What’s the point of marriage? In our modern society, does it serve any useful purpose? Why do we define a romantic and sexual relationship with a legal contract?

In the past, marriage may have had a purpose. It defined women as the property of men, and allowed men to control women, their fertility and their children. It supposedly defined paternity and allowed for complex property law based on inheritance. It also defined the obligations of each partner to the other and supposedly made men responsible for providing for their children.

Now, none of this is relevant. People are not property. A relationship is a voluntary and conditional thing that each party can enter into or exit from at any time for any reason. We have laws defining the financial and legal responsibilities of parents as individuals, so that each parent is responsible for the welfare of their children regardless of the children’s other parent.

We are also gradually moving towards a legal system which sees it as each individual’s responsibility to financially support themselves, so when divorce or separation occurs, each parent is obligated to financially provide for their children but not for each other. The existing situation where a non-custodial parent has been financially destroyed by excessive child maintenance payments (which effectively means ex-partner maintenance) is being replaced by a situation where payments for child support are more transparent.

Equally, joint ownership of real estate and other property can be effectively managed through property law, not through marriage law.

Rather than some marginalised people having to fight for legal equality because of relationship discrimination, such as to allow de facto partners (gay or straight) having access to sick partners in hospital, superannuation payments, and so on, it would be far simpler to define each person as an individual and allow them to nominate a significant partner for legal purposes, similar to an enduring power of attorney.

For social security payments and other government payments, the present system makes no sense. It determines what each person is eligible for based on who sleeps in the same bed as them, not on what income they receive. I could live separately from my partner, for example, but still be financially supported by them. This arrangement, however, would be invisible to the government. Conversely, just because I cohabit with someone I may have sex with, why does that alter how the government defines me? I may be in a cohabiting sexual relationship where I am not financially supported by my partner. How could I prove this when all the government wants to know is who I’m fucking and where?

The underlying assumptions about relationships, money, property and identity held by society and the government are an antiquated nonsense. Living in a government recognised cohabiting sexual relationship (in other words, heterosexual) gives me more legal rights and opportunities in some circumstances. Why is this the case? This is pure discrimination.

Marriage should disappear. It’s legal shadow, ‘de facto’ marriage or relationships, should also disappear. Each of us should be considered by the law in all areas to be an autonomous individual with rights and responsibilities. Who I choose to fuck and where I choose to fuck them is no one else’s business. It is not economic activity. It is social activity. Sex is a recreational activity like golf or dining out.

Except, of course, it is economic when the government sees sex as work that earns income. “In economic terms, marriage is simply one form of prostitution.”

As one blogger (perhaps) satirically wrote: “Marriage? What are you crazy? It only makes sense if you can marry up and cash in.” Another US blogger, Christopher Paige, writes:

Ultimately, the Gay Marriage Campaign will destroy marriage, at least marriage as it currently exists. Instead of seeking to have gay marriages approved, Gay Rights Groups would probably do much better, from a legal perspective, to litigate to have all marriages declared null and void, on the grounds that all marriages are contracts for sex. Once sex is removed from marriage, the state won’t care if the parties marrying are of the same sex or of the opposite, or even if the parties are related. Can you imagine “religious/family values groups” arguing in court that they need marriage to include the “contracting for sexual services” provision?

marriage is irrelevant

2 thoughts on “marriage is irrelevant

  • 1 April 2007 at 9:35 am
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    Wow!!! I hear that you want to abolish marriage…I would ask…why can’t you just ignore it…I feel it is important for people to choose, whatever the past used marriage for.

    Where is love in your blog? I question whether you love yourself? I imagine you feel very angry and hurt…

    I may have agreed with you once…I was sexually abused as a child by a man who believed he owned his wife and children and needed to be in control of everyone else…he failed to stay in control of himself…I don’t believe he even liked himself let along love himself. I took the scars – rage – from this relationship into my 17-yr marriage and in turn, was determined to be in control…fighting all the time for equality, etc. My ex-husband had affairs and I withdrew my sexuality…neither actions were good for a loving relationship…we had 2 children who were 3 and 5 when he left…they left to live with him when they were 12 and 14 because I was too angry still, even though I cried a lot…I was suicidal…a friend held the mirror up to me…I went into counselling…I started to turn my life around and love myself…I wanted to give back and am a counsellor/psychotherapist helping others: survivors of childhood sex abuse and those wanting good or better relationships…all have and do need to love themselves first.

    Now I believe we can have and do what we want, with choice and without hurting others…yes be selfish in a good way…I want to give back even more and have written a book on relationships including my story to reach and help people/couples.

    It doesn’t matter whether people are gay or hetrosexual…loving themselves is what counts..this is the secret that everyone needs to know. With the Law of Atraction, if we love ourselves and give love, we will receive more love whether in an external relationship or not…we have many parts inside us and like an orchestra, we need a good conductor to make good music…we can orchestrate the relationship of these parts to be the best we can be…with love, for love…Anita Jackson

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  • 14 January 2008 at 2:03 am
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    Sorry – this is not a response to Anita Jackson’s post. Rather, it is my own musings as I contemplate marriage.

    As I read this article, and others relating to marriage, it occurs to me again that laws on marriage (or anything) exist to preserve law and order. Perhaps excluding “law” would make a better, if less predictable definition. In any event, people get married because they want to declare to the world that they love each other.

    Do they? Maybe they want their loved one to make that declaration.

    Either way, I like this concept. It gives me the same warmth that introducing my loved one gave me when I introduced her to my mother.

    But there is a pragmatic purpose to marriage even if it was primarily intended to be a legal avenue for the passage of property rights: That is that it “guaranteed” that both partners would contribute to the care and eductaion of the children of the marriage. This website refers to individuals having responsibility for the children.

    This causes me some concern, but why? Surely I would choose a partner with whom I would have children who would voluntarily want the best for my (and her) children. What would happen if a world such as the one in this website existed, and I married a woman who didn’t care for our children?

    Well, I would have to be chained to my work until my children received the care that I wanted for them. So what am I really frightened of? What do I want from marriage?

    I am frightened that I will make a wrong choice. I want the law to protect my children, and thereby, me.

    And my partner, if she wants marriage, wants the same back-stop. The same guarantee. Are we not both cowards for not trusting each other?

    There is one other thing missing: If marriage did not “force” me to care for my children, and my partner didn’t care to either, what of society? Why should society bear the costs of my bad judgement? Why should the man next door pay taxes to care for my children, because I had the bad judgement to have children I didn’t want, to a woman who also didn’t want them?

    Whilst I love the concept of declaring my love, I don’t like the idea of society bearing the costs of my poor choice in a partner.
    Corollary: If society wants to protect itself from my bad judgement (to preserve law and order), do it properly. Have something like the Partnerships Act apply to all partnerships – including marriage. I would more likely enter such a contract where the terms are written down. I can’t even find a sound, legal definition of marriage.

    Of course – I could always draw up a pre-nuptial contract. But I see the happy and warm feeling is already putting on its jacket getting ready to leave.

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