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May 25th, 2010

The Evolution of Marriage

One day - in the not-so-distant future - same-sex marriage will be a legal right afforded to all gay Americans.  It will happen, no matter how hard the dissenters try to stop it from happening.

Marriage is not a sacred inexorable establishment.  In fact, the institution of marriage has metamorphosed and evolved over time; changing through the centuries to fit the times in which it was applied.  Marriage today is nothing like marriage in the 1200s, for example, and even further removed from marriage (which the commoners rarely even did) in any B.C. era.

Contrary to popular belief, the Church has no claim or hold on matrimony's origins.  Church control over the institution did not heavily begin until the 1300s, and even then it was arbitrarily administered, at best; banes, divorces, and annulments were meted out to royalty and aristocracy for the right amount of money or if an alliance or division suited their own political and power play maneuverings.  The rules and regulations were ever-changing as befit the times, the political atmosphere of the day, or the whims of sovereign rulers or religious leaders.

In fact, Popes and Catholic priests were often married despite the cessation of the practice as decreed in 325 at the Council of Nicaea as part of the Nicene Creed.  Regardless of the Creed's dictate, however, priests and even a number of Popes continued to enjoy wedlock up until the eleventh century when Pope Urban II tried to put a kibosh on the practice by selling priests' wives into slavery and forcing them to abandon their children in 1095.

Even with such heinous measures, the tradition took a long time in dying out (as traditions often do) and in the fifteenth century, 50% of all priests were married and accepted as such by their parishioners.  The last recorded married Pope was Felix V (1439-1449); he and his wife had one son.

Even within the supposed sacred sanctity of the Church, the history of marriage is one of change, adaptation, and growth.  The major divisive action of Henry VIII that created the Protestant movement, all so he would be allowed to divorce his wife, is ample evidence that, as far as the confines of the Church, the institution of marriage is not the steady stalwart many believe it to be.

The idea of marrying for something as capricious as love would have been foolish, to say the least, to our not-so-distant ancestors.  In fact, it would have been unthinkable and, even more importantly, forbidden by the lovers' parents.  Marriage was a business deal, (hopefully) a step up in one's and their family's wealth and status.  For royalty it was a contract that allowed for alliances, accumulation of land, and legitimate heirs to pass their title and assets onto.  It was not much different for the aristocracy and other upper class echelons.  Due to this, young adults were not allowed to choose their prospective mates; it was entirely too important a deal to be left up to the vagaries of youth and hormones.

One of the things that always comes to mind when people talk about "traditional marriage" is one of its not-so-distant customs.  Not that many years ago, parents were the decision-makers for a young couple's future.  Plans were made, often without consulting the children.  If we went back to "traditional" marriage, then your parents would be choosing your mate and you'd have no say-so in the matter.  If you refused, not only would you be shunned by your parents but by your entire community!

The fact of the matter is that marriage is not the stable, resolute practice many believe it to be.  Anti-gay marriage proponents feel that allowing homosexuals to marry somehow ruins the "institution of marriage" or changes an "age-old tradition" and this will all, somehow, destroy marriage as we know it  This is erroneous thinking; this is simply a new age and a new time with modern circumstances that require a face lift to the current state of matrimony.

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