A Rational Defense of Marriage
An institution respected and existing unquestioned for millennia has now come under fire from groups as varied in convictions as left-liberals and Objectivists. Some would wish to redefine its scope, others-- to diminish the commitment its undertaking requires, and other still—to abolish it altogether. Those who purport to defend it in “mainstream culture” have nevertheless seldom pondered the matter systematically, resorting to either a traditionalist or a religious basis, which in itself are riddled with fallacies and unable to pinpoint, much less preserve, the precise values that the continued existence of marriage represents. It is no wonder that the proponents of “marriage reform” are winning both the legal and attitudinal battles, as the recent decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court to grant same-sex unions the designation, “marriage,” demonstrates. The case for marriage requires logical argumentation from the fundamentals, an explication of the terms involved and the values at stake. This treatise shall endeavor to establish a formulation not embracing an appeal to divine authority to present its case. Nevertheless, individuals of any religious convictions or lack thereof would be able to pursue the defense of their marriages under a just social order where these principles would be applied.
Marriage in the “pre-reform” sense, has been an option in almost every sedentary human society since the Neolithic revolution. No matter how varied the convictions prevailing in those cultures, the need for marriage was seen as essential as the need for food or water. To less filosofically developed peoples of the pre-Enlightenment epochs, there seemed no need to delve into its meaning any more than to delve into the meaning of a log of wood. They used both to establish a firm domestic situation, and this, to their concrete-bound mentalities, was all that mattered. More advanced thinkers, however, wish to analyze the universal aspects of marriage that rendered this stability possible. The lengthy existence of marriage is not in itself a warrant for its continued existence, nor its continued existence in the same form, unless the aforementioned form has provided the optimal realization of individual values. This is indeed a question exploring which is an urgent necessity. But first it is necessary to know what the historical definition of marriage is. Excluding, for a moment, the anomalous societies where polygamy was practiced, the almost universal definition of marriage prior to our time had been the exclusive economic union between a male and a female, undertaken with the assumption of permanent duration and granting the couple authorization to bear children.
Immediately after this postulation, a number of questions arise that a proponent of marriage under such a definition would need to answer affirmatively. Is exclusivity in a relationship necessary? Is permanence in a relationship necessary? Are shared economic and romantic responsibilities in a relationship a necessary package? Is official authorization needed to have children? Does government enforcement of a marriage contract need to occur? Is it necessary to restrict the marriage contract to one between two individuals of opposite genders? The burden of the marriage proponent is to answer these questions in the affirmative without proposing the violation of rights of any individual, including persons of same-sex preferences, whose contract-making capacity needs to be protected by the government to the same degree as that of any other individual. Hence arises another question: can the above definition of marriage be retained and legally recognized, while still maintaining equality under the law for those persons? This treatise shall reveal that, indeed, this is possible.
The ethics of marriage can be deduced from the Objectivist ethics of self-interest and individualism. According to Objectivism, the ultimate beneficiary of a moral action by a given individual should be that individual. Interacting with others, a moral individual must keep this goal in mind and respect a similar goal as the legitimate pursuit of all other volitionally conscious entities. Hence, all interpersonal relationships should be based on the trader principle, or a bilateral, consensual exchange of values between the parties involved. A romantic relationship is bound by this principle, if anything, to a far greater extent than other interactions, since it is a relationship of the greatest possible proximity between two individuals. As I had defined it in “The Public-Private Ethical Distinction,” “romantic love is the volitionally engendered, exclusive, and intense attraction between two individuals based on mutually beneficial material and intellectual/spiritual considerations.”
In order for this definition to validly characterize a relationship, another concept needs to be introduced, which I shall dub optimal compatibility. Optimal compatibility is the state in which the material and intellectual/spiritual attributes of two persons, as well as the values derived from those attributes, can be exchanged in entirety via the trader principle and still benefit both parties involved. Optimal compatibility need not be a utopian vision of absolute perfection in a relationship—disagreements, differences in character, and minor quarrels do not impede optimal compatibility so long as the totality of each individual’s values to be offered still brings an unparalleled net benefit to the other. Optimal compatibility is not an easy objective to accomplish, nor is it present in a majority of relationships today. However, it is attainable, as historical relationships, such as those of George and Martha Washington, Andrew and Rachel Jackson, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan demonstrate.
Is exclusivity in a relationship necessary?
Consider this: by the distinct nature of all individuals, it must be that only a single person of the opposite gender can exist whose dispositional, intellectual, and material endowments are best compatible with one’s own, and, self-evidently, it is with that person that one is fittest to enter a domestic partnership of mutual reinforcement. This does not mean that one needs to travel around the world to discover that one individual. Often, compatibility between two persons can be increased as a result of familiarity over a vast span of time. No individual, try as he may, can wear the entirety of his mind’s contents on his sleeve. Nor can he explicate his life’s filosofy in its full depth and expanse during one dinner conversation. A man’s mind is either a store of treasures amassed over a lifetime, or a rubbish heap of junk stuffed there by someone else through the retainer’s passive consent. If it is the former, what treasures are contained? Let the seeker try rummaging through a vast bank vault of gold bars, coins, and precious stones and see how long a time analyzing every single component will occupy. Then, let him add into consideration the factor that this vault is sentient, and each of its contents can only be analyzed with its permission. How long will the process of convincing it to reveal its secrets last? This is why “love at first sight,” much lauded in the conventional culture, is not only impractical but impossible. The greatest key to optimal compatibility between two individuals is familiarity over time. This is the surest means of ascertaining what values the other individual has to offer and whether these values are worth pursuing.
Time is perhaps the single most valuable commodity possessed by an individual; it is that dimension of existence in which his actions, of any sort, are materialized. It is that property of reality which allows him to invest his efforts into a given task and see the product of those investments materialize. As stated above, the time investment into forging optimal compatibility in a relationship is inherently enormous. There needs to be initial similarity on certain fundamental value-premises, which must be recognized explicitly. Then, the task becomes the creation of a working partnership on the basis of shared principles. The intention in a romantic relationship must always be to approach the other party genuinely and to exchange as many values as humanly possible. This is a commitment that, in order to reach to the fullest depth of the values that the other individual can offer, must remain exclusive and unshared. No other soul must venture into that precise dimension which is shared between a husband and wife. No comparable time investment into any living personality other than oneself and one’s partner should be made in quite the same manner (this does not concern other types of relationships, such as those between friends, siblings, and parents and children; these are different sferes of human relations with different values to be traded). To marry two women would imply insufficient payment to each for their attentions; to share a wife with another would render one the victim of such scant rewards. Both cases destruct the mutual compatibility of domestic partners. This is why, except in the harems of decadent feudal overlords and playboys, polygamy, even in countries where it was legal, had been shunned by the majority of men.
Is exclusivity in a relationship necessary?
Is permanence in a relationship necessary?
Time happens to be a finite commodity in the lives of humans today; this may not forever be the case. No matter how much time one has, however, it is prudent to invest it into one romantic relationship as opposed to many. Why? Because optimal compatibility is not a static condition! Once more, it increases with familiarity over time. The longer a time period is spent within a relationship, the firmer this compatibility, the greater the knowledge possessed by each partner of the other’s interests, that they may be shared, of the other’s sources of displeasure, that they may be avoided, of the other’s manner of acting, that it may be accurately interpreted, of the other’s ideology, that it may be logically extrapolated, of the other’s ambitions, that they may be pursued and attained with loyalty and diligence.
The man who establishes a marriage contract is like a frugal investor: he spends his money/energy moderately and invests the rest bit by bit to amplify the amount present and defend himself against possible turbulence in the future. A modicum of effort invested in a stable relationship can pay far greater interest in "emotional capital" with the other person than a gigantic one-day spending spree that leaves one with no money, stock seed, devotion, or anything else. This is why couples who have remained together for many decades have almost no major quarrels and seem nearly perfectly compatible. Certainly, during their lengthy coexistence, there occurred moments of disagreement, likely even strong disagreement, which might have severed the relationship were it not for the familiarity of the two individuals with each other. Given this familiarity, it becomes far more likely that each individual will view the disagreement as either a misunderstanding or a tolerable difference, rather than a malicious ploy to undermine the other. As Ayn Rand aptly recognized, there is no conflict of interest among fully rational persons. So long as a couple shares fundamental value-premises that are compatible with reason and individual prosperity, and takes the time to learn the precise nature of the individuals involved, clashes will be less likely to occur and, even when they do, will be seen as mere potholes on the path, to be filled by the far more powerful road-paver that is the marriage relationship.
Certain opponents of permanence in marriage will claim that “individuals grow and change over time” and what may once have been a compatible relationship is no longer such because of this “growth” in one of the parties involved. First, I ask, what “growth” is this that acts to the detriment of one’s ability to attain values from a previously productive relationship? If anything, it is not growth, but rather a decline in one’s abilities to benefit one’s very self! Moreover, marriage as a relationship, under the “historical” definition, is available only to adult individuals for a reason. Adults are assumed to have matured to the point of developing entirely their own hierarchy of value-premises. The remainder of their lives is to be devoted to actualizing these premises in practice, through work, relationships, and all other interests. Those who do not yet have a soundly defined hierarchy of values, but are still in the process of forming it, are not yet prepared to undertake a romantic commitment; they cannot judge another individual to be optimally compatible with them because they are not fully aware of what this optimal compatibility will constitute!
Alas, if only the majority of adults today lived up to the responsibilities of rational thought and living that their autonomy requires of them! If only they had bothered to develop a systematic hierarchy of value-premises rather than live on the spur of the moment, guided by any arbitrary, self-contradictory hash stuffed into them by mainstream culture! And of the ones that do have an inkling of systematic thought, if only they could analyze the candidate for a romantic relationship with the most thorough scrutiny before committing themselves to the marriage endeavor! These are choices that these individuals must make of their own accord, for such decisions are necessary prerequisites to a successful permanent relationship. Let them wait and introspect and “grow and change” before they enter the lifelong commitment of marriage. But by no means need we disparage the very concept of a permanent relationship simply because some are unready to enter one. Half the marriages in the present era fail, not because marriage itself is flawed, but because the individuals rushing into it are. As Ayn Rand (who spent fifty years in a successful partnership with Frank O’Connor) would have said, if you find your world not to live up to the standards of the world envisioned in the concept of marriage, do not check its premises; check yours.
An attitude of indiscriminate “sampling” of relationships is counterproductive and saps the very ability of an individual to invest his energies into a firm partnership. Yet it is granted that, in some instances, even the best-intentioned individuals can make the error of rushing into relationships too quickly. They may discover that the resulting marriage is not merely devoid of values, but presents actual harm to their individual interests. For their initial mistake, they need not be penalized permanently, and a divorce can be granted to them as an emergency measure, just as sometimes children must be separated from abusive parents. But the intention of a marriage relationship is permanence; it is not proper to enter one with the expectation that it will someday be dissolved. That is analogous to initiating a bank account with the expectation of the bank collapsing someday. For an individual rejecting the flimsy, hedonistic “live for today” attitude and considering the values to be gained during the totality of his life, a permanent relationship is the sole means of accomplishing an everlasting fulfillment in the romantic sfere. No man is obligated, either legally or morally, to enter a romantic relationship in the first place, but, if he does seek one, he should exercise the moral fortitude and consistency to render it everlasting.
Is permanence in a relationship necessary?
Romance and Economics
Are shared economic and romantic responsibilities in a relationship a necessary package?
We have already determined that a romantic relationship is of the highest proximity possible between two individuals, and that it ought to be exclusive and permanent. All of this is necessary in order to establish optimal compatibility through familiarity over time. But an individual’s life involves actions outside the romantic sfere that must be undertaken in order to ensure his survival and prosperity. The microeconomic realm of a household is concerned precisely with attaining the material requirements for individual flourishing. The household contains the property which an individual can apply most directly to himself. He can turn on his computer and type up a filosofical treatise. He can sit by the side of his piano and compose a melody. He can open his refrigerator and prepare himself a meal. While, at his workplace, especially if an individual owns a business, he may possess other property, this property ultimately aims to furnish property for the household that the individual can directly take advantage of. The household is also the repository of the individual’s personal finances, which are directed to the purchase of property which he can most directly employ. In summation, it is the most proximate economic sfere to that individual. It is also the sfere into which the majority of an individual’s time is invested.
But how can an individual invest the majority of his time into the most proximate economic sfere and simultaneously invest the majority his time into the most proximate romantic sfere? This is only attainable by overlapping the two realms. Only thus will it be possible to receive genuine satisfaction in both of them. Optimal compatibility between two individuals involves intimate awareness of all the critical aspects of those individuals’ activities, and, if such an integral sfere as the economic management of the household is left out, optimal compatibility cannot occur; the individuals’ knowledge of each other is incomplete. To separate the mind from the body, the spiritual from the material, is improper, it is to create the deadly ghost-corpse dichotomy that Ayn Rand repeatedly warned about. In order for familiarity between two individuals to be established, it must be forged in the material realm as well. What material objects does one’s partner enjoy, and what monetary allocations need to be made for them? What objects does one’s partner consider critical to assuring his/her happiness in his/her daily life? If the exchange of values is a defining component of a romantic relationship, how can one assist his/her partner in furnishing these material values? Each couple must discover the unique answers to these questions, which is possible only in a shared household with shared economic responsibilities.
The reason why marriage is primarily an economic contract, though it solidifies a romantic relationship, is because the romantic attraction between two individuals was already present prior to the initiation of marriage, though it should become fortified as the relationship endures over time. Marriage creates the economic arrangements by which a shared household can be established. It permits for shared property, shared finances, the prerogative of each partner to act economically on behalf of the household, as well as the ability of one partner to be informed of the other’s economic decisions without violating any rights to privacy. Partners in a married couple are not strangers, and privacy is not violated when any economic decision made by one is shared with the other. Such disclosure of information is clearly inappropriate where the general society is concerned, and the marriage contract exists to distinguish, in an economic sense, one’s partner from the general society.
Are shared economic and romantic responsibilities in a relationship a necessary package?
Marriage and Children
Is official authorization needed to have children?
No one has the obligation to bear children, and simply because a couple is in a married relationship does not imply that it must have children by any means. This is a decision that must be made by both individuals in the couple and must weigh the values that the child would bring against the expenses that its presence would incur. But, once a child is conceived, there comes about the parental obligation to assure its transition to autonomy.
Objectivist psychologist Nathaniel Branden explains the necessity of parental obligation:
“A child is the responsibility of his parents, because (a) they brought him into existence, and (b) a child, by nature, cannot survive independently. (The fact that the parents might not have desired the child, in a given case, is irrelevant in this context; he is nevertheless the consequence of their chosen actions—a consequence that, as a possibility, was foreseeable.)
The essence of parental responsibility is: to equip the child for independent survival as an adult. This means, to provide for the child's physical and mental development and wellbeing: to feed, clothe and protect her; to raise her in a stable, intelligible, rational home environment, to equip him intellectually, training him to live as a rational being; to educate him to earn his livelihood (teaching him to hunt for instance, in a primitive society; sending him to college, perhaps, in an advanced civilization). When the child reaches the age of legal maturity and/or when she has been educated for a career, parental obligation ends. Thereafter, parents may still want to help their child, but he or she is no longer their responsibility.” (Nathaniel Branden, Interview with Karen Reedstrom, April 5, 1998)
This obligation is not to be taken lightly; it is the child’s warrant for obtaining full economic security during its time of dependence on the parents. This is the responsibility of both parents and not merely one; no one parent is to be obliged to bear the entirety of the burden of the child’s upbringing on him/herself. But this economic security can be given the child only if it exists in the first place! It can be shared by the two parents only if they have a shared household with shared economic responsibilities. Only the economic contract of marriage permits them to jointly endow the child with economic security in a harmonious, non-conflicting manner. Only the stability of marriage will permit the child to enjoy the company of both the mother and the father without needing to be shipped over to the mother’s house for a week while being denied the company of the father, or vice versa. Moreover, only the cooperation between two parents in a marriage will permit the child to obtain the necessary values for embarking onto an independent, rational life.
Consider this: the two genders are equal in individual rights and prerogatives to action, but this does not deny the self-evident proposition that they are not identical. Nor is the role of the mother in the upbringing of the child identical to the role of the father. The mother, for example, is the only individual that can bear the child in the first place. The mother is the child’s closest companion during the first year of its life, and no infant, in my experience, could ever stand to be separated from its mother for any lengthy period of time. Afterward, the mother continues to give the child instruction and reinforcement and to treat it with gentleness, in order to assure it that it lives in a benevolent universe where it, as an individual, possesses doubtless value. The father, in his instruction to the child, should rather treat it with firmness, demonstrating a consistency of principle and intensity of devotion to the child, but also exhibiting a certain formality in his approach and not necessarily entering the intimate sfere of this child’s existence that the mother had known from the womb. The mother’s show of love could be a hug or a kiss; the father’s is more frequently a pat on the back. Both components of upbringing are complementary and mutually reinforcing; they are best realized if they occur simultaneously within the same household. A child’s ego requires both comfort and security within, as well as strength and dedication externally.
If an economically secure home with both parents present is the best possible place to raise a child, and the marriage contract brings a couple into a single home and provides arrangements for shared economic security, what better aegis to raise a child under than a marriage contract? What better mechanism exists that compounds all the factors necessary for the adequate fulfillment of parental obligation? Since the beneficent material and spiritual effects of parental care are a child’s expectation by right, and it is the function of the government to protect individual rights, it is the function of the government to ensure that parental obligations are not violated. It is the function of the government to attempt, in a manner minimally intrusive to anyone’s privacy, to ensure that every child lives under the guardianship of a married couple. Recognizing that Big Brother methods such as spy cameras, public education behemoths, and weekly visits by state counselors are subversive of individual liberty, the most effective and moral way to ascertain that parental obligation is met is to require marriage as a precondition for having children legitimately! The legitimate/illegitimate distinction among children has existed in nearly every Western culture to date, and for a reason; a child born in a married relationship where it can be sustained is a joy to be celebrated; a child born out of wedlock is yet another disruption in a sea of turbulence and uncertainty. Of course, once a child is conceived, in wedlock or out of it, parents have the obligation to raise it to autonomy or, if incapable of doing so, to transfer the care of the child to someone else. If the parents get married after bearing the child and are able to care for it in the stable setting established under such a marriage, then the status of the child’s illegitimacy can be removed. In the vast majority of such instances, government would do well to encourage late marriages of this sort as alternatives to no marriages whatsoever. It is better to make a mistake and reverse it than to continue amplifying it.
It is, of course, also the right of the child to be free of parental abuse. Thus, despite the fact that parental obligation involves a married relationship between the parents, divorce in families with one or more children present should not be ruled out as an option, if one of the parents can clearly be demonstrated in a court of law to be of detriment to the child and/or his/her spouse. However, the criteria for granting such a divorce should be far more stringent than those for a divorce where only the lives of the two individuals separating would be affected. In the latter case, a mere discovery of the unlikelihood of optimal compatibility should suffice as evidence in a court of law that the relationship should be discontinued at the consent of both parties. However, when a child’s right to a materially and intellectually sound upbringing enters the picture, it must trump all other considerations except those of the fysical safety of the parents. I would propose that, outside of cases of clear abuse and harm to the child or one of the parents in the relationship, divorces should not be granted to couples with children until the children reach functional maturity. The child has done nothing to deserve the penalty of insufficient parental care, and thus should not be permitted in a court of law to incur such a punishment.
Objectivists cannot legitimately argue against this ideal by calling the requirements of parents in certain situations to be a “sacrifice” of their individual prerogatives. Branden states:
“One of the cruelest injustices that parents can perpetrate is to reproach a child for being a financial burden or for requiring time and attention, as if the child's legitimate needs were an imposition on them-to complain to the child of the ‘sacrifices’ made for his or her sake, as if the child were to feel apologetic or guilty-to state or imply that the child's mere existence is an unfair strain, as if the child had any choice in the matter.” (Nathaniel Branden, Interview with Karen Reedstrom, April 5, 1998)
Is official authorization needed to have children?
Marriage and Government
Does government enforcement of a marriage contract need to occur?
The three legitimate functions of government, according to the Objectivist system of laissez-faire capitalism, are the military, the police, and the courts of law. One of the critical functions of the courts is the enforcement of voluntary contracts made between individuals. So crucial is this activity that other laissez-faire economists of our time, most notably Milton Friedman, have cited it as the fourth legitimate sfere of government activity as a means of emfasizing its importance. Whether we consider it a fourth function or a subset of the third, its need becomes evident. In a contract, individuals put forth the terms of their value-trade and bring about a legally binding instrument for resolving instances wherein one of the parties defaults on its promise. It becomes the function of the courts to uphold the contract in the event of violation and to dictate the penalties for such infraction either as determined explicitly in the contract or by the impartial judgment of the court. Friedman once wrote that the function of the government in this case is that of a referee; the government lets the individuals alone to “play the game” according to the rules those individuals had agreed to, but, once one or more of those rules is infringed upon, the government arbitrates the process in an attempt to bring about just compensation and mitigation of harms.
So, what precisely is a legitimate means of government enforcement of the marriage contract? If a marriage proceeds according to expectations, and there are scant, if any, conflicts, the government’s immediate services are not necessary. Both parties are playing the game by the rules, and the referee needs to but stand by and do nothing. He merely needs to be aware of the fact that couple had signed a marriage contract in the first place. But if the participants of a marriage come to view the contract’s terms as violated, or wish to seek the termination of a marriage via a divorce, they must appeal to the courts in order to do so. Whim is not a justification for terminating a pre-formulated exchange of values. The courts must determine that an infringement of contract has indeed occurred, that the continued marriage is no longer viable, and that a termination should be granted. It is the obligation of the courts to hear the statements of both individuals to this effect, as well as to resolve how previously shared property and responsibilities must now be apportioned between the separating individuals in a manner consistent with the original contract.
Does government enforcement of a marriage contract need to occur?
Yes, if by enforcement, it is meant that the services of government should always exist as a recourse in the event that something in the marriage goes amiss.
Male and Female
Is it necessary to restrict the marriage contract to one between two individuals of opposite genders?
Let the reader note that the question to be answered here is not, “Is the romantic relationship between two individuals of opposite genders the only valuable one or the most valuable one?” It is not my purpose to defend such an assertion, nor do I agree with it. Nor is it the government’s purpose to restrict the contractual liberties of same-sex couples. Indeed, these individuals, like any other volitionally conscious entities, must be given equal protection of their rights by the government. This is not a question of ethics; I have no ethical objection to the conduct of those individuals. Indeed, to quote Bill O’Reilly, “I just want [them] to lead a good life.” But I do harbor objections to the notion of a “homosexual marriage,” not on ethical grounds, but on far more fundamental metafysical ones.
The critical inquiry on this issue is not, “Is a heterosexual relationship better than a homosexual one?” but rather “Are the two relationships different?” Upon even the most rudimentary examination, one will find that, indeed, they are different, and inherently and inextricably so.
For example, a heterosexual relationship grants the couple the potential, though not the obligation, to bear children. This potential is not granted in a homosexual relationship. Marriage, to date, has been, in part, a legal sanction for the creation of children, something that would be irrelevant in a contractual union between homosexuals.
Moreover, as already mentioned, the two genders may be equal, but they are not identical. They are not identical fysically, nor do they necessarily emfasize the same qualities in a relationship. In the raising of a child, the female’s emfasis on gentleness and the male’s emfasis on firmness is merely an example of a far more complex set of differences that actualizes itself within any possible relationship. (Note the word emfasis; neither quality is the exclusive dominion of a given gender, but rather persons of one gender tend to focus on a given quality more than those of another.) A man’s relationship to his brother is not the same as his relationship to his sister, and would certainly not be the same as a woman’s relationship to her brother, and her relationship to her sister. Thus, a relationship between a male and a female cannot be the same as the relationship between a male and a male or a female and a female. Examples abound of productive, stable, mutually reinforcing relationships of all these sorts, including those where homosexual and heterosexual unions had brought nothing but happiness and progress to all parties involved. But this does not mean that one should call his sister a brother, nor does it mean that one should call a homosexual relationship a marriage. One of these things is not like the other!
Certainly, there are similarities. A man’s brother and his sister would both share the same biological parents with him. They would be exposed to the upbringing provided by those parents. Correspondingly, both a heterosexual permanent union and a homosexual permanent union would require an economic contract permitting for shared property, shared finances, and shared prerogatives to action. This is currently fulfilled under a “civil union” for homosexuals, without the need to designate their bond a marriage.
Nevertheless, it is understood that certain homosexual couples wish to recognize the romantic dimension to their relationship within the name of such a partnership, a function that the name “marriage” currently fulfills for heterosexual couples. There is no reason to deny them this option, but there is also no reason to call this relationship a marriage! Let them invent their own special name for their bond, and celebrate it in the manner they deem proper! Let them gain the consent of the State for establishing such a name as the official title of their civil union contract! I will not venture to put forth suggestions as to how this relationship should be named, as this is their prerogative and their decision, not mine.
But I stand adamantly in opposition to applying the term “marriage” to same-sex relationships. It is essential to recall Rand’s assertion of the crucial need for strict, unalterable definitions. These definitions serve to identify the actual existents of reality and to guard against the intrusion of the arbitrary into one’s life and conceptual framework. The “historical” definition of marriage as the exclusive economic union between a male and a female, undertaken with the assumption of permanent duration and granting the couple authorization to bear children, characterizes a unique type of relationship that is distinct in its metafysical nature from a possible permanent relationship between homosexuals. The “historical” definition characterizes a valid existent, an integrated totality of concepts. The “reformed” definition would rather lump two different types of relationships together into the same category, rendering those unfamiliar with the old definition conceptually incapable of seeing any differences between the two! This smacks of feminists’ attempts to erase the self-evident differences between males and females, or of the Oceanians’ quest to obliterate dissent by lumping any thought in opposition to the Party along with any thought about initiating fysical force into the same word, “crimethink.” This “broadening” of definitions to include anything and everything one wants, regardless of the evidence of logic and the senses, is deadly!
The institution of “homosexual marriage” would grant no new values to homosexuals; they already have the option of obtaining an economic contract proper to their relationship under a civil union. However, it would act to the immense detriment of real marriage, and its meaning and enforcement within the eyes of the government. This is a tactic of concept-obliteration, employed by those who would wish to undermine an institution which, as this entire treatise has borne testimony to, is a bastion of individual liberty and happiness, a supreme citadel of resistance against the intrusions of the welfare state into the private sfere of existence. It is no wonder that, ever since the “homosexual marriage legalization” campaign has emerged into the field of the general public’s awareness, every big-government-advocating leftist of every possible stripe, be he a Marxist, a feminist, an affirmative action racist, an eco-statist, or any combination of the above, jumped onto the campaign’s bandwagon almost overnight. They see abyss into which marriage can be plunged by “broadening” its definition. It is a pity that proponents of marriage seldom do. Most of them are either equipped to defend marriage from a religious perspective, which disarms them automatically before those who aptly point out the need to keep church and state separate. Or they contend that this country’s practices have historically been to recognize only unions between males and females as “marriages.” Then, they are rendered powerless by a simple, “So what? Just because it happened, does not mean it is right.”
There are also the well-intentioned advocates of “broadening” the definition, into which category most Objectivists would likely fall. They would claim that the legalization of “homosexual marriage” would merely assure someone else’s liberties while not intervening with their own. But, as already demonstrated, no one’s liberties are being extended by this reform. Rather, in the time of a generation if not less, marriage will cease to be seen as the most fitting environment in which to raise a child, the expectation of two-parent homes with a mother and father for children will be eroded, and parental obligations will not be met by cultural default. After all, if some marriages have the potential to create children, while other marriages do not, and all marriages are treated in precisely the same manner, who is to say what marriage has to do with raising children in the first place?! If parental obligations are not met, as met they must be, the State can assume a quasi-legitimate stance for intervening into the domestic sfere to an unprecedented extent. The State can claim moral guardianship of the child where the parents (or absence thereof) had failed to provide it. The State can establish comprehensive indoctrination facilities beginning with the cradle, not the first grade, which, due to the increasing cultural perception of their necessity after the vacuum left by the destruction of the family, will eventually become mandatory. Sound familiar? The leftists have already done this with education. They will not hesitate to do this again with nursery care and the off-school hours; they only require a proper excuse.
Is it necessary to restrict the marriage contract to one between two individuals of opposite genders?
A resounding “Yes!”
In this essay, I have answered affirmatively, from the fundamentals of such a rationally structured system as Objectivism, every question needed to ascertain the irreplaceable value of marriage as an institution. The battle for marriage as it had been, can be, and ought to be, has not yet been lost. Certain states with notably “leftist fringe” constituencies (i.e. California and Massachusetts) have legalized “same-sex marriages,” but in most others the battle is still being waged. FOX News continues to release poll after poll affirming that the majority of Americans is still opposed to the idea. They have a vague inkling of why this is so, but seldom do they exhibit a systematic, secular understanding of why marriage must be preserved under the “historical” definition. And no, “History” does not suffice as an answer! May this essay help them articulate their viewpoint. In order to survive unfettered, marriage will need all the help it can get. As Ayn Rand would say, “It is earlier than you think.” Man the defenses, advocates of Reason!
G. Stolyarov II is an actuary, science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, former weekly columnist for GrasstopsUSA.com, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov’s blog, The Progress of Liberty, offers a combination of commentary, multimedia presentations, educational materials, and suggestions for effective activism in favor of individual freedom. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on Helium.com and Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. He holds the highest Clout Level (10) possible on Associated Content. Mr. Stolyarov has also written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a non-fiction treatise, A Rational Cosmology, and a play, Implied Consent. You can watch his YouTube Videos. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at email@example.com.
Statement of Policy.
Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.