Why does the state recognise marriage at all?

Brendan Burgess

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I haven't given much thought to the referendum, but a fairly basic question occurs to me which I have not seen raised.

ARTICLE 41
    1. The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.
    2. The State, therefore, guarantees to protect the Family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State.

    1. The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack.

I am a single person. I don't have any children. I feel that I contribute to society.

I think that parenthood is very important and it should be protected.

I am not sure what is meant by "Family" and I am not sure why it should get any more recognition than singlehood.

But certainly there are families without marriage. And there are children without marriage. I can't see any reason for guarding the institution of marriage.

I am not asking why we put this in our constitution initially. I am asking if there is any justification for it now in a secular society.
 
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Purple

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Is there any chance you can get on TV with some IONA person and ask them that. I'd pay good money to see their reaction! :D
 

Brendan Burgess

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Just to be clear. I am asking the question in an effort to arrive at my opinion. There may be good reasons, I just don't know what they are.

And I have no problem with any religious group solemnising the family or marriage or parenthood or single-hood. That is their own affair.
 

dereko1969

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Brendan, I thought you lived in Ireland so where is this secular society that you've found?
It can't be Ireland where 95% of schools have a religious patron, where virtually all of our Hospitals are owned and managed by religious bodies with a virtual veto on the ethics committees. I could go on but hopefully next week will see at least a small step in progress towards a more inclusive and perhaps a little more secular "republic!"
 

Vanilla

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I think it's all about maintaining social order. Keeping the family unit, whatever that may be, as important stops us reverting to animal instincts, and keeps us providing for and caring for our family, and in the process maintaining social order. The fact that the family unit referred to in the Constitution was a man, woman, children is simply a reflection of the time it was written in.
 

michaelm

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I can't see any reason for guarding the institution of marriage.
I think marriage is viewed as providing social stability and as such is seen a a social good and generally the most stable framework in which to raise children, the fact that some married couples cannot or do not go on to have children notwithstanding. Children are the lifeblood of society so perhaps it makes sense to guard the construct which is believed heretofore to provide them with the most stable and balanced upbringing. On that basis it may make sense for the state to encourage through its laws, and tax and welfare regimes, parents and would-be parents to marry.
 
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so-crates

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Without having DeValera to hand to question we are probably all guessing. However I have been thinking on the same lines and have been utterly irritated by the Yes campaign's focus. No-one has a constitutionally protected right to marry the one they love. Nor will they after this referendum. Tearful interviews with people bemoaning the fact they can't marry their love just annoyed me.

Yes it would have largely been driven by the mores and habits of the time however marriage itself would not necessarily have always been so formalised and solemnised at least not for the majority of people. The purpose of the ceremony is to define and agree the contract and to do so in front of witnesses. Generally it was about recognition of the community as a whole and endorsement from same. The more people invited the better :) But why do it at all? I think it breaks down to three basic reasons, the generation of new life, the recognition of fatherhood and the transfer of property. The first two are intrinsically linked. While a mother can generally be relied upon to acknowledge she has given birth, a father does not have that link. Part of the marriage contract promised fidelity, this boils down to the woman agreed to be in an exclusive sexual relationship with the man and the man agreed to recognise all the children she produced as his own (yes I am being intentionally lopsided on what the promise meant!). The other element was the transfer of property, the couple basically pooled property, historically he would have controlled it but they both contributed and they both owned it. The other important transfer was to the children of the union. Looking at inheritance you can still see the footprint of the preferential treatment of such property transfers. Fundamentally marriage provided a stable means for society as a whole to support the next generation.

Really the Iona institute are bang on the money, it is about the children, the problem I have with the No campaign is that it is ignoring the fact that there are children in families that are not constituted along those traditional lines.
 

extopia

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Brendan's question is valid: why does the "family" have to be conflated with "marriage" at all? Family exists irrespective of marriage, and paternity is provable (if necessary for the protection of property succession, for example). The connection between marriage and "legitimacy" (of sexual relationships, or of children's identity and rights) is no longer dominant, partly due to the decline of religious and other influence. And if the family is no longer founded exclusively on marriage; there is no longer the same need to "protect it against attack".

Marriage has little, if anything, to do with the generation of new life: there has always been plenty of life generated outside of marriage, and the revelations over the past few decades about how that life was officially dealt in Irish society has been most distressing. Marriage is a legal, social, cultural construct, and therefore does not have a fixed definition. The referendum is all about recognising that reality, by extending the right to marry beyond the heterosexual majority.
 
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