The Death of an Obsolete Institution

The recent landmark Supreme Court ruling on marriage has the majority, about 68%, of Millennials rejoicing, as the 5-4 decision ruled in favor of guaranteeing same-sex couples in the United States to marry under the current Constitution. This ruling turned social media outlets and news sources into a flurry of outpouring, with many individuals choosing to add a rainbow backdrop to their Facebook profile pictures in support of the ruling, with others using this opportunity to voice their disapproval. Undoubtedly, this recent court case serves to represent a large generational, and thereby, cultural, shift in attitudes on same-sex marriage. If anything, though, this sort of response actually helps to reaffirm the notion of marriage, and if anything, might actually strengthen the institution of marriage as a whole. But this may actually be a bad thing.

The simple idea supporting same-sex marriage is that there is no relevant reason to deny the right to marry to any couple on the basis of their gender, as this social factor is irrelevant, and is, if anything, discriminatory towards certain individuals, something that would disregard the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. By extending the right for individuals to express their love in a ceremony is something that ought not be denied to any consenting couple. The extension of this right to same-sex couples only contributes to the institution of marriage by opening the doors of matrimony to more individuals, thereby bolstering it and diversifying this celebratory moment in the lives of many.

Instead of questioning the entire institution of marriage, however, we are still contributing to the ritualistic idea, and, to be quite blunt, for no apparent reason. Let me explain. There is no reason to deny any consenting individuals the right to marry if they want to, regardless of their race, sex, or gender. However, discourse is still focused on an expectation of marriage, one that refuses to actually call the entire institution into question. There are, of course, many individuals who seriously consider the commitment, and others who are persuaded to marry only after meeting someone who they wish to spend the rest of their life with. The point being made though is that it might be time to dump to the entire notion of marriage as a whole, or perhaps, maybe start talking about what it actually means or what purpose it serves, if any.

There are, as expected, the classic arguments made that focus on the idea that marriage serves as the “foundation of any healthy society,” and others of that nature. If we have, or should have, learned anything from our discussions regarding same-sex marriage, it ought to be that marriage is not the center of our social structures, and including certain individuals to be a part of this club does not in any way diminish its value. One columnist accurately describes one attitude concerning marriage as “inherently oppressive, patriarchal, or heteonormative,” then going on to explain how the gay community could have either fought to join the institution or defy it altogether. Given that they were denied this right, it seemed to make far more strategic, legal, and philosophical sense to be granted a right, one that seemed to be barred from gay couples for no relevant reason whatsoever. Who, then, will serve to question the entire institution of marriage, either, to redefine it radically or perhaps even evolve to view the ceremonious occasion as a phase of the human race, one that may have made sense at one point but has maybe become obsolete and pointless.

By calling marriage into question, I am not casting doubt on the sincere love that individuals may express for one another; instead, I am simply calling for an acknowledgement of the fact that individuals can happily coexist together, if they so desire to, without the need of religious institutions or governments cementing this covenant in place, thereby creating a lopsided power dynamic, one in which the ruling authority has the ability to bestow this ritualistic covenant and acknowledge their love as legitimate.

It is possible that it will be Millennials who will ultimately face this tradition and call it into question. This is only reaffirmed by the recent study that found that approximately 25% of young American adults will never marry.

There is no reason that cohabitation or a socially recognized bond between people should not serve as a valid enough indicator of love. There are numerous other marital taboos that may help to shed light onto the entire institution, such as the question of whether monogamy is a social construct or a biological drive for humans. Furthermore, is this something that differs in individual humans, as it has been shown to different in neuroscientific studies in other mammals? Furthermore, will questions of polyamorous relationships gain credibility, the seal of being taken seriously in social settings, instead of being dismissed as some sort of outlandish trend? Perhaps the expressions of Millennials, found in the form of open relationships and pursuing higher degrees of education, will finally be the spark that society has been looking for to, if anything, simply pause and discuss a social convention that may have run its time, ultimately reshaping our notions of community, individualism, relationships, and society, aspects of the human experience that may be in need of an inspection with a fresh set of Millennial eyes.

This article was written by Amar Ojha, founder and writer at dusk magazine. 

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