Redefining marriage and the Grammys

The social media dust has settled, and the most “shocking” part of the Grammys was the 33-couple mass wedding – which wasn’t really shocking at all.  The event has generally been interpreted as a nod to the same sex marriage movement.  In terms of public statements, supporting same-sex marriage at an entertainment industry event is about as non-controversial as you can be.  (Way to go out on a limb, Grammys.)

It does show the disconnect between what marriage used to be and what it is now.   The push to accept legal same-sex marriage is less about the “who” of marriage and more about the “what.”  

The ceremony was a cheap, attention-grabbing display.  Mass marriages are the stuff of cults.  Having Queen Latifah perform the ceremony seems several steps below an Elvis impersonator running the show.  And imagine hiring Madonna to play your reception and not having her play “Like a Virgin” or even old standards like “Material Girl.”  It’s like going to a Journey concert and the band refusing to play “Don’t Stop Believin’.”  Unacceptable.

No matter how you define marriage, that whole scene was ridiculous, right?

Yet it’s not much different from the cavalier attitude entertainers display toward the institution of marriage, regardless of the genders of the participants.  Multiple marriages and divorces seem to have been common in Hollywood since before the big sign went up.  “Til death do us part” gave way early to, “Maybe we can get a good ten years in.”

Marriage used to be about starting a family – the foundation from which life was propagated.   Now it’s a legally recognized promise two people make to share their lives with one another for the term of the open-ended agreement.  That subtle semantic difference is a tremendous re-orientation.  The focus has moved from the products of marriage – the children – to the participants.

If the latter is the way you understand the concept of marriage, recognizing same-sex marriage makes a lot more sense.  Of course it would be unfair to legally recognize some couplings and not others.  (Incidentally, that’s a big reason a growing number of conservative and libertarian thinkers are in favor of getting the government out of marriage completely – it allows people the freedom of conscience to define their relationships without needing consecration from some government.)

Looking at marriage this way, you can see where the sanctimony of so many pro-same sex marriage groups and people comes from – an attitude which often manifests itself in reflexive hatred and derision for tradition marriage opponents. Few of the in-person witnesses of the Grammy mass wedding understand the more traditional definition of marriage – and unfortunately, they don’t seem to care to do so.  That’s a pity, because if there was mutual respect and open-mindedness, there could be a pretty healthy discussion.  

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