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Why do the words matter?

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Posted:     Post subject: Why do the words matter?

Given that there are now various places in the world where same-sex civil unions are recognized, and have many or most (maybe all?) the legal protections of marriage, why does it matter whether it is, in fact, CALLED "marriage"?

Especially since, as we have seen again and again, people in marriages do not necessarily stay together "Til death do us part" anyway. Divorce is rife in the legally-married community.

I offer several thoughts:

Growing up, my mother always maintained that "the purpose of marriage is to protect children." To her, this meant that a married couple was "supposed" to try to have children; but Ernest Callenbach (in Living Poor With Style ) took the same premise and turned it on its head, saying that, unless a cohabiting couple have children, there is no good reson for them to get married.

In the anarchist community (with whom I sympathize), there is the idea that marriage is a bourgeois attempt to cling to romance and make it permanent; a futile attempt, since romance is inherently impermanent. This stream of thought would hold that a relationship is to last as long as it lasts, but then the two people should be free to end it when the time comes.

Also, in many traditions, marriage grew out of patriarchal values, in which a woman was considered to be the property of her father, who could sell her to a suitor; she then became the property of her husband. The modern-day liberalization of gender relations has eroded this concept; but might this be the reason for the increase in divorce? If so, what place could marriage have between two people of the same sex, where patriarchal values do not fit?

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