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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Wednesday, Febbruary 4 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Defense of marriage - 7 and final—the 'secular' case

I began this series by giving examples of why "Defense of Marriage" is very "hot," very much discussed and debated in the media and in person-to-person discussion. The debate has been intensified by the recent Presidential State of the Union Message in which legislation for "strengthening" marriage was proposed, and counter-pronouncements on the topic have been coming from candidates hoping to take away the President's job in November's elections. More evidence of that currency is that in the course of compiling these I came across yet another column discussing the secular state's stake in keeping the traditional definition of marriage, one of the most helpful articles I've seen.

Stephen J. Heaney, of St. Paul, Minnesota, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of St. Thomas there, writes in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. The kernel of his argument, I think, is this:

Whatever benefits, which legally obtain upon marriage are privileges granted by society for the sake of protecting and strengthening marriage and family, because of the advantage to society of doing so. They are "rights" only in the sense that they are, legally, automatically guaranteed to married couples, not that anyone has a fundamental claim to them as a human being.

Marriage is instituted by societies, not only Jewish and Christian ones like those most of us have descended from, but also the other societies of the world and of history, all of which have recognized the lifelong relationship between a man and a woman for the sake of establishing a home and having and raising a family. It's not about weddings and ceremonies or even the sacramental meanings church and society invest in the married relationships; it's the relationships themselves. The state provides for its stablity by licensing it, encouraging its endurance through good and bad times by tax breaks and supplements to the family's economy, especially when the going is tough. It provides special courts for family issues, provides for the educational needs of children, tries to ensure that the children are properly cared for, and that they are provided for if the marriage ends. Laws have traditionally tried to discourage the breakup of marriages by penalizing partners who break up.

All of these provisions cost the state—the society in its organized legal integrity—lots of money, and all that money indirectly and sometimes directly is for the children and their future. It's not about encouraging "playing house" by anyone who wants to join in the fun and games of matrimony.

Heaney also says:

Almost all the legal arrangements that come automatically with marriage can be legally obtained by other means. Certainly, no one is depriving anyone of that right to form "lasting personal relationships." But what possible interest does the state have in strengthening and benefiting a same-sex personal relationship?

Power of attorney, varied contractual arrangements like joint bank accounts, life insurance and annuities, joint ownership of real estate and personal property, even adult adoption, are other means for enabling partners who are not married because they don't fit the definition of "marriagable couple" can show their preference for and commitment to each other. Also, more and more employers permit their employees to designate any "significant other" as a beneficiary of health insurance programs, company life insurance, and other benefits.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

One Liners On Life

The early bird still has to eat worms.

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Thought for today

We are all here for a spell; get all the good laughs you can.

— Will Rogers

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