Has the Tradition of Marriage Changed Over Time?

by Norris Law Group on January 28, 2014

A December 2013 article in the Salt Lake Tribune asks whether the tradition of marriage may have undergone a transformation over time, in response to changes in social mores and ethics.

Reporter Brooke Adams writes, “The state of Utah so far has banked much of its legal argument against same-sex marriage on the assertion that such unions threaten the traditional, ‘age-old and still predominant,’ form of marriage: heterosexual, monogamous marriage.”

But Adams goes on to write that this argument may be shaky at best, especially in light of two separate rulings in Utah: one that banned same-sex marriage, and one that criminalized polygamy. Marriage historian Stephanie Coontz writes in her book Marriage, A History: from Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage that polygamy is actually the marriage form “found in more places and at more times than any other [in human history].” That would make a ban on polygamy a deviation from “traditional, historical” marriage as well.

The state of Utah reiterated its stance that the “historic understanding of marriage [is] only the legal union of one man and one woman” in motions requesting a stay from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Historian Nancy Cott, , a Harvard professor and author of Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation, says that if there is anything “traditional” about marriage, it is its ability to adapt to changes in social and ethical needs of a given time in history. ” In a court document submitted by plaintiffs in the same-sex marriage lawsuit in Utah, Cott wrote, “Societal change over the centuries has produced new features in marriage that are commonly accepted today, although they would have been unthinkable at the founding of the United States.”

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of family law. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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