At MarriageDebate.com, David Moloney wonders:
I should think there would be no problem finding a definition that’s big enough. The world has accommodated arranged marriages and marriages where people pick their own partners for centuries. Arranged marriages are rare in western countries, but our customs can exist side by side with those in other parts of the world. Moreover, western cultures permit arranged marriage. Few American parents attempt to select their children’s spouses. When they do, our laws and customs permit prospective brides and grooms the freedom to decline their parent’s choices. (This is the often the case in nonWestern countries as well.)
Likely, homosexuals would vehemently decline parental choices of opposite sex mates. Likely heterosexuals would decline homosexual partners should their parents select one as their spouse. However, children declining parents choices has nothing to do with same sex marriage vs. arranged marriage. As far as definitions go, the question is this: Do we recognize marriages where the choice of spouse, whether same or opposite sex, is compulsory?
Westerners decided the answer is “no” long ago. Last night, husband and I attended a play which illustrates, in part, the western attitude toward arranged marriages. The young Anne Page elopes with Lord Fenton, the man she loves, thereby avoiding an arranged marriage to a man she doesn’t love. Presenting her new groom to her husband, she is asked why she refused to marry Dr. Cauis, her mother’s choice, or Slender, her father’s choice, Anne’s new husband Fenton answers:
You would have married her most shamefully,
Where there was no proportion held in love.
The truth is, she and I, long since contracted,
Are now so sure that nothing can dissolve us.
The offence is holy that she hath committed;
And this deceit loses the name of craft,
Of disobedience, or unduteous title,
Since therein she doth evitate and shun
A thousand irreligious cursed hours,
Which forced marriage would have brought upon her.
From The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare, who seems to suggest a loveless arranged marriage to Anne’s parents choices would have ended badly.
Considering the acceptance of arranged marriage in other cultures, Daniel Moloney reflects:
Considering the current lack of enthusiasm for arranged marriage in the western world, I would be surprised if large numbers of heterosexual American men or women would willingly allow their partners be chosen for them. Westerners rejected the idea that children should submit their parents choices for life partners, particularly when they cannot love the partner. Like Shakespeare, many of us consider the custom of marriage without pre-existing love shameful.
All in all, I think the definition of marriage can be easily include same sex marriage, arranged marriage and marriages where individuals choose their own partners. If we wish to bring back the tradition of arranged marriage, simply extend marriage to include same sex partners. Then, kindly parents, interested in promoting their child’s best interest, would be free to suggest candidates who their child could happily wed.