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Posts Tagged ‘social evolution

Gay Marriage & Social Evolution

What is Social Evolution?

Sociocultural evolution is the combination of theories of cultural evolution and social evolution, which is how cultures and societies develop over time. Social evolution deals specifically with theories of social change from which human societies move from simple to more complex forms of organization. Some of the leading theorists are: Herbert Spencer, Talcott Parsons and Emile Durkheim.

Applying the principles of social evolution, we will trace how the institution of marriage has not remained the same institution over the millennia. It has grown from a simple arrangement made by parents, to include an elaborate system to include many forms of marriage.




Dowries made their appearance in Europe after 500 B.C. The “worth” of the bride was directly related to the financial status of the family, including land holdings. Future “worth” of the bride would be decided prior to her birth, and often parents promoted future couplings when the children were at a very young age. This would involve negotiations and espousal contracts, and betrothal rings were exchanged.




Anglicans brought several customs to the New World; in Scotland love knots on the bride’s dress were untied to ease the pain of future childbirth, in Holland “banns” (announcements) were posted for three days before the wedding could proceed, and in France, chefs began adding icing to cakes, the forerunner of the bridal cake. But, Puritans believed that these customs were excessive, and that marriage was not an unbreakable union blessed by God. It was a civil contract, without rituals and could be dissolved by humans. To them, it was true love that was the foundation of a good marriage.




Marriage was meant to be based on common belief, condemned marrying outside of their religion and marriage between first and second cousins was forbidden. A marriage would also have to be accepted by the families and entire Quaker congregation.

The Victorian Era



Finding the best beau was one of the very few ways in which a woman could move up in society, and etiquette dictated exacting rules of courtship, to ignore which would be unforgivable. For example, you could not kiss until you were engaged. The minimal amount of time between engagement and the wedding was three months. To be unmarried by 30 was an economic hardship to the family.

19th Century South



The English traditions and standards were the norm, with parents still playing a role in developing couplings and promoting that love would follow after marriage. First cousin marriages and prenuptial agreements were also part of the norm. April would become a favorite wedding month as this is when jasmine and camellias would bloom.

American Wild West



With land to be tamed, there was little time for courtship, and a few weeks was good enough. To avoid peak farming months, weddings were held in very early spring or the winter. The wedding itself was a simple affair, often lacking enough food to go around. Dancing became the focus of the party.

Mail Order Brides



The early settlers of the American continent were mostly men, seeking a bride from Europe. And during WWII many soldiers wrote to ladies back home seeking engagements also. By the 1980s, Western men began seeking outside their own country, many times to Asia, seeking a wife. Once the Iron Curtain fell, Russian brides became available. During the same time period, the introduction of the internet replaced the older paper catalogues.



Divorce existed back to ancient Mesopotamia but during Roman times, it was believed that “marriages out to be free” (matrimonia debent esse libera). Either a husband or wife could seek to dissolve the union, where prior a magistrate held this power. During the reign of Christian emperors, the divorce laws were relaxed the upheld in varying degree. By the 10th century in Europe divorce was out of favor, but annulments were common. Civil courts had no power over annulments, which were determined by the Church. Divorce was granted only because one party had violated a sacred vow. If both had broken vows, the divorce was denied. The Church lost it’s power in the 1920s, when civil courts regained their control of divorce laws in America.



The history of Mormon polygamy begins with claims that Mormon founder Joseph Smith received a revelation from God on July 17, 1831 that some Mormon men would be allowed to practice “plural marriage”. Polygamy was illegal in the state of Illinois so a splinter group, led by Brigham Young, moved to Utah. What had been kept private from the rest of the country was revealed in 1852 when the Apostle Orson Pratt began preaching sermons of plural marriage. By 1856 the Republican Party’s platform was to “prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery”. By 1862 the Congress and White House issued the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. The LDS Church believed that plural marriages were protected by the Constitution, but lost their 1878 Supreme Court case (Reynolds vs. United States). Penalties of ignoring the act could include disincorporating the church and seizure of church property. Members fled to both Canada and Mexico. In 1890 LDS President Wilford Woodruff issued a Manifesto announcing the discontinuance of the practice. The LDS Church now ex-communicates members found practicing polygamy, however it is estimated that 18,500 Fundamentalists still maintain plural marriages (Salt Lake Tribune).

Interracial Marriage in the U.S.


During the years of slavery, “marriage” was not acknowledged between a couple of slaves. Seen as property of a master, blacks could be sold to separate owners, splitting up couples and families.

Interracial marriage was illegal in 19 states until 1967, when the Supreme Court ruled in Loving vs. Virginia, a landmark civil rights case, that Virginia’s “Racial Integrity Act of 1924” was unconstitutional, thereby lifting any restrictions on race in regards to marriage.

Will gay marriage be the latest step in social evolution in the U.S. view of marriage?


Attitudes are rapidly shifting in regards to gay marriage.

2008 Polling question: “Should gay and lesbian couples be allowed to marry, giving them full legal rights of married couples, or not?” In a June poll, 42% replied should. In an August poll, 47% replied should. (

A Harris Poll released in early 2000 shows 57% oppose gay marriage, while 15% approve.

In 1996, the Gallup Organization found that 68% of American adults opposed gay marriages; 27% were in favor.

Written by kickingalion

November 19, 2008 at 6:05 pm

How does Canada – which allows gay marriage – see the US?

‘A step along the road of social evolution’

Canada shows the US the way to go

Jim Coyle
Toronto Star, June 19
“Who’d have imagined that the relentless liberalising of Canada, a country known (if at all) for natural ruggedness and gap-toothed hockey players, would come to be defined by a photo of two slight, middle-aged gay men in conservative suits toasting each other with champagne glasses after marrying in downtown Toronto … But increasingly in Canada, once regarded as among the more prudish, uptight and regulated places in the free world, it is possible for consenting adults to do pretty much what they like …”Canada, it seems, is truly a distinct society … In recent weeks and months we have seen what would previously have been regarded as utterly unCanadian bursts of assertiveness … It seems we’re all grown up and intent on doing things our way, whether or not the Americans like the idea of their young people coming up to Woodstock North to toke up or, in the case of gays, tie the knot.”

New York Times
Editorial, June 19
“The landmark ruling came down from the north with some of the simple delight of a June wedding announcement: ‘Same-sex couples are capable of forming long, lasting, loving and intimate relationships.’ In unanimously affirming the obvious, an Ontario appeals court opened the way for Canada to end the bar on marriage between partners of the same sex …

“Unfortunately, the United States has a long way to go to match Canada’s record of tolerance on this issue … The American public is not yet as ready to accept marriages between same-sex partners as a natural part of the landscape … but change will be unstoppable in time, whatever the pace proves to be.”

Michael Coren
National Post, Canada, June 19
“Oh for the gift of hindsight. One day people will look back to the early years of the 21st century in Canada and wonder why the desires of a small number of people within, perhaps, 3% of the population, should receive so much publicity and be acted upon with such alacrity by politicians and judges. I refer of course to gay marriage …

“That gay people will live together, love together and spend productive and generous lives together is axiomatic. Only a zealot would argue otherwise. They should be, and are, protected by legislation … Thank goodness for that. But when an ancient, important and holy institution is labelled ‘unconstitutional’ by a court and its meaning exploded, we have to take a stand … If marriage is suddenly fundamentally altered to include people of the same gender, it loses it genuine meaning to the rest of us.”

Barbara Yaffe
Vancouver Sun, June 14
“Those who ‘can’t stomach’ the thought of gay marriage should comfort themselves by viewing it the way most of us view people who say outrageous and unacceptable things. It’s worth giving them the right to spout off to uphold the right of free speech.

“Canada is a liberal country known for its tolerance and respect for individual liberties. We must safeguard those characteristics even if it means we sometimes disapprove of what they may lead to … Bible-thumpers will predict the end of the world, of course, as is their right. But gay marriage is nothing more than another step along the road of social evolution in Canada.”

Lawrence R Helfer
International Herald Tribune, June 19
“The Canadian decisions are hardly an aberration. In the last decade, national and local lawmakers in dozens of countries have enacted laws to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation … Recent events have created rifts between the US and the rest of the world over important questions of law and policy. But respect for human rights should not be among them. When it comes to protecting the basic civil liberties of all people, including lesbians and gay men, the US should lead the world, not lag behind it.”

Written by kickingalion

November 19, 2008 at 12:45 am

GLBT & Social Evolution

From The Sauce (Northwest University’s newspaper in April 2005) by Justin Shatwell, editor:

Gay rights next step in Social Evolution

As graduation looms and my tenure with the Sauce draws rapidly to an end, I feel I must leave you with some final words on the issue of homosexuality in our nation, for I feel that the question of homosexual rights will be the issue that defines our generation.

This debate is not going away. It simply touches too many Americans to be swept under the rug and forgotten. Over the coming decades, this matter will be resolved, and we will all have to answer to our grandchildren about the role we played in this struggle.

As a historian, I am well-versed with the progression of American society. Though changes are always accompanied with popular unrest and civil friction, our nation has marched steadily towards the philosophy of total equality that our founding fathers left us.

In our search for this ultimate social truth, we have surpassed our founders’ simple understanding of it. To stay true to their message in modern times we ignored their wishes and freed the slaves, gave suffrage to women, and provided citizenship to American Indians. Thomas Jefferson would not have approved of our actions, but we really don’t give a damn. Time and experience breed a greater understanding of morality. The prejudices of our founders were wrong, and we are a better nation for shaking them off.

Now it is the homosexual population’s turn to claim their rightful place as equals in the American Dream. Would our founding fathers smile upon this? No, but I have no doubt that homosexuals will succeed and that the cause of liberty will prosper as a result.

There is no real legal argument against homosexual marriage. Instead, the issue has been fought almost solely from a religious perspective, appealing for the preservation of the “sanctity” of marriage. However, this makes little sense as the “marriage” in contention has nothing to do with religion or the church.

Homosexuals are seeking legal marriage and the rights and privileges associated with it. They are not asking for approval from the churches, and such approval is not even the government’s to give.

Homosexuals just want the right choose an individual with whom to share property rights and jointly file taxes. Most importantly, they want to be able to choose who will have the right to make medical decisions for them in the case of emergencies.

Currently, homosexual lovers, no matter how long they have lived together, do not even have the right to be in the room while their partner is dying if the family does not want them there.

Homosexual marriage hurts no one. Rather it is the banning of such marriages that inflict pain upon certain citizens of this nation.

Legalizing homosexual marriages will not intrude upon anyone’s religious beliefs. Bestowing legal rights is not equivalent to the U.S. government forcing churches to stop preaching that homosexuality is a sin.

Christians and Muslims can still celebrate how they choose and only acknowledge those marriages they agree with. However, this does not give anyone the right to force those religious beliefs into the political sphere and pass baseless legislations that oppress portions of our population.

This is the line where religious values become bigotry. God-ordained bigotry perhaps, but bigotry all the same.

As Americans we are all entitled to our beliefs. We can publish them, we can teach them to our children, we can shout them from the rooftops so long as they do not hurt anyone.

However, when these beliefs are implemented in ways that materially harm other people, they become hate speech.

I know that I am in the minority, but this is one instance when the majority is wrong. It is time we as a generation really analyzed this issue and accepted that we are allowing our passions and prejudices to undermine those philosophies that make this country great.

I refuse to remain silent as the travesty unfolds, and I have no doubt that my actions will make my grandchildren proud.

Written by kickingalion

November 18, 2008 at 4:25 pm

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