marriage

There is a lot of tripe written about marriage.  People bend it to whatever suits their purpose, and so long as that purpose is consensual between the parties involved, that seems quite realistic and acceptable to me.  I quite like being married to Favourite Handyman.  I love it a lot actually, primarily because I love spending my life with him (I'm in particular thrall to his talents tonight because he is fixing the broken toilet cistern).  If we hadn't gotten married to each other, we could have still shared our love and life, though we couldn't have gone to England together as he had ancestral visa status (English grandparent) and I did not and de facto doesn't work for that.  We pulled our marriage forward in order to go to England.  The colleague who thought it funny to call me a 'passport slut' at the time missed his aim - I didn't find that funny.  "Congratulations, Sandra" would have been better.

In tonight's local rag, I happened to read the religious commentary section.  Having seen the (local) preacher's name first and knowing him to command respect among religious and non-religious people, I thought I would respect, if not agree, with his comments.  Not so.
"Marriage has always been understood under law as the sole domain of heterosexual couples because of its unique role in producing children and for the nurturing and rearing of those children within a relationship where they have the benefit of male and female complementary role models.  Benefits which developmental and sociological research have all emphasised the importance of at critical stages in the life of a child, which is why marriage has always been the preferred institution for the raising of children throughout history."

There are many excellent posts on marriage equality, as New Zealand (and other parts of the world) debate changing their laws to better recognise and respect a range of loving relationships.  I suggest this one from The End is Naenae and this and this from A Bee of a Certain Age for starters.

I'm going to confine myself to some really obvious stuff.  First up, this idea that marriage is really about the babies.  So when, exactly when, was the last time you heard the news that a post-menopausal woman was about to marry a man her own age or older and you were horrified because what's the point without the babies?  When?  I've never heard it.  I know that married couples who choose not to have children do experience unpleasant societal and familial pressure, but I've never heard anyone suggest they shouldn't have gotten married because choosing not to have babies is outside the contract.

I can't actually bear to pull apart the phrase "male and female complementary role models," so let's move on to the notion that research shows that children who live in households with both biological parents who are legally married do better in life.  Like so much which parades as 'research', causality and correlation are mixed up like one big cocktail.  I spend my time with a number of wonderful friends who enjoy job security, relationship security, good education and excellent parenting skills, all outside of the legal definition of marriage.  I cannot see that their children experience any adverse effects in life compared to my own, though they will experience better parenting in terms of living in a tidy house than my children do.

But let's look at the statistics beyond my personal friends.  Unlucky people feature disproportionately in the not currently married section.  I remember when my daughter was a baby and FH was ill with a lung infection, really ill with it and not for the first or the second time that year.  I remember standing by the bed, holding my daughter, with my young son not far away, and wondering if at this rate I would end up raising the children by myself.  The anti-smoking campaign in England showing a young boy beside his father's grave haunted me some weeks.  Well, so far we are lucky.  FH has given up the ciggies, his health has improved, I now have children old enough that I could conceivably support them myself, but I did stick to the decision I made back then that I wasn't having a third child when I could end up doing the lot by myself.

Remember when Wetville hit the news?  When the world's cameras came calling because twenty-nine of our men were dead under the ground?  The children of those 29 men are in the statistics for not living with their father and mother together under a marriage contract now.  Some of their parents were married before November 19, 2010, and some were not.  But it isn't their parents' marital state before the dads died which affects the life chances of these children; it is the fact that their dads were unlucky.  Unlucky enough to be mining in a country with inadequate mining safety laws, inadequate regulations and inadequate enforcement, but that is another story.

Those persons of conservative religious persuasions who feel that children raised in homosexual union families are disadvantaged by the non-conformist nature of their family might prefer not to read the stories of adults who were raised in religious families who found it oppressive and a detrimental experience.  Philip Larkin may have had a point when he said

Comments

Christopher said…
Thank you!

I suspect your sentiments will be shared by many in your town, and many will be thinking, 'that old fool, the priest'.

But I appreciate you taking the time to specifically write about this issue.
Annanonymous said…
In a slightly related note - remember when we were discussing how (particularly Catholic) couples limited their families in the days when contraception was prohibited and/or before reliable contraception was available?

I'm reading at the moment 'Greed, lust and gender: a history of economic ideas' by Nancy Folbre, a feminist economist. She traces the development of political economy, and how it incorporated ideas of population regulation or promotion. Towards the end of the 19th century, birthrates started dropping in the US and Europe - not because contraception improved, but because women got frickin fed up with it. Aided by better property laws concerning women and rising standards of living, mind you.
Sandra said…
My pleasure Christopher. Thanks for your comment.

Anna, what a wonderful book title by Nancy Folbre! I just googled her and her other books look very interesting. I wonder if anyone has looked at farming and fertility in New Zealand. Anecdotally, it has long seemed to me that farming families (in terms of owner operators, a demographic being eaten up by corporate mega-farms which I think is really unfortunate) tend to be slightly larger than average. It makes sense: plenty of space for them to run around, and a family workplace which makes good use of child labour.
Anonymous said…
You didn't include a link to the excellent article by the church leader.
Sandra said…
Our local rag only has a tiny portion (and it is a small newspaper in the first place) online, and it doesn't include the Saturday "Amen" section.

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