Undead homophobic cliché: Every culture’s ideal marriage looks like Ozzie and Harriet

A pro-gay marriage friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that, according to the Catholic Bishops of New York, the state’s new gay marriage law changes “radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage. We always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization.”
The “redefining” marriage argument crops a up a lot in the gay marriage debate. You’d think the way the antis talk about redefining marriage and marriage being a cornerstone of civilization, that the “historic understanding” of marriage has stood unchanged at least since Hammurabi laid down his laws in Babylon.
Anything but. This is the same sleight of hand I blogged about earlier this week. Start with the fact that all civilizations have something in common——marriage, in this case——then proceed on the basis that therefore the current understanding of marriage is equally universal. And hope nobody catches you in the lie.
(In fairness, the bishops and the other antis may be sincere. Wrong, but sincere. An astonishing number of conservatives seem convinced that the sexual patterns and family dynamics of the 1950s really do define what’s “normal” for all humanity).
Take the Old Testament, which I imagine the bishops have read a little of: The Israelites were all polygamous.
Or the medieval ages, when most people in western Europe didn’t even bother with a church or court ceremony: A simple handfasting and declaration of marriage too each other was enough.
Nor do we still dicker over dowries or bride prices or require parents’ permission to take their daughter from them.
Arranged marriages still happen, but they’re a rarity in this culture.
Women no longer lose ownership of their property to their husband when they marry (at least, not in the USA or the EU). Nor does the husband have the right to beat them.
Even within my own time, marriage has radically changed. Interracial marriage is legal; I’m sure the bishops would insist that’s completely different, but there are still people for whom that’s a massive taboo.
No-fault divorce was a massive redefinition too (of course, a lot of conservatives hate that one as well). It used to be you could only get a divorce over your spouse’s protest if you caught them cheating or beating you (hence the efforts to catch them in the act that livened up so many old movies and novels). Now it’s possible to walk away even if your spouse doesn’t want you to.
Husbands making less than their wives? Or staying home to be Mr. Mom? That redefines marriage too. As someone once pointed out, the fact they have diaper changing tables in men’s restrooms proves how far that ship has sailed. And birth control, which allows couples to control the number of kids they have, is a huge game-changer too (again, one the church loathes).
Marriage changes constantly. Sometimes the changes are in the law. Sometimes in society. Acting as if nobody’s tinkered with the system since Paris carried off Helen.
Like I said, anything but.
Bonus! A New York archbishop claims that allowing gay marriage is the kind of tyranny North Korea would impose. Presumably because of the marriage bill’s invisible-ink provisions to force everyone who opposes gay marriage into heterosexual labor camps.
And at the Catholic First Things site, a concern troll explains how gay marriage will be really a step backward for gays because trying to be equal denies them the special status God has for them. She doesn’t explain just how that works.

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7 responses to “Undead homophobic cliché: Every culture’s ideal marriage looks like Ozzie and Harriet

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