Commentary: There are no traditional marriages

The Myrtle Beach SunMay 23, 2012 

I’m a man married to a woman raising two young kids under the same roof.

Our children weren’t conceived until a couple of years after we walked down the aisle.

But I am not a part of a traditional marriage; I’m part of a modern one.

My wife is my co-equal partner, not my help mate.

My parents didn’t choose her for me. Her parents did not pay my parents a dowry.

Tracy and I found gave ourselves to each other because of love and physical attraction and a host of other reasons that can’t be fully articulated.

She could have married me even if her father disapproved.

She is neither legally nor by custom my property.

I didn’t have the right to marry a few other women after I stood by God, our family and before the law and took her hand as wife.

I don’t have the right to rape her out of a believe that as a man I am entitled to sex whenever I like.

She has the right to divorce me just as I have the right to divorce her.

She can enter legal contracts without my permission.

She can wear what she chooses.

She doesn’t have to hide in an outhouse a few days every month during her menstrual cycle.

I wash dishes and fold clothes. (OK, I’m good at washing the clothes but hate folding them and she hasn’t quite gotten acquainted with our 12-year-old lawnmower, but you get the point.)

I changed dirty, stinky diapers just as she did.

I stayed up with the kids late into the night when they screamed their heads off as newborns.

I make career decisions with her wants and needs in mind.

Sometimes I have the final say in the house; sometimes I don’t.

In every significant way, she is as much the head of household as I am.

Critics of President Obama’s recent decision to express support for marriage equality for gays and lesbians have been claiming that the marital institution has been static and unchangeable for thousands of years, and that to treat gays and lesbians like first-class citizens would be to undermine traditional marriage, which to them is shorthand for one man and one woman.

But the traditions found in just about every culture, including the Judeo-Christian one that dominates discussion in this part of the world, marriage was not originally designed to be like the one in which I’m engaged.

Often times, it was a way to officially put women in their proper place, which was beneath men, legally, ethically and every other way.

Researcher Stephanie Coontz has documented that a marriage based upon romantic attraction and emotional bonds is a relatively new concept, maybe 250 years old.

“For millennia, marriage was about property and power rather than mutual attraction. It was a way of forging political alliances, sealing business deals, and expanding the family labor force,” she has written recently. “For many people, marriage was an unavoidable duty. For others, it was a privilege, not a right. Servants, slaves, and paupers were often forbidden to wed, and even among the rich, families sometimes sent a younger child to a nunnery or monastery rather than allow them to marry and break up the family’s landholding.”

Marriage has evolved so much that even men on death row can not be denied their legal right to the institution.

Some have argued that the tradition of marriage dates back to Adam and Eve in the biblical Garden of Eden.

I’ve read Genesis quite a few times. I don’t remember reading that the couple had to sign a legal document to make their union official.

But my wife and I did.

And that’s all gays and lesbians are asking to be allowed to do.

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