Marriage is a social institution recognized by custom and law. It is a relation that exists between one or more men to one or more women. Custom or law gives recognitions of the duties and rights of the parties involved in such an institution. The union may result to children being born in it. In general, the societal expectation is one where there is sexual gratification between a husband and wife. There are legal issues that may arise as a result of adultery, which may force one partner to dissolve the marriage. This relation is at some point regarded as an economic institution in which a husband is fully responsible for the needs of the wife and children. With the current women empowerment in the society they are also able to provide for their families. A father has a general control and power over his family but for the children his powers are for a limited time. This comes as a result of the need for children to practice decision making and show responsibility especially at adulthood.
Marriage is in accordance to the laid down custom or law and the consent of each parties involved must be considered. Parents for example may ask for a bride price and after this is settled a marriage takes place. These are important steps especially where the conditions stipulated by custom or by law are complied with. The origin of marriage is seen to be a habitual practice from the medieval period. A man and woman would live together, have sexual relations and from this union children would come forth. The father would play their role as a protector and supporter of his family while his wife nurses and cares for the family. As time passed it was accepted by custom and by law and it became legal social institution.
Marriage is therefore seen to be an intimate relationship which the society, the government and religion recognizes. Marriage has many forms but the major one constitutes a man and a woman. Marriage is the basis of a family unit in which procreation takes place. Through a marriage setup children can grown, be protected and shown love through provision of food, shelter, clothing, education among others. There are a variety of intentions that one has in mind while planning to enter into marriage. Some of the major reasons may include need for legal stability, social and/or economic stability. Through marriage, there is a provider, protector and the union is legally bound. Marriage can be witnessed in a wedding celebration and this marks the beginning of individual obligation to each other and to the society at large.
There have been changes in the understanding and approach of marriage from the older days. In the United States marriage for example was a consideration of status as well as an oversight on the future economic stability and prosperity of the person. It was therefore an economic arrangement in which one would choose their potential spouse and so they would plan to marry.
Marriage ceremonies between same sexes were done in the 5th-14th centuries by the Roman Catholic Church. Many issues about marriage caught the interest of many leaders and Pope Alexander II in 1975, prohibited marriages between couples who were closely related and especially with no more than 6 cousins related to a person. In the 16th century, only with the permission of local political authorities, servants and day laborers would be free to marry in Bavaria and Austria. In1921 this order was fully abolished.
Public wife selling was witnessed in the 1960s-1870s where a divorced wife was tied with a rope around her neck and sold in public. Until 1686, marriage was rather a civil ceremony for the puritans in Massachusetts Bay. In the British colonies, there was no penalty given for interracial marriages until 1662 when Virginia doubled fornication fines for interracial couples. Maryland banned interracial marriages in 1664 and subsequently, in 1750 interracial marriages had been outlawed in all southern colonies. Married women, until mid 19th century, had no legal standing under the English common law in all American states.
It was until 1848 that women had the right to own property while married, through the Married Women Act.
At the age of 10 years, consent for sexual intercourse was allowed in most American states while in Delaware it was at the age of 7 years only. With parental consent young boys of 14 and girls of 12 would marry, as late as 1930. In 1940, married women could not make legal contract in twelve states. Anti-Miscegenation laws were declared unconstitutional in Virginia and other states such as Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas among others. Fourteen states had in the fifteen years prior to the decision, repealed their anti miscegenation laws. This included Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Nevada, and Oregon among others.
Ten states had by 1990, outlawed rape in marriage. This was after New York outlawed rape in marriage in 1978. Rape in marriage was seen as a crime in thirty-six states and this was only in certain circumstances. It was surprising that in four states, rape in marriage was never a crime.
Marriage has had lots of controversies but the initial union in the religious world was the social union that benefited the society. It is seen as the union of one man and one woman blessed and united by a religious leader as seen in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhists and Hindu. The privileges enjoyed in marriages are of benefit while particular concerns were raised on homosexual couples. The commitment of traditional couples which constituted a man and woman could be seen as that of same-sex couples and so they have continued to fight for their rights and the legalization of their marriage.
The sacred value of marriage should not be changed despite the fact that advocates are aggressive on the issue that it should be redefined to suit gay marriage. When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made a ruling in 2004, and said that civil union was not enough, this raised national debate. A number of people wanted the definition of one man-to- one woman to stand and others wanted it to separate same-sex institutions, with others against it. In 2004, California and New York mayors were authorizing same sex marriages while defying law and these marriages were said not to be legally binding. (Nancy 2001)
In 1619, Virginia enacted a law in which if a bond married a Negro, Mulatto or Indian, they would be banished in the woods so that they are cast out of the colony. Later on, in 1724, there was introduction Louisiana after the slaves were freed. Laws that were known as black codes were used to control and even forbid marriages constituted by slaves while the slave master was not consented. In 1769, the English common law showed that husband and wife were one.
A constitution was written in 1787 and was adopted the following year. It was effective in 1789 and replaced the articles of federation, which was the government document of the USA. It remains to be the basic law of central government.
In 1839, Mississippi granted the women a right to hold, with their respective husband’s permission, property in their own name. This saw many states legalizing this grant to women so that they would have control over property and earnings. This was in 1900. In the Missouri vs. Celia case of 1855, the case was used to show that enslaved women had no right or legal recourse if they were raped by their masters. This meant that black women had no right to defend themselves after an act of rape by the master.
When the Mississippi black code was passed, it was an attempt to control slaves and ensure social inequality. This prohibited blacks, in 1865, from marrying whites and in this case, it was punishable as was seen through life imprisonment.
More was to come and in the United States, an immigration act of 1917 banned immigration of Asians and those with abnormal sexual instincts and until 1990, lesbians and gay immigrants were excluded from coming into the United States. (Nancy 2001)
In a case of New York v. Sanger, doctors would advice married couples on use of birth control pills for health purposes. The law was still enforced but was overturned in 1965 on all state laws that prohibited the use of contraceptives. In 1948, in Perez v Sharp case, there was a ban on interracial marriage in the California Supreme Court. This was the first state high court to declare it unconstitutional but later on in 1967; the U.S Supreme Court declared that there was freedom to marry allowing for interracial marriages on all Americans. This was evidenced in the case of Loving v. Virginia.
The immigration act in 1965 admitted different races and nationalities and emphasized on family reunification with great concern. The act defined a family to be strictly on hetero sexual and nuclear ties and banned on lesbian and gay deviates.
In 1969, California adopted a divorce law that allowed divorce by mutual consent and especially where one party simply wants it. The major challenge in this was that one party can refuse to sign the separation agreement.
In 1981, there was an over turn of events when the states laws described a husband as a head and master and having control of property which is jointly owned with his wife. (Nancy 2001) .
Articles were published and they advocated for legalization of same-sex couples and this was especially because these authors were gay and wanted to pursue their demand.
In 1990, the congress repealed ban on gay and lesbian immigration. Homosexuals were disqualified as foreigners and were not allowed to come in to the United States.
It was in 1993 that Hawaii Supreme Court said that the ban on same-sex couples from marrying must be justified and in 1998, it was amended to allow strict marriage to men and women only .In 1994, gays and lesbians sought to be part of the humanitarian law as a social group rather than an immigration group.
A Person Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act explicitly promoted marriage and formation of heterosexual families. The federal law supported two parent families and in the same year, 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act defined marriage as exclusively between one man and a woman. It was evident that this act did not recognize same sex marriage at all.
In 1998, there was a covenant marriage legislation in which couples promised to stay together for life and that they would denounce the no-default divorce. In the same year, May 1998, Alaska ruled that it was a fundamental right to choose a marital partner. The following year, the Vermont Supreme Court allowed for same-sex marriage to occur and that they have all rights and benefits of marriage but no marriage licenses.
A governor in Oklahoma in March 2000 announced a $10 million plan that encouraged marriage than divorce and in 2001 gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts filed law suits seeking a right to marry. This followed with other New Jersey lesbian and gay couples suing the state court for denial of their right to marry. In 2003, the US Supreme Court struck down the remaining anti-gay sodomy laws which were in Texas and in other states.
In 2003-2004, the Federal Marriage Amendment was proposed but was defeated in congress. The amendment ought to have denied marriage rights to same-sex couples by indicating that marriage would only exist between a man and a woman.