The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics

The Right of Marriage

Inspired by The Rite of Marriage, on Columbia Faith and Values

So much talk about gay marriage lately with the SCOTUS hearings and this being Pride Month at MU, it is really a blast for someone like myself that loves talking politics, religion, and philosophy, as this can encompass all three. It can, however, be frustrating at times when one comes across opinions like those linked above. For those unwilling to stomach another bigoted editorial, the argument can be summarized to:

  1. Marriage is only important in the religious sense.
  2. My religion says homosexuality and gay marriage are wrong.
  3. Gay marriage should not be allowed because it is wrong in the only important aspect of marriage.

Clearly, I don’t care what anyone’s religion says about homosexuality, there is nothing wrong with it, but I’ll set that aside for now, as I can deconstruct the argument without having to show why it is not wrong. It hinges on the idea that marriage is a solely, or at least foremost, a religious institution. Such a stance was decided upon by first consulting Merriam-Webster’s definition:

“a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage>”

But, that included same sex marriage, so it was not good enough (although, the cited reason that it was disregarded was because it also said marriage was consensual and “that is not the case in all cultures, so there must be a better definition”). From there we naturally turn to anthropologists to see how they define marriage….Wait. What’s that? We went to Catholic doctrine afterward? But the MW definition didn’t say anything about religion or spirituality. It talked about contracts and legal recognition. Okay, well what did the Catholic version say:

“Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through centuries in different cultures, social structures and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics”

I’m sorry but I fail to see how marriage is anything but a purely human institution. Currently only humans are capable of getting married or recognizing a marriage. This quote also does not explain what the “common and permanent characteristics” of marriage are. Luckily, the author agrees that this is also an inadequate explanation, although they accept everything stated. From here I’m sure we go on to the anthropologists or sociologist to figure out these common and permanent characteristics, right? NOPE! We turn to the Quran , The Torah (conveniently also considered canon in Catholicism), and the New Testament, where it largely details that marriage is between a man and a woman.

At this point, the argument is incapable of effectively being used to to explain why marriage should not be a right that is extended to homosexual couples. Marriage has existed long before these religions which makes them poor standards for deciding what is common and permanent about marriage. Additionally, this idea of “common and permanent” characteristics reeks of appeal to tradition, especially since no reason is given as to why such characteristics should be adhered to or even a good explanation of what they are. Finally, and most importantly marriage is not solely a religious institution in our culture. In fact, it need not require any religion whatsoever. A couple could simply have a marriage license signed by a government official and get the legal benefits. This is still referred to as a marriage, not some other term. If you want to use this argument to say that the Catholic church should not allow gay marriages, fine. By all means push the church further into irrelevancy. But with what has been provided here, there is no reason not to allow legal marriages for same sex couples recognized by the government. It does not hurt you, your church, or your marriage. You may think it is sinful, but you also think not being a christian is sinful, and you would not advocate for making it illegal to not be christian, would you? If not, then “because my religion says it is wrong” is not a good enough reason to make something illegal.


Tony Lakey is the President of MU SASHA. He interned with the Center for Inquiry On Campus in Amherst, NY and was a volunteer Teacher/Counselor at Camp Inquiry. He is an activist for atheism, secularism, feminism, and LGBT issues.  He is in his fourth year at the University of Missouri – Columbia majoring in Philosophy and Sociology.
Twitter: @TonyLakey


About Tony Lakey

Tony is the President Emeritus of MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, and Agnostics at the University of Missouri - Columbia, where he studies Philosophy and Sociology.

9 comments on “The Right of Marriage

  1. Jeremy
    April 6, 2013

    Personally I just don’t get the appeal to the sanctity of marriage in general. Divorce rates are sky high. Most of the people in my family are Christians and have been divorced /at least/ once.

    What marriage “is” is a relatively empty agreement to remain with someone in a romantic relationship. Regardless of the intentions and well-meaning, or even the “sanctity” with which they view the institution, it is a promise that one can never assure that they can keep. People change over the years and decades. How you feel about someone now does not guarantee that you will continue to feel that way 10, 20, especially not 50+ years later. It does not even guarantee that you will be willing to TRY to keep the relationship alive.

    The idea that marriage is a sacred institution is laughable without any special analysis. At face value, it is nothing but an ill-sighted promise. At best, it is an agreement to accept the looming threat of a painful divorce as an incentive to stay together even when things really aren’t good. It in no way legitimates a couple even within their own household, let alone in the sight of “the lord.” It’s a piece of paper–but a piece of paper with legal and social repercussions which ARE meaningful. Again, not meaningful to the romantic relationship between two people, but meaningful in terms of legal rights and benefits.

    THAT is what marriage “is.”

  2. rocketkirchner
    April 6, 2013

    Another red herring on both sides of this issue for politicians to just get votes.. i mean who really cares? when you look at all the of the people starving in the world . when we see more drone strikes killing the innocents , the need for prison reform ..etc…etc.. any debate over who marries who is mute. we need to band together and build broad based coalitions not matter what one believes or does not believe..and get busy ending the extreme pain and suffering of people who are going thru here and in the 3rd world . the politics of genitila is a dodge from really doing something worthwhile .
    personally i will remain a bachelor , thank you very much . i really dont believe in the insitution anyway .

    • Tony Lakey
      April 8, 2013

      Rocket, I agree those are all serious issues, even that they may be more important. But while same-sex couples are being denied rights that heterosexual couples get and this being something that could be easily overturned is outrageous. I do also, somewhat agree that many politicians are using it as a political move instead of actually caring, I don’t think any of this lessens the fact that this should change. One is not limited to caring about gay marriage or the fact that our current and past administrations have been illegally and immorally bombing innocents. I in fact care very much about both. Sure there is more at stake in drone strikes, but that does not mean that one should not give other issues any attention. If couples were allowed access to the 1,100+ federal benefits that straight married couples have access to, then there would be less of an issue. But as it stands now this is entirely unjust.

      • rocketkirchner
        April 8, 2013

        Tony , what i am talking about is prioritys thats all. in fact when you look at the life of Harvey Milk ,Gay activist in the 80’s , he put a high premium on aiding the elderly and disabled . We do not see the carnage of what our government is doing overseas . if we did those of us conscence would raise hell .

    • Jeremy
      April 8, 2013

      Lots of people care. It’s not like supporting an opinion on this side necessarily takes away from your support of other important issues. It literally requires almost no effort other than to say, “I support the rights of gay people to marry.” And if you’re an involved citizen, you consider that in your vote.

      I mean, it’s kind of like saying, “Well, I’d like to support the rights of minorities to vote, but what with all these people starving across the ocean I just can’t find the time.” If you’re not actually busy handling these “more important” issues, you can’t use them as a cop-out.

      • rocketkirchner
        April 8, 2013

        Jeremy , people have a short memory . The most effective advocate of Gay rights was Harvy Milk . The Gay community has gotten away from Milk and it seems that they as a community only care about their issues . If the Gay community would use the Milk method and start to really actually become a part of society at large by caring for other peoples issues , mostly the most needy, they would find that society at large would pass their agenda . it is simply pragmatic politcs .

  3. brojed
    April 6, 2013

    My argument is simple: church’s have a right of homophobia in who the want to grant the rite of marriage to. The state shouldn’t. I as a heterosexual married male couldn’t care less who gets married, it won’t cheapen my marriage anymore than adultery and television ratings already do.
    BTW drone striking the innocents is a phenomenal band name.

    • rocketkirchner
      April 8, 2013

      Jed , good name for a band ? that is funny . Knowing that the world and governments and most institutions are ”Christophobic ” , which in and of itself is a form of bigotry , i cannot for the life of me understand why those who are Christophobic would complain about those who are Homophobic . i smell a double standard here . mmm.

  4. Cubist
    May 14, 2013

    rocketkirchner :
    Jed , good name for a band ? that is funny . Knowing that the world and governments and most institutions are ”Christophobic ”…

    Fuck off with your martyrbatory fantasies, rocketkirchner. Here in the US—you know, that nation where Xtians make up well over 70% of the populace at large, and well over 90% of all elected & appointed officials?—it is the very height of delusion to pretend that any “governments” or “institutions” are “Christophobic”. As for those places in the world where Xtians actually are persecuted, said persecution has a lot more to do with how Believers treat their competition than with any putative ‘fear’ of Xtianity; those guys don’t persecute Xtians because they fear Xtians, they persecute Xtians because they fervently Believe, sincerely and devoutly, that it’s actively good to persecute people who are so benighted as to not follow The One True Faith which the persecuters just happen to be adherents of.

    …which in and of itself is a form of bigotry…

    You’re right that religiously-rooted persecution, including that which has been and still is practiced by self-professing Xtians, is a form of bigotry. That said, I don’t see how disapproval of Xtianity based on Xtianity’s long-standing, very well-documented track record of torture, murder, genocide, oppression, child-thievery, enslavement, et cetera ad nauseum can reasonably be deemed ‘bigotry’. Rather, disapproval of Xtianity based on Xtianity’s long-standing, very well-documented track record of torture, murder, genocide, oppression, child-thievery, enslavement, et cetera ad nauseum would seem to be nothing more than a logical conclusion based on voluminous evidence.

    …i cannot for the life of me understand why those who are Christophobic would complain about those who are Homophobic.

    That’s nice. If you ever run into any of those Christophobes, feel free to inquire with them about this point.

    i smell a double standard here . mmm.

    Maybe you do—but seeing as how you believe in this ‘god’ person, it’s only to be expected that you have a “just friends” relationship with Reality.

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This entry was posted on April 5, 2013 by in Author: Katie Huddlestonsmith, Author: Tony Lakey, In The News, LBGTQ.
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