Blogs > Liberty and Power > Hurd on Same-Sex Marriage

Nov 23, 2004 8:31 am

Hurd on Same-Sex Marriage

The gay marriage debate has brought out a lot of venom on both sides of the issue divide. It's also brought out a little humor from Roseanne Barr, who, on"Jimmy Kimmel Live, commented:"First of all, if you are someone who thinks that gay sex is gross and unnatural, then you should be for their right to marry, because that will put an end to all that sex, just like it does for the straight people."

Ah, Barr puts her finger on one of the dysfunctional aspects of marriage, circa 2004. I, myself, would like to see the whole marital debate focused on privatization, though I fully understand why gays and lesbians want a piece of the pie, so-to-speak.

There's an interesting article by the Rand-influenced psychologist and author Michael J. Hurd on"The Institution of Marriage." Hurd opens his provocative essay with this passage:

If a group of people lined up to board the Titanic as it were sinking, you would say they were irrational. If these people were denied admission to the sinking Titanic because of race, creed, or sexual orientation, and then became angry over this discrimination, you would not even know what to say."Of course," you might say,"it's irrational to deny admission for these reasons. But why would anyone want to embark on a sinking ship in the first place?"

Hurd is right, of course, that not everybody who opposes gay marriage is anti-gay. He's also correct that Bush has voiced support for protecting legal civil unions for same-sex couples, though, clearly, a few of those anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives in Election 2004 were designed to destroy even that possibility. But what is most interesting about Hurd's comments is his attack on the very institution of marriage"as we presently know it." He argues"that romantic love is a profoundly important thing for human beings," and"that voluntarily entered, non-coercive arrangements surrounding long-term love relationships must also be treated with respect by a just government. But one would hope that these legal arrangements can be implemented through much more rational means than the current 'institution of marriage' has so far delivered." Hurd reminds us of a 50% divorce rate, of emotional baggage and obligation, of sacrificial offerings, of irresponsibility, and concludes:

"Institutions" refer to prisons, courthouses and psychiatric hospitals. Love is not a building or an abstract duty to some undefined, unarticulated notion of tradition for tradition's sake, as President Bush seems to view it. Love is the personal and mutual enjoyment of two people. Their sense of commitment flows from this love. Commitment is a consequence, not a cause. Gay couples should be happy to create their own civil unions without the baggage of existing notions of marriage. Heterosexual couples would do well to follow them.

The only problem here is that there is a far more likely possibility of facing political resistance to the destruction of state-sanctioned marriage wholesale than to the notion of same-sex marriage in particular. Either way, the battle is just beginning.

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Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 11/23/2004

Actually, I agree. And we certainly wouldn't want a situation where people felt obliged to stay married... to avoid the "stigma" of divorce, damaging each other and their children in the process of raising one big unhappy dysfunctional family.

Jonathan Dresner - 11/23/2004

I just want to point out a fallacy in Hurd's argument against marriage: a 50% divorce rate doesn't mean that marriage as an institution is failing, unless by marriage he means marriage-for-life, which never worked all that well anyway. Yes, there's a lot of irrationality around marriage, but there'd be a lot of irrationality around almost any marriage-surrogate for the foreseeable future, too.