Saturday, September 6, 2008

Abolish State Sanctioned Marriage

With the nomination of Sarah Palin as VP by the Republican Party, and the upcoming vote on an anti-gay marriage proposition in California the question of gay marriage has once again come to the fore. Everyone from Obama to McCain seems to have a problem with gay marriage except for the people most directly involved who, of course, are firm advocates thereof.

There is a way, however, to resolve the issue once and for all, abolish marriage as a state sanctioned institution. Marriage as presently constituted is a contractual agreement between two parties. Until recently these parties have been restricted to one male and one female. But why should this be the case? Under most circumstances a contract, whereby the rights and obligations of the signatories are delineated, should be universally applicable. Why not then establish civil unions as the contractual agreement by which the rights and obligations of two parties who enter into a relationship of cohabitation are codified? In this fashion everyone is treated equally. Once a couple enters into a civil union, which would convey the rights and obligations presently given to married people, they could then have that union sanctified by whatever religious or secular ceremony they wish. The status of marriage would thus no longer to certified by the state but would be something that would be bestowed upon the couple by whatever institution is willing to sanctify it. Thus the Catholic Church could grant or deny a certificate of marriage to whomever they want. The couple nevertheless would have a legally constituted civil union with the same rights and privileges as any other. To be married by the church or any other institution would require the legal standing of having entered into a civil union but having done so would not obligate the body that sanctifies the relationship to concur. Marriage would henceforth not be a legally recognized institution and the controversy would cease to exist, other than within the ranks of whatever group by which the couple wishes to be sanctified.

PS: I'm apparently not the only one to put forth this argument. For instance, see Michael Kinsley at Slate.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin's Family Values

Our potential VP, Sarah Palin, has a set of well-articulated first principles regarding childbirth and raising families. She has put forth these believes without hesitation and they provide her ideological appeal to the right wing Evangelical base of the Republican Party. These first principles are 1) abstinence only education, 2) a ban on secular sex-education in the public schools, 3) prohibition of abortion except in the case of an imminent threat to the life of the mother (and this seems to be only grudgingly accepted), and 4) disapproval of any means of contraception.

These positions basically entail the following – if an underage child becomes pregnant she should carry the fetus to term. A further corollary of this way of thinking is that the father of the child should take responsibility for his behavior, marry the mother and support the family. Without passing judgment on the appropriateness of any one of these believes lets look at the consequence of their articulated acceptance. Given the biological realities of adolescence, promotion of abstinence only sexual behavior, without recourse to any other form of sex education and with an aversion to the use of condoms or other birth control devices will willy-nilly produce a significant number of teen pregnancies.

Under Palin’s ideology the prohibition of abortion precludes the teenage mother from any real choice as to whether or not to proceed with the pregnancy. The infant hence will be brought to term. After birth the pressure will be for the family to rally around the mother and child and force the young father to marry the mother, promoting the notion that the mother should for-go her education and rear the child at home. The only alternative would be to give the child up for adoption, in which case the teen mother has basically served as a baby factory, enslaved to produce the infant as a commodity to be dispensed with after birth.

For Palin and her ilk this would seem to be an unlikely outcome. The young family will then have to either rely on the resources of the adults to survive or the father will have to seek employment in a low paying job. In order to make ends meet there would be a great incentive for the young husband and father to enlist in the armed forces for the benefits that would accrue to the young couple.

When you combine Palin’s evangelical belief’s regarding abortion, contraception, and family values with her staunch support of the NRA and other similar stands, the picture that emerges is a tacit endorsement of teenage pregnancies and teenage marriages, with stay at home mom’s home schooling their children in creationism and other biblical fantasies while the fathers go off to wage war in the Middle East against the diabolical heathens, in preparation for the end days. These are the type of family values implicit in Palin’s ideology, which might find residence in the White House if worse comes to worse.

More on this topic can be found at Slate.