There was celebration in the United States last week when President Barack Obama announced that he believes in equality and supports same-sex marriages. The good wishes were fast in coming. Here in Israel, many welcomed the move and there were calls to allow such marriages in this country too. But the truth is that there really is no reason to celebrate.
Clearly, so long as marriage is a status that grants privileges, legal status and economic benefits, it must be accessible to everyone irrespective of religion, race, sex, sexual orientation and so forth. Therefore it is clear that in places where not every woman or man has the possibility to marry, this distortion must be corrected and they must be granted this basic civic equality.
But that is precisely the problem. Modern society and states continue to grant legal status, the economic benefits and the legal ability to have children on the basis of marriage - a dark arrangement that was invented light years ago, when women had no independent status in the eyes of the law, when they did not have the right to vote or to choose whether to get married, whom to marry, and whether to have children at all. An arrangement from the days when women were merely merchandise in every respect, acquired by men in order to ensure that they would have a womb that could bring them children who were undoubtedly theirs.
This is still what marriage is about today: an arrangement that makes it possible for every man to legally own at least one woman who will be at his disposal and bring him children from his sperm. Whether this is for passing on his name and property after his death, or whether for the purpose of carrying out the commandment of "be fruitful and multiply" - which applies to men only.
A century after women became equal citizens in the eyes of the law, at least formally, when some of them are legislators, and moreover, work and support themselves and do not require a man to support them and their children - there is no reason to continue this arrangement and it should have been canceled. What is the justification for the continuation of primitive ceremonies and contracts which obligate a woman to the package of services that comes with legally belonging to one man?
Men still need women to give birth to children for them, from their own sperm. And therefore marriage continues to exist and to automatically define the traditional gender division of roles in sexuality, birth, housework and raising children who bear the man's name. Thus it is that, even in democratic countries like Israel and the U.S., there exist societies which do not allow women to choose their partner and his/her gender, and do not make it possible for women to decide whether or not to give birth.
Thus surrogate motherhood exists, which makes it possible for men to use the womb of some woman so that they will have children from their own sperm, and now also same-sex marriages exist that will make it possible also for gay men to approach a surrogate with ease. In this way, marriages of homosexuals and lesbians perhaps get formal civic equality, but they join the institution, par excellence, of inequality and strengthen once again the institution of marriage that continues to weaken women and subjugates them to men.
The state should cancel the institution of marriage altogether and offer instead several models of arrangements for giving birth to children, raising children jointly, running a household together and for anyone who wants it, also sexual exclusivity. The agreements should be a model that is not obligatory - they could be used or people could write a private contract.
Agreements involving children must require authorization by a court and all of them should include the economic aspects of the connection and arrangements in case of separation or breaking up the partnership. The agreements should also be constructed in a way that recognizes the uniqueness of a relationship between a couple, only such a relationship will no longer be the sole option, based on gender-defined roles. Rather, there will be a variety of kinds of relationships with diverse kinds of roles.
In Europe and the United States the institution of marriage has indeed become weaker, but there are still no alternatives. People still do not draw up agreements between themselves, because marriage is still the default status that paints all other options in its own colors. Cancelling marriage will open up the way to true freedom, to equality and also to love.
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