The Tradition of Traditional Marriage
John Witte Jr.
Emory University School of Law
MARRIAGE AND SAME-SEX UNIONS, p. 47, Lynn D. Wardle, Mark Strasser, William C. Duncan, and David Orgon Coolidge, eds., Praeger, 2003
State laws have reduced marriage to a terminal sexual contract between consenting adults. However, Western tradition provides very little support for extending the legal category of marriage to same-sex couples. Marriage has historically been defined as a heterosexual, monogamous union. History alone is no answer, but it is part of any serious argument. Aristotle called marriage a “natural union of man and wife.” It provides benefits to spouses, children, and the state. Thus, marriage is a pre-Christian idea, but the definition of marriage is remarkably similar.
The early Christian foundations of marriage built on the Greco-Roman idea of marriage. Marriage was viewed as a remedy for lust, and writers such as Augustine helped define the goals and goods of marriage. The Catholic formulation of marriage formed a systematic theology of marriage that outlawed unnatural and illicit acts. Thomas Aquinas defined marriage as natural, contractual, and sacramental. The Protestant formulation of marriage, as defined by Martin Luther, focuses on the love of husband and wife, procreation and support of children, and the protection of both from sexual sin. Luther rejected the sacramental nature of marriage, but emphasized the social and personal goods that marriage brings.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 10
Keywords: Marriage, same-sex, traditional, heterosexualAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 7, 2011
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