Definition of “marriage” has always been in flux.

C.W. Nevius of 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:

Marriage’s lineage a bit convoluted

“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.

316 thoughts on “Definition of “marriage” has always been in flux.

  1. For someone who bitched about a personal attack, you sure didn’t mind dropping down to said level.
    Ragman, I don

  2. Would you tell a kid there is no Santa Claus, just to show how smart you are?

    Well, yes…if said kid was actually an adult who grew to adulthood still believing in Santa Claus and trying to impose the morality and “truths” of Santa stories on the rest of the population.

  3. Ragman, the only way I could be dropping down to your level is if, somehow, you are upset that I inferred that you are probably younger (not childlike) than you actually are. It

  4. I never cease to be amazed by David’s capacity for subtle arrogance. Every time I think he can’t top himself he manages to do so.

    It makes me regret the intellectual honesty statement I made only a few days ago.

    Awww. Now my feelings are hurt.

    Well, if everyone had a same sex marriage (and remained faithful, which is consistent with the moral) society would fail. And isn’t the argument that the homosexuals are making that the law’s not fair on that very basis? “Not everyone can get married so it’s not fair.” It’s an injustice because it’s a prejudice against a segment of society. Take your pick, either they are both valid, or both not, either way, I win.

    Wow, this is truly amazing. You manage to take a legitimate complaint by the gays in society (not everyone can get married so it’s not fair) and stretch that to mean that if we made things fair then everyone would have to engage in a gay marriage. What the fuck about the complaint leads you to think that it implies in any way that if allowed then everyone will want a gay marriage?

    It’s stunning to me that you would make a crack about ‘intellectual honesty’ and then turn around and engage in such a blatantly disingenuous argument as the above.

  5. David, you still didn’t answer my question “Is homosexuality really so appealing to you that you can see every person adopting the lifestyle?”

    If you’re afraid you’re going to be tempted to go gay I can understand how you would think the rest of humanity might falter as well - after all you know best. But if you feel secure in your “correct” sexuality and you feel that your relatives and friends are likely to remain untainted then why are you worried what a few of us sinners might do? You can single-handedly carry on the species.

    Come on, let us play “house”.

  6. Ragman, the only way I could be dropping down to your level is if, somehow, you are upset that I inferred that you are probably younger (not childlike) than you actually are.
    Wow, so you’re trying to goad me into personal attacks now.

    What you WROTE implied you were wiser due to your guess that you were older than I.  It’s that “I was doing this before you were born” defense when someone younger questions/criticizes you. 

    As to what the fuck was going through your head… well that’s a total different story, since you seem to carry on a DIFFERENT conversation there than what is being WRITTEN on this thread. 


  7. Ragman, the only way I could be dropping down to your level is if, somehow, you are upset that I inferred that you are probably younger (not childlike) than you actually are.
    Wow, so you’re trying to goad me into personal attacks now.

    I saw you pulling the “I was doing this before you were born” defense when someone younger questions/criticizes you.  It failed, now you have to cover your ass. 


  8. Hmm, I didn’t think the first one got through, so I had to rewrite it later.  Oh well.

  9. In response to Marriage’s Lineage is a Bit Convoluted.
    I have a brother who is gay, so don’t attack my response. Alright, I carefully decide how to respond to things, and I don’t take things out of context.
    For example, like that passage from 1 Corinthians 7:8. All you have to add to it is verse 9, and you no longer justify being single on your basis. The bible still directs fornication(or marriage out of wedlock).
    Don’t forget, last of all(and I hate GWBush) that society isn’t trying to judge, but it’s making a stand one way or the other.
    I know morality within myself. I’m not going to go and try and misquote scripture to prove my point.
    We need to take pride in finding the truth the right way. Jesus went to the cross for us, that is a fact. You can’t twist it, there’s evidence of the shroud. You can state a view based on ignorance, but if you tried to find meaning within your own life, you can’t lie to yourself. Notice how we’re humble to our own selves. We need to be humble in this world, too. We need to accept what we have to, after our arguments. We are weak, but God is strong.
    Peace, Dan

  10. Ragman, I came today to apologize for insulting you. Your follow-up post makes it easier, thank you. It

  11. Hey, David,
      In response to your “name one biblical inconsistancy & support it”: There are two creation stories in Genesis.  They don’t match up (the devil is in the details ).  I’d call that inconsistancy, so long as we define inconsistancy as “things that don’t mesh that should.”   

    But back to the main topic (in deference to those who do care about it).  I think people of legal age & mental competence should be able to enter into a contract of lifetime sharing with the government getting its cut.  I also think people should be able to get “married” without a license by the religious leader of your choice.  “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”  (Mark 12:17)  Probably not the most apt quote for the situation, but… I think it comes close. đŸ˜€

    I think making a law restricting who can enter into contracts of lifetime sharing is discriminatory.  Discrimination, if I remember right, is unconstitutional.  The idea of amending the constitution to sanction a certain kind of discrimination…makes my head hurt. :dohtwo:

  12. Yup, there are 2 stories. No, they are not inconsistant with each other. Again, bring on the inconsitency.

    I am totally down with your quote, and I think it’s perfectly apt. I also agree with your everything else you said, and I don’t think anything is prohibiting anyone from entering into those contracts.

  13. Here you go les, a response to your original challenge:

    First of all, same sex marriage proponents generally have a shallow understanding of marriage and believe that marriage is simply a loving relationship between people that provides access to legal benefits and whatnot. Same sex unions turn marriage into an emotional relationship that is flexible enough to include any grouping of loving adults. I

  14. Brett, none of what you just said explains why same-sex couples shouldn’t enjoy the same benefits.  They raise families (which is good for the children), take care of each other, live longer, etc. etc.  You haven’t given a single reason why it HAS to be one male and one female in a union.  (And I would really like to see any facts you can dig up to prove your assertion that both men AND women are necessary to bring up a child together.)

    All you’ve done is list the benefits of marriage, all of which I agree with.  But you haven’t justified anything else.  I could replace all your “mother"s and “father"s in each sentence with “two parents” and it would be just as true.

  15. Brett, from reading your response to Les, it seems that you give good reasons why “people” should marry and not why same sex couples should not.

    Most of the benefits you list suggest that aligning oneself with another is healthier than going through life alone and I doubt you’ll find good statistics to suggest that society and the individuals involved are only better off because it’s a male/female union.

    If you’re suggesting traditional marriages are better for society because that’s the way things have always been, I would be tempted to say American society hasn’t been that great so far. We have empty values or misaligned ones, crime ridden communities, prejudiced views toward others, starving children, religious monkeys selling portions of heaven, millions and millions going without basic health care, corporate criminals living off the fat of the land, and a thousand other imperfections I could mention.

    Oh, and your opinion that same sex proponents have a shallow understanding of why marriage is important, seems itself shallow.

    I hope you aren’t one of those who also believes that teens who pledge sexual abstinence tend to have fewer sexually transmitted diseases, fewer instances of pregnancy or relevant degrees of success with the abstinence pledge.

    Teens Pledging Sex Abstinence Often Fail-Study
    By Jon Hurdle

    PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - U.S. adolescents who pledge not to have sex until they are married have about the same rate of sexually transmitted diseases as other teenagers and they often fail to keep their pledge, according to a study released on Tuesday.

    The study of a nationally representative sample of about 15,000 youths aged 12 to 18 found that 88 percent of teenagers who pledged to remain virgins until they are married ended up having sex before marriage.

    The study, funded largely by the National Institutes of Health, found that these teenagers were also less likely to use condoms when they did have sex because they had not paid attention to sex education.

    Because of their ignorance about sexually transmitted diseases, “pledgers” were also less likely to seek medical help if they contracted one of the diseases, according to the study unveiled at a Philadelphia conference on sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs.

    Dr. Peter Bearman of Columbia University in New York, who headed the study, said the pledge movement failed to recognize the realities of adolescent sexuality. “Ideological programs designed to make serious interventions in public health programs tend not to work,” he said.

    Adolescents who pledged abstinence were much less likely than others to use contraceptives the first time they had sex. Consequently, their risk of getting STDs and becoming pregnant was as high as non-pledgers, the study found.

    Only 40 percent of male pledgers had used a condom in the past year compared with 59 percent of those who did not promise to avoid sex. Among females, the gap was 47 percent to 55 percent.

    The study found that pledging did succeed in delaying sex, reducing the number of partners and led to earlier marriages but it did not reduce the rate of sexually transmitted diseases.

    “These movements that are ignorant of social science research defeat the purpose they set out to solve,” Bearman said.

    Note - right before I posted this I saw that GeekMom made some of the same points, but I’m going to post it anyway. I spent 10 minutes writing this and that’s 10 minutes I can’t get back.

  16. Geekmom, Alright, you could either try reading my post again a little more carefully, or I could tell you that all those benefits that I listed are comparisons of hetero to homosexual couples, I wasn

  17. if homosexuality is socialy acceptable in all realms, areas, etc, except for the church, what will the church become in the next 5,10,20 years.

    do you guys see church eventually changing its stance on homosexuality

    or do you see the church and bible-believeing Christians not changing and becoming irrelevant in society???

    in the atheistic or free-thinker opinion can the Christian church continue to have influence in a society that accepts and sees homosexuality as a civil right??

  18. The church has been forced to change their stance on MANY things throughout history. This may just be another one. I don’t know.

  19. in the atheistic or free-thinker opinion can the Christian church continue to have influence in a society that accepts and sees homosexuality as a civil right??
    The church will have as much influence as it has registered voters who go to the polls.

  20. Brock, Ya sorry I must have written my original post badly or somthing, basically just read my response to geekmom and it’s about the same response I would send you, sorry about that.
    Also, Thanks for that totally unrelated teen abstinence thing, and no, I don’t believe that teens who pledge sexual abstinence tend to have fewer sexually transmitted diseases.
    I believe that teens who maintain sexual abstinence tend to have 0 stds (obviously)

  21. Also, I have a hard time seeing where “speaker” is coming from with his points. I don’t get it, are you a Christian speaker? What I’m wondering is, why go into such painstaking research to try and prove that the bible doesn’t ACTUALLY, FULLY, 100% condemn homosexuality,

    “NOWHERE in the Bible does it ACTUALLY, if translated correctly, condemn homosexuality, nowhere.”

    and then later, post this?

    “In the grand scheme of things, if Homosexuality is wrong, it doesn

  22. do you guys see church eventually changing its stance on homosexuality

    The Church hasn’t changed its stance on gluttony(that I know of), but look at the rise of obesity. 

    Protestants wanted demon alcohol banned so bad that they got an Amendment for that.

    I can see the church still calling homosexuality a sin even if gay marriages are legal at all levels.  You can rail against gluttony, sodomy, and drinking all you want.  Just keep it in your congregation and out of the laws.

  23. Posted by Brett - Also, Thanks for that totally unrelated teen abstinence thing…

    I don’t know if it was totally unrelated! After all, we are talking about legal (marriage) and casual coupling and the effects either has on a society. Also the article points out that abstinence pledges “led to earlier marriages.” according to the study.

    I guess marrying to get laid is fine, but marrying to show love and support for another of the same gender is bad for society? Don’t tell me you’re a Christian too. Alright, who invited all the damn Christians here?

  24. Let’s be clear exactly what we’re talking about, when we refer to Glenn Stanton as a “marriage research analyst.”

    Glenn Stanton—manager of the public policy analysts at Focus on the Family.

    We have to wonder whether Stanton’s work is disinterested engagement with social issues, for the purpose of determining whether homosexuality is truly dangerous to society, or whether his work is specifically oriented toward supporting a preconceived ideology.

    Remember, we shouldn’t just take an analcysts word that something is “true.”  Always ask for the documentation that backs up the assertion.

  25. Posted by randall - if homosexuality is socialy acceptable in all realms, areas, etc, except for the church, what will the church become in the next 5,10,20 years.

    Hopefully, the church will become obsolete and we’ll likely have a kinder, gentler nation.

  26. Brock- “but marrying to show love and support for another of the same gender is bad for society?”

    I’m saying that it’s worse for society than what we’re doing now, not at all saying that society is great now, just that it will be worse for society than just heterosexual marriages.


  27. Brett, read your own original posting again.  Unless you were badly paraphrasing the original report you read, NONE of it gives any justification for its claim that male-female marriages are better for the participants than same-sex marriages.  You can claim now that that’s what you meant, but the assertions themselves don’t make the case for the distinction.

    The only place where you make that assertion directly is the one you quoted again (

  28. elwedriddsche,
    4,000 years of field research doesn’t count? (Actually, you probably would say millions of years). I don’t recall Brett mentioning specifics, he’s making his case based on averages.

    But I’d be for testing folks thinking about having children. although I’d say the very desire to have kids is proof enough . I just don’t think we’d ever agree on a standard.

  29. Ok guys, so you honestly believe that two fathers can provide a proper mother and father figure in a child

  30. Geekmom- “The church has changed its stance on a lot of things over the last two thousand years. It

  31. Posted by Brett - Who’s the bigger sinner? I’ll tell you who’s better off, NONE OF US. We’re all sinners.
    Speak for yourself - I’m not a sinner. Just because you and G W Bush sin, it doesn’t mean you can call others sinners. YOU AND HE SHOULD JUST STOP SINNING!

    How divorce hurts parents and children, according to Stanton:

    Research on suicide published in Social Science Quarterly showed that, of
    many variables, divorce had the strongest relationship to suicide rates and
    marriage had the weakest. Research done by the Centers for Disease Control
    and published in the American Journal of Public Health reveals that divorced
    individuals are three times more likely to commit suicide than those who are

    Dr. Walter Gove, working from Vanderbilt University, found that divorced men
    are over 9 times more likely to die of tuberculosis and over 4 times more
    likely to die from diabetes than their married counterparts. A divorced male
    is 3.4 times more likely to die from any cause than a married male and a
    divorced female is 2.0 times more likely to die from any cause then her
    married counterpart.

    From 1973 to 1992, the violent crime victimization rates for females (per
    1,000 females age twelve or over) were 45 for divorced women and 11 for
    married women. This rate was 43 for single women.


    Dr. Robert H. Coombs, Professor of Behavioral Sciences at UCLA, conducted a
    review of more than 130 published empirical studies measuring how marital
    status affects personal well-being. He concluded that scientific
    investigations, conducted from the 1930s to the present, attest that married
    people live longer and generally are more emotionally and physically healthy
    than the unmarried. Coombs specifically looked at the areas of alcoholism,
    suicide, morbidity and mortality, mental illness and self reports of

    Coombs, literature review revealed, “empirical support extending back to the
    19th century shows that the highest suicide rates occur among the divorced,
    the widowed, and the never married and lowest among the married.” The intact family creates a cohesive, integrating effect on its members, which
    serves as a strong deterrent to suicidal tendencies.

    Research published in Psychological Reports reveals that marrieds are less
    likely to report feeling lonely than those of other marital status. This is
    meaningful given loneliness was defined as “the absence or perceived absence
    of satisfying social relationships” which the authors explain is “not
    synonymous with aloneness, solitude, or isolation.” In a random sample of
    over 8,500 adults, the percentages of those feeling lonely are as follows:

    Marital Status % Lonely
    Married 4.6
    Never Married 14.5
    Divorced 20.4
    Widowed 20.6
    Separated 29.6


    Aren’t they saying marriage is better for everyone and if you get married you should stay married. Don’t gays deserve healthier, happier lives through marriage too?

  32. I define sin as a broken relationship with God. Anything done that interferes with your relationship with Him is sin. Since Brett is using this in an obviously theological context, I think any other definitions you might try would be out of context. So Brock, since you do not sin, you have a close relationship with God? I never knew.

    And I think you do deserve all the benefits of marriage. Please do get married. Since your studies seem to be defining marriage as only that which happens between a man and a women (not 2 men or 2 women) I don’t see where we have disagreed. The studies stop being meaningful when we change the definitions of marriage.

    Wow, Brock, I just had an insight. Do you work for the FDA?

  33. Wow, Brock, I just had an insight. Do you work for the FDA?

    I doubt you’ve ever had an insight David. You can twist things to make them work for you, but that doesn’t count as insightful. Try again - you still have a million clues to get.

  34. other than screwing up the Childs perception of masculinity

    Thank you for making your bias explicit.

    From an anthropological point of view, the predominant environment in which children are raised is an extended family or even a tribe. You have yet to forward an argument that the proverbial nuclear family is superior in that regard.

    Even if we assume for the sake of argument that same-sex couples are inferior parents, it’s a non-sequitur that they should not be allowed to marry. And not to forget, we are talking of a minority within a minority - hardly a number that is of statistical significance to society of a whole.

    A religion that slowly bends to new wills of the people or new discoveries, (the only reason it would bend is that it

  35. I define sin as…

    And thus begins another rousing round of:


    The game where David redefines the meanings of words on-the-fly to suit his purposes! Will our panel of contestants be able to guess how David will rewrite a particular word’s definition ahead of time? The contestant who manages to come closest to David’s version could go home with tons of valuable prizes!

  36. You know, what I think is truly frightening is someone who is unable or unwilling to change his opinion when presented with new facts.  Someone who is that deliberately blind isn’t thinking; he’s just parroting.

    Fortunately, there are plenty of clergy who are smarter than that.  Even if the words in the holy text stay the same (and, as we all know, they DON’T, thanks to multiple translations and mutations in the language), their interpretation can be changed based on what we learn and know. Anybody with a shred of intellectual honesty will recognize when the current dogmatic interpretation is wrong (such as support for slavery) and will be brave enough to stand up and say so. 

    That’s also what scares me about Bush.  He makes up his mind beforehand, tosses out any facts that might disagree with his opinion, and refuses to waver even when things start going south.  That’s “leadership” only if you’re looking to be led down a deep, dark hole. 

    Science is a method for trying to understand the universe which accepts that from time to time our guesses about it might be WRONG.  If a theory fits the known facts, and can be accurately used to predict the outcome or existence of things not yet discovered, then it works and it’s the best one to hang onto.  It SHOULD be tested from time to time, and that’s how we know the ones we have are robust.  The main point is to keep re-evaluating and be ready to encounter new facts.

    (Gee, if my only “sin” is in refusing to create an imaginary friend, and refusing to believe in someone else’s, then I must be doing pretty well on the moral scale …)

  37. Elwedriddsche, you said:

    “So you are saying it was wrong for the Catholic church to abolish the Inquisition? And to tut-tut the burning of witches? If it was God’s will back then, it must remain God’s will today.”

    Who ever said that it was Gods will to burn “witches” in the first place? When did I ever say anything about that being Gods will?  Uhh Good one…I guess

    On to this next point that you attempted to make-

    “What this demonstrates is that highly complex and functional systems can evolve using nothing more a few simple rules and selection criteria without intervention of a higher being.”

    Well, first off you’ve just stated that you DO need rules, and you DO need selection criteria, so right there, there has already been intervention. You’ve added two things to the equation that do not exist eternally within themselves, two things that need to be established or set in motion by, in your experiment’s case, the scientist, and in the universe’s case, God.
    If you had said that it takes nothing for something to happen (a fundamental violation of all logic) then you may have found something to support your theory.
    From nothing, nothing comes, and if ever there was a time that there was nothing, the only thing that could possibly be now, couldn’t possibly be now.
    The only way the there could ever be anything now is if something has the power of BEING within itself. The power to exist always. Otherwise what ever IS now, would have had to create itself, which is mind boggling to believe because SOMETHING would have had to have existed, and not existed at the same time and in the same relationship in order to form itself, which isn’t, but at the same time IS!! It’s an impossibility!

  38. Brock-
    “Aren’t they saying marriage is better for everyone and if you get married you should stay married. Don’t gays deserve healthier, happier lives through marriage too?”

    No Brock, what they are saying is that heterosexual marriages are better for everyone, those are the people who your beloved tests were done on. Or maybe you overlooked that; I don’t know; I agree whole-heartedly with David on this one.

    Oh, and Elwedriddsche, I liked when you said-

    Elwedriddsche, you said:

    “You also misunderstand science. Science is not about truth.”

    Haha that’s good, at least you admit that you don’t seek truth, I mean, who’s accusing who of being willingly ignorant?
    You can go on and on about how “we all know that the bible is false, and we all know this and that” and whatever. But you’ve done nothing other than claim that because you think that everyone knows something, then it must be true.
    But after all, truth isn’t what your after anyways.or is it?

  39. OK, very funny, Les. Just find me a definition of sin in the theological sense that is substantially different than what I gave.

    Or shall we assume that Brett meant that he’s a wave form?

    Oh, but it’s OK for the people you like to agree with redefining what science is. I think one of your basic stumbling blocks is that you confuse science with naturalism.

    So how’s this for combining the two concepts: you post a reputable dictionary definition that is substantially different than mine, and I’ll buy you a copy of “Miracles” (by CS Lewis). For our panel of Judges: Brett, Geekmom, and nowiser. Valuable prizes, Mind stretching questions, but you’ve got to play to win! (or is that valuable questions and mind stretching prizes?)

  40. Guess it took you only 9 minutes to search the web dictionaries and crap out, eh? Well, I live to amuse. Guess I’m a success. Thank you for making me feel fulfilled.

  41. Science is about understanding reality/actuality, theorizing on how natural phenomona occur.  Therefore, science is about understanding truth.

    I’m interested in truth, not Truth.

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