After looking into the movement for gay rights, I realized what I should really be examining is the entire institution of marriage itself (gay marriage being the most recent challenge confronting the issue). It has a long, complicated history that most people (including my former self) don’t really know about. The general format of my paper will be to move chronologically, thus ending in current debates about marriage. I will explore not only the history behind “traditional” marriage (white, Christian, man and woman) but the idea of marriage in societies much older and non-Western. This will provide a clearer view of what the “natural” relationships among humans really are, since that is often used in arguments against non-“traditional” marriages.
I am also looking into any deviations that specifically crop up in U.S. history (since obviously that geographic area is of relevance to us) and so will discuss the implications of, for instance, the Mormon polygamists and the amazingly communist Oneida Community of the nineteenth century. I will show how the purposes for marriage have always been economic in some way, and only recently did marriage become the romanticized relationship it currently is in Hollywood. Furthermore, I will argue that the type of marriage practiced in a society not only reflects its economic ideals (because it is a practice based in economics) but perpetuates them—thus “traditional” marriage perpetuates capitalism as well as patriarchy (it is a social practice, so it also perpetuates social ideals). Ultimately, I will argue with the help of Martha McPheeters that the most radical thing the gay rights movement can do for society is to completely destroy our concept of (and state-sanctioned) marriage.