to add to the conversation (which only just started spreading out beyond the institution(s) of marriage/divorce into the larger realm of our government).

I chose this as the first topic because it seems a broad enough topic to allow for individual expression, that seems to have worked.

Miss Uz, I tend to agree with the sentiment of what you're saying. Why are kids who aren't even allowed to drive, allowed to get married. That seems a little preponderous, though are there others states beyond UT that allow this to happen? I'm assuming one of the Southern states, but I don't know for sure.

Anyway, thank you for carrying on without me this weekend, while I was moving.

Look for another one of these in the near future.

 
At 3:16 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Agreed 100%. But unless you hurt someone in an accident, penalizing people who speed seems to protect them from themselves.

Environmental regulations are also frequently opposed by conservatives because, as with the social costs of divorce, causality is nebulous.

The quandary for me is in those nuances, those grey areas where one cannot necessarily discern whether a real social ill is being addressed. And I have no answers on this matter: At this point, I'm simply elucidating my ignorance and helplessness.

 
At 3:19 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

This last response of mine was to JJ.

Beige, I agree with you 100% also. I hope, also, that all is well after your weekend of moving. Drop me an email soon. Oh, and throw down another topic.

 
At 3:19 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

>blink blink<

Is that RhenJhen I see over there?!?

Oh, and Stine, did participation in this thread cause you any undue discomfort?

Lastly:

Somewhere up there, I said "tantamount", when I think I meant "paramount". Trying to spit out too many thoughts with too little time.

Ahhh, perfect. This just made me laugh and made my day.

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Laughing at my linguistic faux-pas? Or at my "too many thoughts"?

 
At 3:31 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

at the faux pas and the drive to correct it on such a minuscule difference in contextual intent.

I dig it.

 
At 4:47 PM, Blogger Stine said...

No Beige, it didn't cause me too much discomfort. And yes, that is our Ms. Jhen.

Jhen you know my lyhound. You met him didn't you?

 
At 9:16 PM, Blogger 2ndaryHighway said...

Ideed we met, we all went out to see a performance beigy was in after making food at your place after you touched my butt. Then I fell asleep, sitting up, on your couch, even though there were about 10 people in your living room.

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger Stine said...

I like making food after I touch people's butts.

 
At 2:07 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

man, I never touched your butt...

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger Stine said...

It is nice to have a license from the state saying I can legally touch people's butts.

But this is turning into another post.

 
At 4:00 AM, Blogger fidelity said...

Important issue. have you seen what is going on at

TrueMarriage.net?

How about different marriages depending on what you want: fun, kids, contract, etc?

 

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