Archive for the ‘SPP Debate Club 01’ Category

Slate: Abolish Marriages

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

I came across this after class today. I though it was interesting that this is being discussed in many online discussions.

So we notice the crap; Now what?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

I am supposed to argue that the U.S. government should not abolish state issued marriage, and instead, it should keep the legal sanctioned marriage. However, I don’t feel like either of these actions are viable solutions, to the problem of marriage excluding any relationship that does not fit into the traditional marriage. By traditional marriage, I mean mostly one man and one woman deciding to only have sex with one another and live under the same roof, while also sharing finances.

I don’t actually know what would be the best solution to the discrimination caused by legal definitions and social connotations of marriage. But I do have many questions on what others have said and how abolishing marriage could have negative effects. All change can positively and negatively influence people, so often the best solution is what works best for all while making sure the solution seems moral. (Granted, all of these words, like solution and morality, can have different definitions, but that hasn’t stopped the U.S. government from changing its laws from accepting, like slavery, and then condemning it.

Without marriage, how would we define who receives benefits?

If companies did not have concrete ways to distinguish between a worker’s family members and other relationships, then how could the companies determine who should be covered in an insurance plan? How would they measure the commitment in a relationship? For example, should a lover of one month receive his/her lover’s benefits if they claim they are deeply in love?

Leah Howard says, “Since we’ve agreed that there is crap in marriage as well as outside of marriage, why not get rid of the institution and honor the idea that a family is a family (whoever is involved) and provide the benefits and rights that married heterosexual couples enjoy today.”

If we abolish state sanctioned marriage, then what categories do we use to define relationships? Who is included in the family? What can serve as a measurement for recipients of insurance rights? Should the government provide benefits to couples or treat them differently than people who are single? How does the government start to define (and should it have the power to define) who is a couple or who is single?

If the government does start to treat people as only individuals, is it right to treat a women with a child differently than a women, living with another person, with a child? Could we assume a household with two adults (who aren’t married) would be able to give more financial support to the child, so the single household should receive more government help?

Should we reclaim marriage and/or create more labels?

What should we do now that we realize we’ve created the definition of marriage and it no longer can describe everyone? Is just creating new categories a good idea, since that was/is done with ethnicity, and now there are almost endless choices? (I’m not saying we should ignore ethnicity or that it was bad to include new options on the census.)

A part of Third Wave Feminism is reclaiming words that have negative connotations, like bitch, slut, cunt, and girl. According to Tamara Straus, Third Wave feminists would rather use words to describe themselves than have people apply the label to them. Straus quotes Amy Richards, an author and self-defined lipstick feminist: “Yes, I am difficult. I am a bitch. Call me a bitch. I’m going to reclaim bitch and make it my own word, because the word has more hostility when it’s being used against me than when it’s being used by me.” In regards to the question of government issued marriage, people for keeping marriage can argue in the same method as the lipstick feminists. We can reclaim the term marriage to include those left out of the current governmental definition.

Should the state take a more active role in definition and upholding marriages?

Kaitie O’Bryan says, “The contractual method of unions between people is a much more active and intentional way to get married than the traditional ‘sign-here’ document that a man and woman must sign to get legally married now. What if the government took a more active role in preserving marriages?”

Kaitie mentions Mary Lyndon Shanley’s solution of contractual marriage and that it could allow participants to know their own duties and the duties of their co-signers, and thus, participants would be happier. However, this solution assumes the participants’ duties are static. If the contractual marriage does allow changes in duties, then how does it do that? Do couples have to resign their marriage contracts every year? In the contracts, which duties are covered? Aren’t there even different meanings of taking care of someone while they are sick? (Does that mean picking up soup for them or keeping the TV’s volume below a certain number, so the sick partner can sleep?)

Kaitie says, “I would propose state-sponsored marriage counseling.”

(I think marriage counseling is often a good idea for couples, and I whole-heartedly agree people can learn useful things from counseling.) However, would people be willing to pay for it? What about people who claim they don’t need it or refuse it? Will the government force married couples to have counseling, and if so, how could they enforce and regulate the marriage counseling? Is state-sponsored marriage counseling a viable option? And how would people respond, especially considering many people’s responses to the current debate about state-sponsored health care? How much money are U.S. citizens willing to provide?

Don’t Throw it ALL Out — Just pick out the Crap

Monday, September 21st, 2009

If the government defined marriage as between two consenting adults, without regarding their gender identity, then the state should continue issuing marriage licenses and supporting the civil institution.

What’s wrong with marriages?

The best solution for the United States is not to simply wipe away all marriages. Claudia Card says in “Against Marriage and Motherhood,” written in 1996, that a main problem of marriage is parenting. As a result, Card claims a community-based child care would solve the problem of only two people, in a nuclear (or husband and wife) marriage, having all responsibility at raising their children. However, her logic fails when she continues to say people should fight for abolishing marriage; the absence of marriage does not mean that there will be communities, and then community-based child care. The solution, of communities supporting members more, is not a bad idea, but it does not provide a good solution.

What’s acceptable in marriages?

In the same article, Card says she does not approve of marriage because it only allows monogamous relationships. “As long as marriage is monogamous in the sense of one spouse at a time, it interferes with one’s ability to obtain spousal benefits for anew lover” (Card 7). Although marriage does not allow for multiple partners who are also married, Card assumes that people would like to have many relationships, like a husband and a wife, at the same time. Think about it: If you had the option, and it was socially okay, would you have multiple sexual, sensual, mental, and emotional relationships? How many people desire to have committed relationships with multiple partners? How does this change the definition of committed?

Since the debate’s definition of marriage is not gendered, I would assume the debate’s definition would allow same-sex marriages. Also, all marriages would have equal rights as heterosexual, married couples today. I’m not saying we should tolerate the negative things that happen in marriages, like emotional and physical abuse. But completely getting rid of marriage won’t solve these abuse problems. Making people more accountable for their actions, both in marriage and in general, can help though.

Assumptions: What is love? What is marriage?

Some people who are against marriage, like Card, base many of their points on an assumption: marriage should equal love, so people should only stay in marriages if they love each other. In 1996, Card said many marriages become “loveless after the first few years but hopelessly bogged down with financial entanglements or children (adopted or products of turkey-baster insemination or previous marriages), making separation or divorce (at least in the near future) too difficult to contemplate, giving rise to new motives for mayhem and murder” (8). However, one must question the definition of marriage and love before analyzing the logic. How are we to define love and how much is necessary to decide if one should get a marriage license? Should couples married for decades, who claim they love each other but no longer engage in sexual intercourse, be called out as lying about their love and encouraged to divorce? How do we measure love? And should we even try to measure other couples’ love?

In “The Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principles,” the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education Institute for American Values describe their definition of marriage: “We come together to help more men and women achieve a caring, collaborative, and committed bond, rooted in equal regard between spouses” (4). I believe most people would agree that this description of marriage, if it includes non-gendered relationships, is reasonable and desirable, even though I don’t think all of the Coalition’s marriage principles are correct. For example, the Coalition assumes that all people want to marry and children should not be born out of wedlock (The Marriage Movement 7). Disregarding the Coalition’s assumptions on general morality, they do note that marriage is a social institution (The Marriage Movement 7). Thus, the marriage license and the available ceremony provide a way for couples to show their relationship to society. The legal aspect, of making couples be financial partners, makes them more connected and involved in each other’s lives. In the U.S. today, marriage couples can also choose to keep more distinct financial accounts.

What do we do now?

Marriage has a long history and many connotations. Also, marriage is tied with the concept of family. Although people have been forced into marriages while others denied the right of the government’s acknowledgment of non-heterosexual committed relationships, society’s understanding of marriage is fluid. It can change. We could try to make a completely new way of defining relationships and throw out the term “marriage,” or there’s the option of taking out the harmful aspects and making something new. It might take more effort to change what we mean by marriage and how society views married couples, but I believe society (people in general, but mostly referring to people in the United States) will be more willing to accept changes.

SPP Debate Club 1: 9/20 – 9/25

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Colleen Javorina
Marlene Kvitrud

Commenters: Leah H, Meghan L, Karin L, Ali M, Haylie N, Kaitlyn O, Jaime O, Rachel S

Should States Abolish Marriage?
Set aside the question of same-sex marriage for a moment. Assume that the state permitted any consenting adult to marry another consenting adult, regardless of gender identity. Some argue that instead of broadening the institution of civil marriage, the state should do away with it as a legal category and altogether and adopt a universal system of civil unions open to all couples, while leaving marriage to churches, mosques, and synagogues. Others contend that marriage, as a civil institution, is an important component of our social structure and maintain that its elimination would have serious and detrimental consequences for society. Note: this is not a debate about same-sex marriage. This is a debate about whether the state should sanction any marriages.

  •, “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage”
  • Claudia Card, “Against Marriage and Motherhood”
  • Center for Marriage and Families, “The Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principles”
  • Center for Marriage and Families, “Why Marriage Matters”
  • Center for Marriage and Families, “Can Government Strengthen Marriage?”
  • Stephanie Coontz, “Taking Marriage Private”
  • Mary Lyndon Shanley, “Just Marriage”