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Opinion Marriage: Contractual or conceptual?

Comedian Groucho Marx once said “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?” Apparently, the North Carolina Legislature doesn’t believe marriage is institutionalized enough. It has recently voted to place a State Constitutional Amendment, titled “The Marriage Protection Amendment” that would ban same-sex marriages, on the May 8th, 2012 ballot.

In a time when we face enormous challenges, it seems a bit odd to direct energy toward banning something that doesn’t even exist in our State. I suppose it makes for interesting political theater and public piety to shoot for a double ban and see which politicians pass the litmus test of support.

The arguments against same-sex marriage have been scooped up from the anti-interracial marriage playbook. Familiar themes, such as it’s unnatural, against God’s law, detrimental toward children and erodes the very fabric of society by circumventing the traditional nature of marriage are all being recycled.

Roughly half of all “traditional” marriages end in divorce with the remaining 50 percent enjoying varying degrees of marital bliss – or lack of it. Somehow, I doubt that the passage of “The Marriage Protection Amendment” would make a dent in those numbers. There is a myriad of reasons for failed marriages, but I’ve yet to hear someone say they hit the skids with their mate because of same-sex unions. Homosexuals have always married, unfortunately it’s been with the opposite sex. And, I do know of cases where that has led to divorce.

Many who favor allowing same-sex unions approach the topic as a civil rights issue involving protection of minority rights. It can also be viewed as a civil rights issue affecting everyone. People should be free to enter contractual agreements as they see fit. Unless fraud or other criminal activity is involved, the government (through the courts) should only provide enforcement of a contract but not dictate what people can agree to.

A few years ago, Leona Helmsley bequeathed 12 million dollars to her pet Maltese dog named Trouble, while leaving out two of her grandchildren from her will. Sure, it’s a bit strange to my way of thinking (I would leave it to a Border Collie), but the contract is valid. I am surprised that Helmsley’s as well as the acts of others has not led to the “Inheritance Protection Amendment.”

For better or for worse, the concept of “holy matrimony” is evolving toward the concept of “civil unions,” and gays didn’t start this shift. Over the years, not only have divorce laws been relaxed, but increasingly, more and more couples have opted for prenuptial agreements. Prenups are like marriage on trainer wheels. Sure, it’s “death do us part,” – but just in case – “there’s plan B.” Where’s the moral outrage to straight people twisting the traditional nature of marriage?

Perhaps the “marriage protection” advocates should think big instead of nitpicking around the fringe. How about a Constitutional ban on divorce or make it illegal to co-habitate (aka living in sin)? Let's not forget the Seventh Commandment. Sending people to jail for adultery would send a message to those who take their wedding vows lightly. Some of the supporters of “The Marriage Protection Amendment” would then have an opportunity to start up a discussion group about the institution of marriage after they are institutionalized in prison.

George Hasara is a regular columnist for the Macon County News, as well as the owner and proprietor of the Rathskeller Coffee Haus & Pub, located at 58 Stewart Street in downtown Franklin.


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