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Secular Reasons for 'No' in Marriage Referendum

category national | rights, freedoms and repression | opinion/analysis author Wednesday April 08, 2015 16:27author by rojosauthor email saoririseoir at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

Here are some secular reasons to vote No in the upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage.

Whatever one personally thinks of marriage, just like religion, it should be consigned to the private sphere: I). on philosophical grounds; and ii). because State support for marriage directly contributes to inequality of the treatment of families, and directly discriminates against unmarried parents and their children - regardless of whether the parents are 'straight' or same-sex.

I am not alone in thinking that all marriage is an unnecessary fetish which is the legacy of religious ritual. Where private ceremonies are concerned, it is none of my business; and if invited, I can go along for the party and wish the couple well (within our closed circle of wedding-invitees, or a personal announcement in Social Media etc.). However, as a citizen, the State’s involvement in marriage is my business; and I object on two grounds:

Firstly, State involvement with marriage custom is as archaic as mentions of god in the Constitution or Statute books of any State. If there were to be a referendum on extending the definition of ‘god’ in the Constitution to include all deities, I, as an atheist, would be conscience-bound to vote No, because no god has any place in a Constitution. Concomitantly, when an extension of the legitimisation of marriage is proposed, I am also duty-bound to vote No – because I am against State involvement in marriage.

Despite my personal opinion on marriage, I cannot, and do not, have objections to what people wish to do in their own private ceremonies; or in their campaigns within respective cultural or religious groups to achieve equality within those contexts (including equal access to religious rites). But the State has no business in legislating for, or interfering in, the intimate relationships of consenting adults.

The second reason, is that, because the State’s involvement with marriage is intrinsically bound up with its definitions and redefinitions of the family, it is necessarily directly discriminatory against unmarried families. The following examples are based on the traditional unmarried vs. married family models, for illustrative purposes; but if the referendum is carried, the institutionalised discriminatory divide will merely be maintained across all family types (straight and gay parents alike).

a). Current state involvement with marriage is discriminatory against unmarried fathers, because even after the new family legislation, they do not have automatic rights of guardianship, joint custody, or even access to their children. Conversely, children do not have automatic rights of access to their unmarried fathers. This state of affairs is absurd, and deeply sexist (i.e., discriminatory on grounds of gender).

Marriage, of course, guarantees automatic rights of guardianship, joint custody, and access, to both married partners (whether or not both of them happen to be the biological parents).

Whether or not the referendum is passed, a complete stranger can come along and marry the ‘primary’ parent, and regardless of the wishes of the excluded parent (who may be the biological parent), have all of those automatic rights; and the children have no say.

b). unmarried primary parents are expected to do impossible time-juggling with the back-to-work pressure from when the youngest child turns seven.

c). The State discourages unmarried fathers from having an active family life – thus perpetuating the stereotype of the feckless unmarried father. There should be no difference between how a married or unmarried family is treated.

d). currently, parents need to be married for children to have automatic rights of inheritance.

The welfare of children must be looked to outside of the institution of marriage, because to do otherwise would be to discriminate against the 33% of children born outside wedlock in this country. If Britain and France are ahead of us in social trends, we can expect even more children outside of marriage (UK 48%, and France 52%). We need to work with this social fact, and not against it by bestowing benefits on those who marry.

This country has a legacy of putting unmarried families at a disadvantage – a shameful legacy which should be reversed immediately and completely. This referendum, if not a red herring, is reinforcing this legacy, as well as legitimising and strengthening a discriminatory, unhealthy, and decaying institution.

In sum, the State should treat all children and families equally, and stop discriminating against them on the grounds of marriage. Like religion, any marriage is a personal and private matter which does not belong in a modern or postmodern, secular Civic Sphere. The proposal masks the real inequalities in an increasing number of families, resulting from the State’s heavy support for an archaic fetish; and encouraging such irrational support should be seen in times to come, as a retrograde statement by the Irish electorate.

author by Mike Novackpublication date Wed Apr 08, 2015 23:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You have given perfectly reasonable arguments for why you oppose "marriage" for anybody.

However none of those reasons make a case for giving the (legal) advantages of marriage to some people while denying them to others.

An argument that "well this way there are less people advantaged by a bad institution" comes across as hollow. If you THINK you can make a case that this would further your supposed cause of doing away with marriage for all, then make that case. Otherwise your proper ethical action would be to vote "yes" (dealing NOT with the marriage issue but with the inequality issue) and THEN working for the abolition of marriage.

Understand? It is because you have essentially zero chance of success in a campaign to abolish marriage that you have a hard row to hoe arguing that denying marriage to same sex partners furthers your claimed cause.

author by single non-parentpublication date Thu Apr 09, 2015 09:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I disagree with the opinion that when two or more people decide to live together under one roof it is no business of the state. Central and local governments need statistical data for planning new housing developments. If men and women decide to live together there may be children born and local authorities and other agencies will have to see that medical, schooling and recreational facilities will be able to cater for increasing social needs. If people decide to become heterosexual or same-sex partners the concerned agencies will need to know about next-of-kin and most responsible persons in the event of accidents or other serious emergencies - a public register of partnerships will help the police, the doctors and school administrators to trace responsible partners.

Households of all sizes and living quality are located in societies. They are all connected to electricity and water supply networks. They are connected to a spider web of roads. Sewage disposal, waste recycling and land use have a bearing on the rest of the immediate environment and the wellbeing of society. I reject an extreme libertarian assertion that human partnerships are no business of the centralised state and local authorities, educational and health providers.

I'd prefer a thread like this to be used for discussing the institution of marriage. Why, since time immemorial, have men and women decided to live together in monogamy, polygamy and - in parts of northern Canada and the Himalayas - in polyandry, all over the world? Anthropology as an academic study is less than two centuries old. Some of the big names include Ruth Benedict, Margaret Meade and Claude Levy-Strauss. Their insights into human living arrangements across cultural differences can throw light on public debates about the nature of marriage.

author by fredpublication date Thu Apr 09, 2015 11:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

while I agree with you about the inherent inequalities in our society regarding the large population of unmarried parents, the net effect of voting no is to keep the current status quo which clearly discriminates against same sex couples while also still maintaining all of the inequalities which you have rightly pointed out.

This is a worse scenario in terms of the amount of inequalities that would remain. The state is not likely to banish marriage totally to the private sphere, and rectify the inequalities viz a viz unmarried couples any time soon so at least by voting yes in this referendum, straight away we get to slightly improve matters with regard to same sex couples and thus improve things at least a little in the immediate future.

I can only conclude that you are merely pretending to be atheistic and rational to mask the usual anti same sex couple bigotry in order to convince less religious to vote against the referendum. Getting a result by any means necessary in other words. Somehow I don't think this approach will fool many rational atheists!!

However the real truth is probably that FG couldn't give a rats ass about gay people and this is all just a red herring to distract the population from thinking and talking about more pressing matters that we should be should be giving this government a harder time over. They would happily have us all talking about gay marriage and abortion all the time if they possibly could, and have the newspapers full of it too instead of stories about how a right wing government is systematically privatising everything and cutting services and imposing unnecessary austerity on the less well off while giving tax breaks to big business and supporting things like jobsbridge, water charges, fracking and TTIP and pointless wars and sanctions at EU level

author by rojospublication date Thu Apr 09, 2015 19:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mike:
Mike: ‘You have given perfectly reasonable arguments for why you oppose marriage for anybody’.

Twice, early in the article, I state that I do not and cannot oppose what consenting adults do in the private sphere, and that I would even wish a married couple well. So your statement is factually wrong – and unreasonable.

The statement and your comment in general, does fall into line with the two-dimensional framing of the referendum which is erroneous in two ways: a). marriage is conflated with the State’s involvement with marriage; and b). the question is distilled to a black-vs.-white – “do we support gay relationships?”.

After the Yes Vote, the ‘legal advantages of marriage’ you speak of will still be given to the children of married parents, and denied to those of unmarried parents. The very point is, there should be no legal advantage to marriage. Instead of opening such a malign and discriminatory institution to the lucky ones whose parents have chosen to or been able to marry, the flawed institution itself (i.e., state marriage), needs to be disposed of.

My argument is not ‘that there should be less people advantaged by a bad institution’, but that the symbolic window-dressing intrinsic to the referendum is less important than the terrible discriminations meted out as a result of this institution in the first place.

The idea that I should vote for something only to then campaign against it, is ridiculous. I draw your attention again, to the ‘god’ analogy – except, it is not half as damaging as the State’s support for ‘marriage’: I’d be advised to forget my principles, and vote for Allah to be made equal with ‘God’ in law first, before campaigning for the removal of both.

Finally, it appears you judge the merits of an argument by how likely it is to succeed. Beware of the tyranny of consensus.

Many primitive cultural institutions have fallen by the wayside; European trends show that this is happening slowly but surely to marriage (despite the ‘legal advantages of marriage’). It would be disingenuous of me to pretend to support the institution of marriage by voting Yes, even if my motives are to make a more symbolic statement about how all kinds of families should be equal. How ironic that marriage itself is the antithesis of such equality in reality…and you will still vote Yes.

Primarily, my recommendation for ‘No’ is made on the grounds of principle rather than one of effect. I do think the motion will be carried, but cannot let this magnification of a moribund fetish in the public discourse go by without trying to draw attention to the utterly malign nature of the institution itself (i.e., state marriage).

Interpretations of ‘No’-votes or rejections of referenda are normally difficult because people have different reasons for voting No. I wrote the article because I had heard nothing in the media carrying such a secular argument, and believe that this voice should be counted as much as anyone else’s.

Real family equality can only be achieved by abandoning this institution. Even if that never happens, it needs to be said.

SNP:
Sorry to be so blunt, but your argument that ‘marriage is necessary for reasons of statistics and planning is nonsense. Cohabitation in Census data fulfils this role in a way that marriage stats could never do, not least because spouses may live apart; because there are so many non-married couples cohabiting in long-term relationships; and not least, as pointed out in the article, because so many ‘families’ occur outside wedlock…and did I mention the high divorce rates?

I am not a libertarian (extreme or otherwise); but the whole State involvement in Marriage/Divorce is a legacy of religious influence on the State, as well as some arrogant notions of controlling the masses. The shameful treatment of unmarried families in the past still exists, albeit not as blatantly manifest.

Name-dropping from Anthropology doesn’t inform the matter, especially when there’s no supporting content. Yes, marriage has been common to all or most societies known up until now, but so have children of unmarried parents. The latter population is, today, far too large to be ignored and be kept in second class family status.

Fred:
I agree with you that the referendum is a red herring to divert attention away from issues which matter. However, expanding the range of the discrimination club (i.e., State/Civil marriage) to a minority of the population is just symbolic window-dressing compared to the continued real discrimination that results from that very legal support in the first place. Accepting the liberal consensus framing of the discourse, we are expected to focus on the cosmetic discrimination of not being let into the institution, instead of questioning the very existence of that discriminatory institution (state/Civil marriage). In essence, it is an elitist club, the members of which have privileges and advantages which should be extended to all. Children of gay parents are as likely to end up on the wrong side of the divide as anyone else.

Voting Yes only symbolically strengthens and further legitimises state marriage, something which should be unconscionable to most, except the inherent malignancies of the institution itself, are rarely if ever focussed on.

Finally, I respect your comment as intelligent debate / peer review; but then you nearly undo everything by some false-flag ad hominem musings, more explicitly conspiratorial than Mike’s vague allegation of disingenuousness on my part.

Strange how people try to play the player rather than the ball when things don’t fit into their own expected categories. Fred, you are no more a spokesperson for rational atheism than I am; and nor does anyone of us have a monopoly of wisdom on what all other rational atheists should think (i.e., they think like me of course, etc.).

These days, the State’s practical support of marriage is far more injurious than its tacit support for ‘god’; but applying your logic, you’d vote for a referendum to equate Allah with God in the Constitution, since at least, in the meantime there would be less discrimination in that regard. Only askin’…as an atheist, like…

Generally speaking, I’m thinking that the marriage fetish is still too strong, even among atheists, for them to be able to criticise State support for it, regardless of how much damage that support is doing. Whether we like it or not, there is still widespread stigma against unmarried families, in contrast to the confetti and eternal bliss idea of marriage.

Fred, I do agree with your anti-FG analysis of the probable reasons for the referendum..another populist distraction.

author by fredpublication date Fri Apr 10, 2015 10:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If you are indeed a genuine commenter and not some religious wolf in sheep's clothing trying a new tack to get the no vote out among the less religious then I apologise for my inference. It's just that you can't be too careful with all the religious whackjobs that seem to take such a strong interest in this issue and in getting a no vote at any cost, any way they can. It seemed, statistically speaking, far more likely that you were one of those in disguise than a secular humanist advocating a no vote.

I still believe its better than nothing albeit marginally but I agree the framing of this means that the discourse does not allow for discussion of some fundamental issues regarding the mixing of church and state as you have pointed out

author by Gazerpublication date Fri Apr 10, 2015 16:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Did Karl Marx publish a pamphlet or essay about the Holy Family? Did he criticise the family as a 'bourgeois construct' used by church and capitalist governments to keep people in line? Could somebody who may have read the original text enlighten us? I know that in Soviet Russia they established collective farms with common eating rooms but private living quarters for married couples and children. In China during the 1950s communal farms (communes) were established in some rural places with dormitory accommodation for workers, but after a while married families were allocated private living quarters. In the 1960s some hippy 'flower power' communes were established in sunstruck California and communal buildings were established by squatters and others in Berlin, Copenhagen and London. I am not quite sure what sleeping and childminding arrangements evolved among bonded couples and any children in such experimental communities, and I don't know if many couples persisted in living in communities for many years.

author by rowe_the_transexualpublication date Fri Apr 10, 2015 21:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

karl marx never worked a day in his life,he never experienced anything outside his own tiny bubble,he never made anything of his life or struggled or persevered like most mortal people......

His word shouldnt be held up as gospel,now i know on indymedia i will probably get banned for saying this,but is his word worth all that,considering he was financed by a friend and was a leech?

author by Rational Ecologistpublication date Mon Apr 13, 2015 12:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anyone can decides to enter into the institution of state marriage or not; that is your right and privilege; however, as regards voting NO as some protest against the institution of marriage is naive, overly-academic and impractical, as well as defending the current status quo and inequality.
Yes, the state-and increasingly corporations-invade the private sphere; however, every now and then this interference has positive benefits-the rest is interesting pub conversation. Come back to the real world.
Most gay people will probably choose not to marry; however, no-one has the right to rob them of this choice, whether for some quasi-intellectual, ideal-world faith/belief/view.
Get out of the way!

author by fredpublication date Mon Apr 13, 2015 20:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Re: karl marx post

The obvious reason why couples are segregated is so they can shag without pissing everyone else off.
If you've ever had the misfortune to sleep in a room where other people were shagging robustly then you would understand.
I think such segregation is somewhat inevitable don't you? :-D

author by Laurencepublication date Tue Apr 14, 2015 17:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The following article, published in the Irish Examiner on February 19th, makes a radical case for a 'yes' vote in the forthcoming referendum:

Related Link: http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/the-fight-for-gay-marriage-is-only-the-start-of-a-long-struggle-313385.html
author by single non-parentpublication date Tue Apr 14, 2015 22:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Social anthropologists have done field research around the world and have identified three forms of marriage. The first is man + woman and any kids issuing. The second form, found around Africa and in Asia (and concubines in China before the revolution of 1949), is man + two, three or four women and their numerical issue/kids - known as polygamy. The third form is polyandry and is found only in difficult geographical circumstances - among the Inuit/Eskimoes in the northern ice fields of Canada, and in the remoter Himalayas of Tibet. Hippy communes were tried in some urban settings in western Europe and North America during the radical 1960s, but the experiments did not achieve permanence. In 20th century communist China and the Soviet Union living arrangements were first in collective dormitories but private living quarters soon replaced this. We seem on the threshold of experimenting with a new form of marriage called same-sex marriage. How long will this anthropological experiment last? Social commentators nowadays call groups of people living in houses and flats families, regardless of the nature of the relationships in these dwelling units. But are they confusing Families with Households?

author by Nathanpublication date Tue Apr 14, 2015 23:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Holy Family was co-authored in the late 19th century by Marx and his friend Engels. 'Gazer' and other interested people can get the wikipedia gen on that book here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holy_Family_(book)

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