The intellectuals who want to deep-six marriage

Australia’s debate over same-sex marriage is bringing up some colourful alternatives to the natural family. Yesterday evening an English philosopher and an Israeli member of the Knesset, argued on Q&A that marriage should be abolished altogether.

The ABC’s Q&A panel included, Liberal frontbencher Zed Seselja, Independent senator for South Australia Lucy Gichuhi, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, philosopher A.C. Grayling and Israeli parliamentarian and feminist Merav Michaeli.

On this topic, the other members of the panel were outgunned by Grayling and Michaeli, who put up a strong case for a libertarian version of marriage, with contracts for couples who want to commit themselves to each other.

Like a typical philosopher, Grayling made a distinction between a sexist version of marriage between two people which is regulated by the state and “the commitment that two or perhaps more – I don’t know – people make to one another about pooling their resources, sharing their lives, mutually supporting one another”. The first deserves to be abolished.

Merav Michaeli was even more forthright in her presentation. Marriage, she said, was essentially “a tool that was made to dominate women for the sake of reproduction”.

Not only is marriage repressive, it is destructive and leads to child sex abuse: “The core family as we know it, unfortunately, is the less safe, the least safe place for children, not just in Australia, in the Western world and in more traditional societies even more so.”

So, instead of traditional marriage, Michaeli proposes two default arrangements. In the first, adults commit to caring for children. “A child can have more than two parents. They don’t have necessarily to be his biological parents, or her biological parents. The person who takes responsibility for the child – and someone must take responsibility for the child – needs to be obligated for certain criteria that the state should actually decide on.’

And the second is a shared household in which the state regulates some of the social and financial consequences.

Michaeli developed her ideas about abolishing marriage at greater length in a TED talk in Jaffa. “As we don’t cancel marriage we can’t even start to imagine new options, new agreements, new arrangements,” she says. “We need to deconstruct in order to build something new.”

And she concludes:

So, if we aspire for equality between men and women we cannot sustain this institution that was created and designed to give men control and possession over women and children. We must cancel marriage. There is no point in trying to change it from within, for this is the nature of it.

We must cancel marriage, so we can have a new dream, or better yet, many kinds of new dreams. And until then, create your own agreements, have your own arrangements, but, needless to say, don’t get married.

In fact, the no-marriage alternative is growing in popularity all the time, with young people co-habiting rather than tying the knot. As Grayling and Michaeli’s comments demonstrate, powerful voices are crying “abandon ship” as the institution of marriage slowly drifts towards the rocks. Will champions of same-sex marriage seize the wheel and steer the good ship Marriage into the open sea? It’s not likely.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. 


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