What is marriage?

It is most often defined as a union between two people, but it depends on how marriage is defined culturally and legally in any modern country.

mar·riage

noun 1.

a. the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc. Antonyms: separation.

b. a similar institution involving partners of the same gender: gay marriage.

etc

There are religious claims to marriage, like…

…marriage, as a word, is a religious activity (controlled by the church) which has subsequently been made a civil activity (controlled by the State).

My ‘solution’ is to define all legal unions as XXXXX and reserve the term marriage for those legal unions which are conducted in accordance with a church’s rules. So, every husband and wife would be legally joined, but only those legally joined in a church ceremony would be ‘married’.

Many would dispute that religious groups have exclusive ownership to ‘marriage’ as a single religious entity.

Marriage types mentioned in the Bible:

1. Man + Woman (Nuclear Family) – Genesis 2:24
– wives subordinate to husbands
– interfaith marriages forbidden
– marriages generally arranged
– bride who could not prove virginity was stoned to death

2. Man + Wife + Concubines
- Abraham 2, Solomon 300

3. Man + Woman + Woman’s property
- man could acquire wife’s property including slaves

4. Man + Woman + Woman + Woman… – (Polygany) Genesis 16
– Esau 3, David many, Abijah 14, Solomon 700

5. Man + Brother’s Widow (Leviterate) – Genesis 38:6-10
– woman who had not borne a son required to marry her brother-in-law
– must submit sexually to her new husband

6. Rapist + Victim – Deuteronomy 22:28-29
– virgin who is raped must marry her rapist
– rapist must pay victim’s father 50 shekels of silver for property loss

7. Soldier + Prisoner of War – Numbers 31:1-18, Deuteronomy 21:11-14
– under Moses’ command Israelites must kill every Midianite man, woman and child except for virgin girls who are taken as spoils of war
– wives must submit sexually to their new owners

8. Male Slave + Female Slave – Exodus 21:4
– slave owner could assign female slaves to his male slaves
– female slaves must submit sexually to their husbands

Claims that marriage is a cultural practice that must not be tampered with are contradicted by many variations in marriage over time. Marriage has varied and evolved for millenia, and now means different things to different cultures and to different people within cultures.

Marriage variations over history

Variations of marriage over time according to Religious Tolerance:

Marriage has been an amazingly flexible institution. It is and has been in a continuous state of flux. At various eras and locations:

It has been a purely secular ceremony. It has been a deeply religious ritual.
It has been regarded as a life-long commitment. It has been a temporary handfasting which expired after a year-and-a-day.
It has symbolized the transfer of the near absolute ownership and control of a woman from her father to her husband. It has recognized the relationship of two independent individuals, who enter marriage as equals.
In the past, marriages have been restricted to two persons in some cultures, and more than two in others. In the Bible, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. In predominately Christian countries, marriages have been limited to two persons. In predominately Muslim countries, polygyny is occasionally practiced. This is a form of polygamy with one man and up to four wives. Polygyny is practiced among fundamentalist Mormon denominations in Utah, and British Columbia, where it is illegal but rarely prosecuted .
In the past, some African-Americans and inter-racial couples have not been permitted to marry. Currently, with few exceptions based on genetics or familial relationships, any opposite-sex couple, no matter what their race, can marry.
In the past, only opposite-sex couples were permitted to marry. Same-sex couples can now marry in a growing number of jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia, a few other states, including Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, etc.
In the past, over 1,400 rights and privileges have been restricted to heterosexual married couples in most states of the U.S.. Committed gay and lesbian couples can now get about 400 rights and privileges in the District of Columbia and a growing number of states where they are allowed to marry. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOAM) denies them federal rights and privileges of marriage. They receive full marital benefits in Canada.

More…

History of marriage

The history of marriage dates back as far as the ancient times. Studies revealed that marriage didn’t exist before. The usual practice was that the men in a certain tribe or horde had access to the women they like. When children are born, they belonged to the whole community. This is associated with the perception that humans want sexual variety. However, things have changed when sexual morality was developed and has since influenced the social life of the people.

The earliest marriage was believed to be ‘group marriage’. The union was basically between groups of men and women, and there exists shared sexual relations. The group marriage allowed polyandry, and this existed in Ceylon, India, and Tibet many years ago.

The origin of marriage is a great debate subject. Many people are wondering how marriage began. There have been studies that claim the existence of marriage 4,350 years ago. Before this time, families were made up of less organized groups consisting of more or less than thirty people. The group consisted of men that shared women. With the introduction of agricultural civilization, the society demanded for stable arrangements.

It is said that the first union between a man and a woman took place in Mesopotamia at 2350 BC. Marriage evolved since then and such practice was observed by the Romans, Greeks, and Hebrews. However, the union was never about love or religion. The primary purpose of the marriage is to ensure that the man’s children are biologically his, and so women were treated as mere ‘property’.

Wives were expected to stay at home and attend to the children, as well as house chores. A husband can give back his wife if she is unable to produce children. The ancient people also turned to prostitutes, concubines, or male lovers to satisfy their needs for sexual variety.

More…

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