Barb Wire

Chicago Tribune columnist does it again.

Tribune columnist Steve Chapman argues that the notion of “traditional marriage” is a myth. What’s almost comical about his “argument” is that all the evidence he marshals in support of his thesis actually undermines it. Chapman argues that because some marital “customs” have changed, there has never existed a recognizable and stable form of marriage that can be identified and that we can, therefore, refer to as “traditional.” But (and here comes the almost-amusing part), every prior form of marriage that he cites as evidence was sexually complementary, thus undermining his thesis that there is no prior marital structure that can be recognized as stable and “traditional.”

If the variability of social and legal tinkerings with marital customs, rights, and responsibilities throughout history can be applied so expansively as to eliminate the single enduring constituent feature (i.e., sexual complementarity), then marriage becomes both formless and meaningless. Chapman apparently believes that tinkering with some features of marriage justifies eradicating any feature of marriage, including the central feature without which marriage is not marriage: sexual complementarity. If that goes though, there is no reason to retain the requirement regarding numbers of partners, a change of which the Left is increasingly admitting they find acceptable. But there’s no rational reason to stop there.

Since marriage customs have changed over the years, thereby—according to Chapman—permitting the jettisoning of sexual complementarity from the legal definition (and cultural understanding) of marriage as well as the jettisoning of the requirement regarding numbers of partners, why not jettison blood kinship? After all, what possible reason is there to legally prohibit two brothers from marrying? Neither Chapman nor his progressive compeers can appeal to tradition or even concern for genetic abnormalities (which they couldn’t anyway, because they’ve already argued that marriage has nothing to do with reproductive potential). What the heck, why not permit four brothers and their strange uncle who lives in the attic to marry? Their sex lives are none of the government’s business. And anyway, how will their marriage affect Steve Chapman’s marriage or yours, all you narrow-minded, fusty bigots?

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Come to think of it, since history demonstrates that marriage is an ephemeral shape-shifter, why should we demand that marriage be constituted by romantic/erotic love? I say, let any configuration of people of any assortment of genders, related by blood or not marry so long as they experience some form of love including platonic. If we can forgo the most enduring, cross-cultural feature of marriage—sexual complementarity—surely erotic love can be dispensed with. Let good pals or passing acquaintances marry. Who are we to judge.

Those slightly-right-of anarchy “progressives” who futilely argue that marriage has a nature central to which is “binariness” and romantic/erotic love are left standing naked and forlorn with narry a sound argument in which to cloak themselves as the cultural maelstrom unleashes its chaos around us. And who left them so bereft of a defense for their rigid conception of marriage as binary and romantic? Friends like Steve Chapman who are unwittingly—or wittingly—shredding any rational way to defend any form of marriage, that’s who.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Laurie Higgins has worked as the Cultural Analyst for the Illinois Family Institute ( since the fall of 2008. Prior to that, she worked full-time in the writing center of a suburban Chicago high school, where all four of her children attended. She is currently working on bulking up her stick arms by dead-lifting her five grandchildren--one at a time, of course.

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