READER REPORT:

Marriage much more than reproduction

JUDITH MACDONALD
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2013
Same sex marriage
REUTERS
NO SIMPLE THING: Marriage means different things in different cultures.

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Every society has some way of getting people together to produce more people. However, that does not rely on the one man-one woman pairing which opponents of same sex marriage seem to believe is the only way.

Marriage, universally, is much more than reproduction. It is based on bringing groups together, and ensuring the legitimacy of children and their care. It is done within the cultural ideas of any society and its needs. For instance, in societies where there is a hierarchy and rich men at the top (think King Solomon), a man can have a thousand wives as long as he can support them.

In some parts of Africa a man who dies unmarried is believed to be unable to enter heaven and his brother will therefore marry a woman in the name of the dead brother. The woman is married to a ghost (her legal husband) but the living brother (even if he has another wife) will be her physical husband. The children are seen as belonging to the dead brother. These communities separate the social from the physical as we do with adoption, where we understand a child can have a physical and a social father or mother.

There have been groups like the Shakers in the United States of America who reproduced through adoption because they believed there were too many children in need that they could help without adding to the population.

Nuns in some western religions symbolically marry Christ. This shows very clearly that marriage has a wider definition than one man and one woman.

Society decides what is appropriate for that society - multiple partners, ghosts, no partners and so on. In our society we have recognised legally the rights of adults to be equal. People may not be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion or gender except in the one instance of marriage for same sex couples. The majority of New Zealanders recognise this as unfair and think it should be changed.

We challenged the Biblical suggestion that women are inferior to men. Now we should call in to question the opposition to same sex marriages.


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