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:


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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