C.W. Nevius of SFGate.com has a really good article on the uproar over gay marriages and how they supposedly threaten to undermine the “traditional definition of marriage” in this country. President Bush is quoted as saying “Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society,” and yet if you take a good look at the history of marriage it’s clear that such serverances have been many and varied throughout history.
Nevius points out that back during the early history of America (1700-1800s) a married woman gave up many of the “rights” she enjoyed as a single person upon taking her vows. She could no longer own property or sign contracts and any money earned outside of the home had to be turned over to her husband. On the plus side, she didn’t have to pay taxes. In many ways a married woman was the property of her husband and this didn’t change until the the latter-half of the 19th Century, but change it did. Mixed race marriages weren’t legal in any state until California changed their laws in 1948 and it was 19 years more before the Supreme Court made it nation-wide. In many states it was still illegal for mixed race couples to marry until the year I was born (1967), but change it did. More interesting still is what you get when you look closely at just what the Bible suggests about marriage:
“It is really much more complex in religious perspective than you might think,’’ says Tolbert, the George Atkinson Professor for Biblical Studies at the Pacific School of Religion. “What the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) suggests as a general model for marriage is polygamy. You look at someone like Solomon who had 200 wives and 600-and-some concubines. Or Abraham, who had his first child by his wife’s slave. It sounds as if it was quite normal.’‘
Tolbert, who is also the executive director for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, points out that marriage didn’t even become a sacrament of the church “until the 12th century. For the first 1,200 years (A.D.) in Europe there were civil unions by town or village government.’‘
Nor does the New Testament offer much help. In fact, by some selective readings it sounds as if the Bible has mixed views of marriage. As Tolbert says, Jesus says very little about marriage, and both he and Paul were single men. And Paul, at least, recommended chastity.
“Marriage is not a sin,’’ says Paul in First Corinthians, “but it is better to be unmarried.’‘
“The Bible is an incredibly important sacred icon in our culture,’’ says Tolbert. “But I just think a lot of people don’t read it.’‘
That not many people read the Bible they supposedly follow is obvious. I issued a challenge awhile back for anyone to list a single valid reason that wasn’t religious in nature as to why gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry and never got anyone to take me up on that challenge. That challenge still stands.