Sunday, December 13, 2009


Below is part of an item that appeared on-line today (12-13-09):

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The original punishments - including standing on the gallows for an hour with a noose around the neck - have been softened to a $1,200 fine, yet some lawmakers think it's time for the 200-year-old crime of adultery to come off New Hampshire's books.
Seven months after the state approved gay marriage, lawmakers will consider easing government further from the bedroom with a bill to repeal the adultery law.
"We shouldn't be regulating people's sex lives and their love lives," state Rep. Timothy Horrigan said. "This is one area the state government should stay out of people's bedrooms."

To be clear, I think that there is nothing wrong with staying “out of people’s bedrooms.” But then, that is not the entire issue. Nor does the State’s position on gay marriage come close to the real problem here. Finally, I believe this has nothing to do with “regulating people’s sex lives and their love lives,” as State Rep. Horrigan suggests. So what is the issue, after all?

While in Catholic sacramental theology a marriage is a covenantal bond between Christians, intended for permanent and exclusive relationship, it is also (to the State) a civil union, usually demoted to the level of a contract. But even at that level, to ignore this fact is to beg social disintegration. Adultery is the violation of the contract, and the lawmakers seem to be suggesting that contract violations should be granted with impunity. But if one’s word is not to be taken as trustworthy, and if no one should expect there to be any consequences if it is not trustworthy, why pledge one’s word publicly, after all--in any area? The fact the State regulates civil divorces suggests that this should not be the case…

Is there any other area of civil society in which such an attitude would be openly embraced? Are we willing to suggest that wills, for example, can be negated by the unilateral decision of one beneficiary, to exclude other beneficiaries? Should contracts between corporate suppliers and a manufacturing company be voided by the simple decision that, after all, the supplier would rather sell materials (and at a higher price) to a competitor?

This issue touches the question of gay marriage, as well—if such civil unions are granted the status of marriage, would the gay community welcome the concept of free-flowing adultery? It would in the long run would be identical, civilly speaking, to hetero-sexual adultery: it would be infidelity with impunity, sanctioned by law. If your spouse or partner wishes to be intimate with another person, there would be nothing you could do, legally, about it. And if we do not consider adultery a crime, it surely should no longer be grounds for divorce. On what grounds can a legal contract be dissolved by an action that is not a violation of law? The adulterous party could well contest the divorce, claiming no wrong had been done.

This is finally not about sex lives and people’s bedrooms; it is about honesty. Or are we willing to sacrifice that virtue, as well, to the gods of convenience, self-indulgence, and ego?

I know many states simply ignore the argument I am making—they grant divorces willy-nilly for the asking. But in that case, if the public contract ultimately means nothing, why bother? And if it means nothing, why are legal protections for spouses and children a part of the contract? There is a major disconnect in our society, all in the name of staying “out of people’s bedrooms.” It’s too bad this is not the only issue.

No comments:

Post a Comment