TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE BENEFITS SOCIETY.
First, we glimpsed the marriage of the future on Feb. 15, when 23 million TV viewers tuned in to see ``Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?'' Viewers watched 50 women parade in ``beachwear'' and answer insipid questions, hoping to become the wife of Mr. Right - namely, Rick Rockwell of San Diego, a man none of them had ever laid eyes on before.
For his wife, the millionaire chose Darva Conger, a nurse from Thousand Oaks. This ignoble union died a quick death as Conger recently filed for an annulment, mercifully sparing us the inevitable news accounts of their daily dalliances.
Conversely, Proposition 22 fared better, recently scoring a solid electoral victory. In a sane age, of course, Prop. 22's assertion - that marriage should be defined as between one man and one women - wouldn't be subject to debate, much less to a vote of the people. But ours is not a sane age, and thus today's men and women are driven to extraordinary lengths to defend the ordinary truths of their fathers.
Yet arguments made by supporters in defense of Proposition 22 carry with them the seed of future problems.
Debate about the initiative largely centered on marriage's nominal, i.e., cash, value - leading to complaints about how unfair it seems that some can receive it and others can't.
Prop. 22's defenders bent over backward explaining that people's hard- earned ``domestic partnership rights'' weren't threatened by the measure. But by taking this approach, marriage's defenders missed a golden opportunity to clarify what the institution is all about in the first place.
Hard to imagine now, but limiting marriage to a man and a woman wasn't always a controversial matter. Virtually every society has some form of marriage as we know it, and the institution has proved itself as a means of preserving social stability and providing for the need of women and children.
In Western civilization, holy matrimony was raised to a sacrament, bestowing both privileges and - often conveniently forgotten - duties on each partner. These obligations included a lifelong commitment, sexual fidelity to one's spouse, providing for the upbringing of the children borne to the marriage and sharing property ownership.
Most societies recognized both matrimony's cultural benefits and the burdens assumed by the married couple on behalf of society, primarily in the proper raising of future generations. Thus, certain privileges and benefits were afforded those who shouldered the duties and responsibilities coming with marriage.
These included marriage tax breaks, inheritance rights and family insurance coverage. It was generally acknowledged that families raising honest, well-educated children were not only doing the Lord's work, but everyone else's too. And raising such children, heaven knows, ain't cheap.
This is a vital distinction for proper understanding of today's ``marriage'' controversy. First came society's recognition of marriage's cultural value and its duties and burdens. The privileges and benefits afforded husband and wife followed. To hear some tell it, you'd think marriage was created solely as a means to bestow certain ``rights'' on heterosexual couples and deny them to homosexuals.
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of marriage. Marriage perquisites are provided to ease the burdens of raising a family, the primary reason for marriage; a societal quid pro quo for producing and molding the next generation.
But with ``domestic partnerships'' - including heterosexual ones - children are only incidental to the relationship, and no long-term commitment exists to share in the offspring's upbringing. Consequently, there is no ``give'' to society, only ``take.''
Therefore, persons in domestic partnerships have no claim or ``right'' to any special benefits - including family health insurance, inheritance rights, or tax breaks - beyond those of any citizen. None.
Perhaps by avoiding the hard truth about marriage - that it's a lifelong commitment whose primary purpose is the raising of children -Prop. 22's defenders merely conformed to the ways of the world to achieve success.
But the same can be said for the disgraceful ``Millionaire'' TV show. So long as society shrinks from defending our cultural institutions according to their natural purpose, we'll continue to be bombarded with assaults on our traditional life, until one day we'll find there's nothing left of civilization worth preserving.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Mar 19, 2000|
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