The GOP concept of marriage: Any uterus will do

If marriage is only about kids, then any woman with a uterus will do.

And, traditionally, that is the way the law and society looked at marriage.

You didn’t get to choose who you married — mom and dad did that for you, possibly long before you were born.

Your marriage was not about love. It was about money. And power. And prestige. Of your parents, and maybe your husband. If you were a woman, your marriage most definitely had little to do with you.

The most interesting class I took at Georgetown Law was a property class taught by a Professor Chused. Chused was an odd duck. A bit quiet and squirrely, with big hair and a big beard you could hide an actual squirrel inside. The guy was also brilliant, and fascinating. And considering all the classes I hated at Georgetown — and Lord, there were many — Chused’s was one of my all-time favorite classes, anywhere.

Prof. Chused was to the left (I suspect), and had a theoretical approach to the law. He was big on ever-changing scenarios that actually delved into the nature of existence, and states of being — which, at its base, property is all about.

I remember his final exam — I am getting to my point, so hang in there. The class was a year long, and there was one exam at the end. The case study for the exam was handed out the first day of class — it was hundreds of pages long, single-spaced as I recall. And it was the tale of a family going back a couple of centuries. And one of the things the case study highlighted was how raw a deal women got in marriage, up until only recently.

You see, “traditionally” women were property; they pretty much belonged to their husband. And as property, they couldn’t inherit a dime. In the old days it was all about the kids. If you had a farm, or an empire, you needed a son to take over some day (to hell with the daughters). The wife was important as an incubator, and your daughters were relatively useless, unless you could sell one off and get a decent dowry in return.

So when you hear conservatives, like the National Review’s Mona Charen, talk about the traditional reason behind marriage — the children — she’s half speaking the truth. The traditional purpose of marriage was “male children.” Wives were tolerated as necessary, and little girls were mistakes.

Charen, you see, is upset that the leader of an officially-designated hate group, the ever-fey Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, got beaten up the other day on Fox News by Fox’s own Chris Wallace and by GOP super-lawyer Ted Olson, who recently, and successfully, fought to overturn Proposition 8 in California (Prop 8 repealed the right of gay couples to marry in that state).

Charen takes issue with Olson’s appearance, as she believes that people don’t get married because they love each other. They only get married to have kids.

And she wonders why no one sends her roses on Valentine’s Day.

According to Charen, marriage is the state’s grand effort at social engineering. A concept that ought to set conservative blood a-boiling, but when presented with the option of bashing a minority, the far-right running today’s GOP is sadly all-too-willing to set aside principle for the daily Two-Minutes-Hate.

It’s a bit of a screed, but here’s Charen’s main point:

Families began disintegrating and failing to form long before gay marriage became a cause célèbre. But the movement for same-sex marriage pushes our culture in exactly the wrong direction because it forwards a damaging conception of marriage. Marriage, Olson says, “is about being with the person you love.”

Not so. Marriage is about the welfare of children. The state confers benefits on opposite-sex couples because they conceive and raise children, and it believes that strong families are the foundation of strong polities. Libertarian claims that the state should remain aloof from family matters overlook the fact that when couples divorce or part ways, the state becomes involved in property division and custody, so it’s unrealistic to keep the state out.

The problem with endorsing same-sex marriage is that it conveys to heterosexuals that mothers and fathers don’t really matter. If two men who love each other or two women who love each other are equally good for children’s welfare, then the argument that men and women should marry and remain faithful to the partner with whom they conceived children loses its force.

The “being with someone you love” case fits nicely on a greeting card, but it also contributes to the divorce culture, because the implicit message is that when you no longer love someone, the purpose of the marriage is over. Adults’ feelings will trump all, as they too often do already.

Where to begin.

First off, marriage was about the welfare of children, back when women were chattel, but not any more. People get married today because they love each other. And Charen’s negation of that fact only shows how out of the mainstream the Republican party has become.

The “child” argument, while cute and cuddly to the point of deflection, doesn’t really explain why we permit the marriage of women and men who are barren, or who clearly have no intention of having biological children (most people who get married after, say, 50 — or certainly 60 — for example). It’s clearly not just about “the children.” (Having said that, lots of gay couples have children, and Charen-esque conservatives have been trying to put a stop to that too.)

As for mothers and fathers not marrying, what message does divorce send? Why does the state let people divorce at all? And how about single moms — why do we let them have babies at all, if the lack of a man makes the entire process an abomination?

This line was particularly brazen, and nonsensical, of Charen:

If two men who love each other or two women who love each other are equally good for children’s welfare, then the argument that men and women should marry and remain faithful to the partner with whom they conceived children loses its force.

Huh? Straight couples are now going to get divorced because Chuck and Dave tied the knot down the block? (“Sorry, hon, love you to death, but the gays got married, so I’m outta here.”)

Why would a gay couple getting married somehow send a message that your current husband is no longer necessary — because you could marry the lesbian across the street instead? (Though, let’s face it, a lot of women would be far better off marrying their gay best friend, but that’s a topic for another day.) It sounds like Charen is saying men are no longer necessary, but today’s culture already makes spouses unnecessary in that you can already get divorced and find another spouse any time you like. That happened long before the gays came around.

As an aside, Charen forgot to mention the new conservative argument against gay marriage — that gays will make straight people take up hobbies, which will destroy their marriages. Seriously. That’s the argument Idaho’s Republican governor made to the appeals court recently, which got shot down summarily by a 3-judge panel:

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At its core, Charen’s argument doesn’t make sense, unless you come to terms with the fact that conservatives, at least the ones running the GOP, are simply mean. They don’t like gays, they don’t like change, and they see their world, in which women, and blacks, and gays, and immigrants, “knew their place,” receding fast. So, understandably, they’re grasping at whatever last straws they can. (It’s for the children! Who we’d rather leave in an orphanage, or on the street, than let a gay couple adopt!)

Charon, you may recall, was the ancient Greek ferryman who transported the souls of the dead to Hades. The GOP’s modern-day Charen is ferrying the soul of the Republican party to a similar demise. At some point, Republicans need to clean out their political closet and jettison the haters. The gays have already won this battle. The only question remaining is how long the GOP hemorrhages votes until it recognizes that fact, and moves on.

A 19th-century interpretation of Charon's crossing by Alexander Litovchenko. Alexander Dmitrievich Litovchenko( 1835 - 1890) "Charon carries souls across the river Styx."

A 19th-century interpretation of Charon’s crossing by Alexander Litovchenko.
Alexander Dmitrievich Litovchenko( 1835 – 1890) “Charon carries souls across the river Styx.”


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • I just got a tweet from my old law professor’s son, who saw my piece and sent it to his mom and dad, who got a real chuckle out of it. Sometimes I really love the Internets :-)

  • andrea952AndreaREliasandrea952

    my Aunty Eva got an almost new Nissan Maxima from only workin part-time on a pc at home…read ….>> -> START FREELANCING!!! <-

  • Keevon M Ueller

    Waiting for the news reports of a rash of married straight couples
    having affairs and shooting up heroin to Metallica! Isn’t that what
    Idaho’s Butch Otter said would be happening now?

  • gloria6482

    my frend just got an awesome green Mercedes E-Class Coupe by working parttime from a home computer.check out here…..>> -> PAY HIGH!!! <-

  • sdguppy

    Sorry to also point this out Ms. Charen – straight couples are NOT being faithful and staying together and the genesis of that was long before Marriage Equality.

  • What’s funny is how the anti-gay side seems to think that accidental pregnancy is a good thing and they seem to be in favor of ‘shotgun weddings.’

    All I can figure is substantial numbers of the anti-gay conservatives have been depending on these external props of anti-gay laws and societal anti-gay animus to “live lives of quiet desperation” as they attempt to deny their own same-sex attractions. To convince themselves they want what they believe they’re supposed to want.

    As for hetero marriages… My own kid sister “married in haste” due to an unplanned pregnancy at the age of 19. It turned into a complete disaster when her baby’s daddy decided to take up the meth pipe.

  • I noticed from her wikipedia and NNDB entries that Ms. Charen is in her late 50s and her youngest son is or soon will be 18. The usual age when moving out is imminent.

    It does make me wonder if her own marriage is a loveless one where she stayed in it only for the children…and if she’ll follow her own advice and get divorced soon, because while she’s sure to be infertile, her husband likely isn’t.

  • 2karmanot

    Excellent article John. GL marriages are still relatively new and there will be a nascent period of adjustment in existing laws to account for the ‘non-conjugal’ (child making) established by the recent Supreme Court. We encountered those problems when we married and lost a significant percentage of our IHSS in care grant because it was supposed that a married partner did such service as a natural part of marriage, even though a precedent of roughly a decade preceded as an independent care situation. Further gay/lesbian married couples stood to lose a significant percentage of a housing grant, because it was expected by history that such couples were expected to be conjugal and share one bedroom. We faced such obstacles even though we were legally married this year and stood to lose our support systems in our late 60’s. We hoped to challenge those obstacles, but my husband died a few months ago. I suspect other G/L seniors will continue to challenge these old precepts of law and continue to refine the new marriage laws.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    The “being with someone you love” case fits nicely on a greeting card, but it also contributes to the divorce culture, because the implicit message is that when you no longer love someone, the purpose of the marriage is over. Adults’ feelings will trump all, as they too often do already.

    So once the kids are grown and out of the house, couples should feel free to split up, their kid-raising duties complete? Isn’t she advocating for divorce culture? Does she think she’s making sense here?

  • Sean

    The stubborn ability of haters to cling to nonsense takes my breath away. That whole bit about gay marriage destroying the commitments of straight couples is a lulu. The good thing about this open battle is that the nut jobs are forced to articulate their arguments.

  • Indigo

    I think immediately of the t-shirt that carries the message “I make up stuff!” Indeed she does and should be ignored. Right now , however, we have an entire political party dedicated to making up stuff. We need to say so more often instead of engaging their nonsense as if a sensible response could possibly mean anything to them. It doesn’t!

  • dcinsider

    Although, in nearly 30 states, we too can get drunk and get married without giving it proper thought!

    It boggles the mind to think about how many men will return from an Atlantis cruise with a husband whose name they cannot remember. :)

  • caphillprof

    This is all about thinking, something anathema to the conservative mind.

    The problem with same sex marriage is that our couples intentionally marry. It’s based on two persons finding one another, making a life together, being in love. It’s a rare same sex couple that gets drunk and wakes up married. We have to intentionally have children. We don’t get drunk, get pregnant, get married, get divorced. We are making conscious choices.

    This does pose a problem for heterosexual marriages, since so few follow the gay model. Many straight folk lead their lives on auto pilot. You get married because you get married, not because you necessarily care a whit about your partner. You have children because you have children, you need those income tax deductions. You have children for the same reason that you buy a house, you need the income tax deduction.

    The heterosexual view of marriage is revealed by its celebration as a variety show television entertainment. The “romance” of popping the question on the jumbotron at the big game.

    Same sex marriage strikes hardest on those folk in the vast middle land of the Kinsey scale, those men who got married to hide in heterosexuality, while prowling gay bars at happy hour and on weekends in Virginia park parking lots. It is this terrain where heterosexual marriage may take a hit.

    But the biggest hit of all, is that same sex marriages now require thought in more and more opposite sex marriages.

  • That’s a beautiful, beautiful story though… Thank you for sharing it.

  • Good for you. :-)

  • AJayne

    P.S. When I (in my 30s) discovered that problems I had maintaining relationships was that I sought them with the wrong sex, my parents accepted my lover into their lives and home.

  • AJayne

    I remember things my mother said over the years. Despite that she and my father both went head-over-heels at first sight, she presumed they were the exception, not the rule. Their relationship was infected with periods of rebellion, but they honored their vows. It was clear they expected the same from all of us whether we loved our chosen spouses or not.

    Dad was Catholic; Mom converted. For them, raising children was their duty, not necessarily their joy, and she gave birth to eleven of us. While I often saw them tired to the point of exhaustion, neither shirked that duty. But some days it quite obviously was all that pushed them on where we were concerned.

    As the time grew near that we would all be on our own, there was some talk of going their separate ways, but that was when Mom drew the line. She had slaved for the family, the home, and the marriage, and was not about to see it disintegrate after all the years and all that work. Besides, she anticipated they would be able to relax with grandkids and the resultant one-step-removal from the duties they had lived with for so long.

    In the last 25 (or so) of their years together, they came close to living separate lives within their home, and she insisted he contribute with the housework. Tho grudgingly at first, he did. Eventually, he was pleased with himself for learning to perform many tasks well.

    In the end, they made it work. When she died, they had been married for 69 years.

    After she died, he was lost without her. He lasted a little over a year.

  • The_Fixer

    Implicit in Ms. Charen’s comments is the idea that a couple, no matter how dysfunctional, should stay together “for the sake of the Children” (with a capital C). It’s a big thing in certain sects of Christianity, notably Catholics with their disapproval of divorce.

    Of course, that disapproval can be wiped away by some church paperwork. So if God disapproves of divorce, the church can sway him on a case-by-case basis with its own special dispensation. Funny how God’s not nearly as flexible when it comes to gay people.

    Keeping a parentally dysfunctional family together for the sake of the children always backfires. The kids suffer in such an environment. Likewise, a marriage not based on mutual love is not a great environment in which to raise kids.

    You are absolutely right in your previous observation that this is nothing but animus toward anyone who isn’t a heterosexual white male.

  • 2patricius2

    In another life I was on a team that developed the Engaged Encounter program for engaged couples in the area. I was the priest and there were several couples married various lengths of time on the team. In one of the presentations we stressed the need for couples to take time for each other after they were married. Make dates with each other apart from their children. The best gift couples can give their children, we would say, was to love each other.

    It seems that conservatives like Brian Brown, Tony Perkins, Mona Charen and others never learned that important lesson. When couples love each other, they give a great example to their children of how to love. And when they take time to focus on and rekindle their relationship – even in the midst of the focus they have to place on their children and the demands that children of necessity place on their energy and time – they give an anchor and stable foundation to their children. Plus, if they spend time focusing on each other, they can communicate about how best to raise the children and how to resolve problems they may have as a couple and as a family.

    So whether couples have children or not, in this day and age in our culture it is love that brings couples together and helps them work through things, and it is the love the parents have for each other that helps them give love and stability to the children. And as more and more studies have shown, it doesn’t matter whether the married couples are heterosexual or gay/lesbian.

  • The great thing is you have the choice, either way. Marry, don’t marry. Not that many decades ago, many states had laws against unmarried opposite sex couples cohabiting. And gay/lesbian couples… well, until Lawrence v. Texas, a state could make it flat out illegal.

    Now, straight or gay, consenting unrelated adults have (or will have) the freedom to live as they choose, to marry or not as they like. This is a very good thing.

  • AdmNaismith

    Anytime someone say ‘Think of the children’, it ain’t about the children…
    And if it ever was about the children, the world would look a lot different than it does now.

  • I still can’t quite fathom how she thinks the only purpose of marriage is for breeders and their children. I mean, basically she’s saying that whether or not you actually love your spouse is irrelevant.

    As normally practiced in the modern western world today, nobody says, “Honey, you’re not objectionable, you seem healthy and to have good hips and I want babies. Will you marry me?”

    I see from Mona Charen’s wikipedia page and NNDB entry she’s married and had three sons in the 1990s. Makes me wonder if, in fact, she thinks those boys are the only reason to have stayed in an otherwise loveless marriage. The youngest according to NNDB is 18 years old…which means he’s probably on the verge of going to college or moving out. I further wonder if Charen will then do the right thing and get divorced, since she has no more children to raise. She’s 57 years old, so she’s clearly no longer fertile, thereby making her ineligible for her own concept of marriage.

    Unless her entire position is an utter sham and an attempt to legitimize and distract from her actual position, which is that she doesn’t like gay people and doesn’t think they should be allowed to have families. Could it be…?

  • nicho

    If they believed that children desperately need a mother and a father, you’d think that they would be in favor of lenient sentences for men with children who commit non-violent crimes. Why put dad in jail when the welfare of the children is at stake? Also, you’d think they would be adamantly opposed to sending soldiers with children off to two, three, four tours of duty in Bumfuckistan.

  • pricknick

    Sorry, but marriage is something I’ve never done and never will do.
    Same significant other for 37 years, so I guess we’re doing something right.

  • LasloPratt

    That’s the irony – historically marriage was entirely between two men. Patriarchs both, but still…

  • It seems to take forever now to unpack the conservatives’ lies, because it’s like a cargo container ship full of them now.

    They say they’re trying to protect children and pregnant women…yet don’t want them to have affordable health care. They claim to be in favor of ‘family friendly’ policies, but oppose maternity leave and living wages. It goes on and on.

    With respect to same sex marriage, we have several things going on. One is their obsession with gay male anal penetrative sex, which seems to be the only gay sex they seem to imagine ever happens; lesbians are invisible. If they do consider two women marrying, I’ll bet my left arm most of ’em think we just haven’t “met the right man” — which to my thinking was already halfway down the road to “reparative rape therapy.”

    And for another, we can’t ever forget how many of the homophobic types truly do believe that being gay or lesbian is entirely a choice. They actually don’t care, John, if you’re attracted to men or that I’m attracted to women. What they expect is that we will ignore our sexual orientation and go marry who we’re supposed to marry.

    Don’t even get me started on the whole “women are simply too emotional and silly to be allowed to make their own decisions” angle. Because this is also part of the right-wing mindset. Sometimes I do wonder if any of them even know that in most of America, women were not allowed to own property until the late 1800s and early 1900s. Or, that if a woman did own something, as soon as she married, everything she owned was considered her husband’s property to do with as he liked. Including his wife’s body.

    It’s about autonomy. The right to make our own decisions. In a way, they remind me of my father and the way he sometimes would tell us kids something was up to us to decide. Except that was a lie. We were only free to choose exactly as he would have. This is what the GOPers do, what all the conservatives do: They pretend to be about freedom and liberty — but only the freedom to choose as they would dictate you do.

    It’s impossible to make sense of the right-wing conservatives’ arguments against same sex marriage because they proceed from false assertions and faulty non-causal logic. The so-called ‘institution’ of marriage has been changing for as long as its been in existence — and it isn’t even universally practiced across the entire planet today. In India, they DO still have arranged marriages and although they’ll deny it, the caste system is still strong; just read the “looking for partner” section of any major Indian newspaper and you’ll see it right there in the ads. In many nations, not just fundamentalist Muslim ones, they practice polygamy. Polyandry is practiced in some South Pacific island nations. Hell, we have Mormons in America doing a wink-and-nod with respect to civil law and having plural religious polygamous marriages anyway.

    When the fundamentalists claim marriage has always been about children and always been one man / one woman, they are lying. It’s impossible to have an honest debate with someone who lies about the most basic of easily documented facts.

  • AJayne

    This woman’s words make it sound as if she was weaned on Phyllis Schlafley’s talking points and failed to grow beyond those lessons as an adult…

  • Wait until elections start getting in the way of the big lie. They already are :)

  • Rambie

    John, you should know by now that they don’t let things like facts and science get in the way of a good lie.

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