Monday, July 11, 2011

What's wrong with The Marriage Vow

This is not a marriage. No matter what
it might look like. No siree-bob. If they have
kids, they will not be a family.  Nope.
This message brought to you by a lot of
organizations with the word "family"
in their names, so they know what
they're talking about.
So far, Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann are the two presidential candidates (wow; it's still strange to say that) who have signed something called The Marriage Vow. What is this vow, you ask? Well, it's a pledge conceived by a Christian organization called The Family Leader, based in Iowa and associated with Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. Because by golly, you don't care about families if you don't have "Family" right there in your name.

And the word "family," of course, means something very specific: a church and state-authorized union of two people who were born biologically male and female respectively, who were virgins until marriage and maintain a strict monogamous relationship, would never divorce unless perhaps one of them beat the other to a pulp, and whose sexual relations (which involve no consumption of pornography) have produced at least one child containing their shared genetic lineage. Or to use the Vow's terms, "innocent fruit of their conjugal intimacy."

Having clarified that, let's get to the Vow itself. The purpose of this pledge is to outline a set of stances a presidential candidate will promise to support and uphold in defense of the Institution of Marriage, which is critical to maintaining that of Family (TM) outlined above.  If a candidate refuses to sign, then of course we need no more evidence whatsoever to conclude that he or she is anti-Marriage and anti-Family (TM) and therefore presumably in support of every brand of debauchery, perversity, and hedonism that you can imagine. He/she probably holds nightly screenings of Caligula for the neighborhood children during which they are encouraged to suck on vodka-flavored phallus-shaped lollipops. Or worse, he/she supports gay marriage. Which is not Marriage, regardless of what the government might say. Unless the government agrees with The Family Leader and passes a federal prohibition on gay marriage (support for which is included in the Vow) in which case the law is presumably binding and just.

So. Let's fisk The Family Leader's Marriage Vow for candidates, shall we?
Therefore, in any elected or appointed capacity by which I may have the honor of serving our fellow citizens in these United States, I the undersigned do hereby solemnly vow to honor and to cherish, to defend and to uphold, the Institution of Marriage as only between one man and one woman. I vow to do so through my:
  • Personal fidelity to my spouse
This goes to hypocrisy. It's typical for conservatives to accuse everyone else of hypocrisy for not properly upset about the dalliances of people like John Edwards, Bill Clinton, or Anthony Weiner, but the reason why we aren't is because those aren't the politicians who were going on about the sanctity of marriage as an inviolate institution which no one deserves but people like them. That is, they're not hypocrites. The number of Republicans, on the other hand, who have made precisely such speeches and advocated legislation in "protection" of this institution?  Caught red-handed all of the time. So often it has become a joke-- identify the ones speaking most loudly about the sanctity of marriage, and they will be the next one caught cheating. Sexting, hiking the Appalachian Trail, affecting a wide stance in an airport restroom....I can understand why advocates of The Marriage Vow would want to ensure that such embarrassments are not recruited to their cause. I am also skeptical that they can attract anyone else.  
  • Respect for the marital bonds of others
...unless they're gay, or their marriage is otherwise not officially condoned as supportive of Family (TM).
  • Official fidelity to the U.S. Constitution, supporting the elevation of none but faithful constitutionalists as judges or justices
This one struck me as out of place, considering that the Constitution says exactly nothing about marriage. Then I read the footnote to this provision: 
It is no secret that a handful of state and federal judges, some of whom have personally rejected heterosexuality and faithful monogamy, have also abandoned bona fide
constitutional interpretation in accord with the discernible intent of the framers.  In November, 2010, Iowa voters overwhelmingly rejected three such justices from the
state Supreme Court in retention elections.  Yet, certain federal jurists with lifetime appointments stand poised, even now, to “discover” a right of so-called same-sex
marriage or polygamous marriage in the U.S. Constitution.      
Aha! Yes, that pesky 14th Amendment. The reasons for eliminating that bothersome guarantee of the equality of all American citizens to be protected at both state and federal levels just keep adding up, don't they?  After all, it has been used as justification for ending segregation and legalizing miscegenation. First the blacks got to marry whites, and now the gays are getting to marry each other. Clearly this amendment must be eliminated. In order to protect the Constitution from those who would change it, we must...change it first, before they can get to it.
  • Vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage-- faithful monogamy between one man and one woman-- through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc.
Or, conservatives from 1967 would like to note, mixed-race.  
The definition of the Institution of Marriage used here strikes me as uses a non-legal concept of marriage (faithful monogamy not being a requirement) to enforce a legal prohibition.  If the authors of the Vow want non-monogamy to be outlawed, they've chosen a very roundabout way of expressing that. As it is, the mention of monogamy here is superfluous at best. Certainly it wouldn't be a surprise to find that they would like to lock up adulterers, but perhaps refrained from including that because it would be impossible to find anyone willing to sign off on it.  After all, it's one thing to pledge to be true to your spouse-- it's quite another to agree to your own arrest and prosecution if you fail.  

Also, including both polygamy and polyandry is redundant, polygamy being the word for multiple spouses in general and polyandry for multiple husbands specific. Bigamy is okay to include as to my knowledge it refers to duplicitously marrying multiple spouses. But that goes to the issue of consent, and people making this argument generally don't seem to factor in consent at all.  That's how they can compare gay marriage not just to polygamy but also pedophilia and bestiality, as signatory Rick Santorum has done.  
  • Recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex, longer lives, greater financial stability, and that children raised by a mother and a father together experience better learning, less addiction, less legal trouble, and less extramarital pregnancy. 
The footnote to this rather startling claim cites Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-Six Conclusions From the Social Sciences, a 2005 report from the Institute for American Values. As its sole evidence. This report is also entirely about comparing the welfare of children raised by two parents as opposed to a single parent, rather than those raised by married straight parents as opposed to married gay parents. An omission about as subtle as a freight train.
  • Support for prompt reform of uneconomic, anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy, tax policy, and marital/divorce law, and extended "second chance" or "cooling-off" periods for those seeking a "quickie divorce."
Well, I suppose making it harder for people to get divorced certainly supports the goal of marriage as an end unto itself. In the same way that opposing assisted suicide for terminally ill patients who are in great pain supports the goal of preserving life as an end unto itself.  
  • Earnest, bona fide legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) at the federal and state levels.
Of course. Even rabid states' rights advocate Ron Paul (whom The Family Leader supportshas abandoned that position to advocate for a federal ban on same-sex marriage. I am not a states' rights supporter myself and in fact consider the notion to be abhorrent, but it's particularly sad to see a libertarian abandoning principles in favor of personal prejudice. When your entire claim to legitimacy is based on the fact that you stick to your principles come hell or high water, and can at least be consistent if nothing else, and then you take a stance like this,'re no longer even a stopped clock, are you?
  • Steadfast embrace of a federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in all of the United States.
Yes, yes....and a big banner across the White House that reads "Adam and Eve; not Adam and Steve," and a formal repudiation of rainbows, triangles, and the color pink to be included in the presidential oath of office, and the establishment of internment camps for anyone found to be in possession of a Barbara Streisand album, and a national ban on mullets for women. We get it already.

  • Humane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy-- our next generation of American children-- from human trafficking, sexual slavery, seduction into promiscuity, and all forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion, and other types of coercion or stolen innocence. 

The mind boggles on how a provision such as the above could be enforced. I wonder if The Family Leader even know(s)? The footnote to this plank doesn't specify-- it just contains a very thorough and detailed rejection of abortion and infanticide. Okay, so the latter is already illegal and we'll outlaw the former. Then what? Human trafficking is already illegal. Slavery, sexual or otherwise, also illegal. Prostitution is illegal. How do you ban pornography and "seduction into promiscuity"? At least, without turning into Saudi Arabia?  

And what counts as "stealing innocence"?  Can I bring charges against George Lucas for bringing the first three chapters of Star Wars into the world?  How about the creation of Garfield, the movie?
  •  Support for the enactment of safeguards for all married and unmarried U.S. Military and National Guard personnel, especially our combat troops, from inappropriate same-gender or opposite-gender sexual harassment, adultery or intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds (restrooms, showers, barracks, tents, etc.); plus prompt termination of military policymakers who would expose American wives and daughters to rape or sexual harassment, torture, enslavement or sexual leveraging by the enemy in forward combat roles.
But not, presumably, when such acts are committed by our guys.
  • Rejection of Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control.
...such as laws banning abortion, pornography, adultery, prostitution, and gay marriage. All of which Sharia Islam also forbids, does it not? What a coincidence.
  • Recognition that robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security. 
Clearly the most controversial and divisive plank by far. With their record on emphasizing the importance of raising children properly and healthily, Democrats would never sign off on something like this.
  • Commitment to downsizing government and the enormous burden upon American families of the USA's $14.3 trillion public debt, its $77 trillion in unfunded liabilities, its $1.5 trillion federal deficit, and its $3.5 trillion federal budget.
Smaller government = happier families. Umm, okay? I suppose that means happier advocates for smaller government, and therefore they will be kinder to their spouses and children, and so....wait a minute; this argument could work for committing to anything at all that will make anyone with a family happy!  By that rationale all presidential candidates should commit to legalizing marijuana, because Willie Nelson has seven kids who could sure use some bonding time with Dad. Get on it!
  • Fierce defense of the First Amendment's rights of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Speech, especially against the intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy.
Great! Fantastic. I'm glad to hear that The Family Leader and all signatories of The Marriage Vow are fully behind protecting freedom of of expression for everyone who agrees with them on everything. Now let's hear how they feel about those who don't.


  1. I did a small twitter rant about Bachman signing this thing... so then a buddy of mine (who is a devote conservative) told me I was wrong and needed to READ THE ACTUAL DOCUMENT.

    So I did...

    ...and walked away more astonished and offended than when I thought it was just an attack on pornography. The entire document is an attack on so many things I don't know where to start! You did a wonderful job outlining some of the more shocking items!

    Thanks for the great post!

    Kevin aka Vailgeek

  2. I decided to read the document BEFORE I ranted. I'm glad I did. Like Kevin, I was more astonished and offended than I had been before. I was stunned to read the part where they state that black people were better off under slavery because they had two-parent families. Someone needs to read their history books. Seriously.

    And no, you can't sue George Lucas over Star Trek. Star Wars... ;-)

  3. Oh crap! Oops....thanks, Julie. Edited for inexcusable brain fart.

    I opted not to touch on the explanation for the Vow, but Anthea Butler ripped into that horrible claim about families in slavery here. Definitely worth a read.

  4. I agree with this post entirely.

    I just wish you'd taken a little time to figure out how we can protect women from pornography. I understand how we can protect children from pornography - just relegate them to a childhood similar to that of their own great-great-grandparents.

    But women? All women need protection from pornography? Does this include Michelle Bachmann?

  5. Thanks for the link, Gretchen. Made for interesting reading.

  6. "Recognition that robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial . . . "


    "Contraception of any type is bad. Gimme your shoes, get back in that kitchen, and lay down on the table."


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