Letters: Defining marriage

In his Dec. 9 column, “The wrong question,” John Bambenek implies that the “traditional” institution of marriage exists primarily because life-long, heterosexual unions are beneficial to society since they produce “well-adjusted” and “well-raised” children. If this is the case, it is only because Bambenek’s “traditional” view of marriage as a lifetime-duration, child-generating alliance is bankrupt and deserves to be cast aside.

A marriage ought not to be defined by its usefulness in the creation and upbringing of children. Under this definition, spouses who love each other to the extent that they are prepared to commit their lives to one another, but who are unable or choose not to have children, do not have a valid marital relationship. His assertion that marriages are particularly useful in generating “well-raised children” – and, by implication, that other relationships, such as loving, homosexual relationships, are not – is equally suspect. It is difficult to believe that broken marriages between spouses who hate each other are a better environment for a child than between two non-married people in a lifelong partnership.

Bambenek’s aim seems to be less about society supporting loving partnerships or even about the welfare of children being raised by pairs of people, but rather about exclusion from social and legal recognition of loving unions between people physiologically incapable of reproduction even though such unions bring joy to the participants and, if they so choose, can raise well-adjusted children in a loving home through adoption.

I propose a definition of marriage as: a life-long, loving partnership between people that sometimes includes the raising of children. Bambenek suggests (correctly), however, that defining marriage ought to resolve who can participate in it, and I see no reason why this definition ought to exclude any pair of adults – including homosexuals – from becoming married.

Daniel Parente

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senior in Engineering