With the United States having 50 independent primarily self governing States, you would assume that many have similar laws. Yet, for many states within the union, old bizarre laws still remain on the books. Here’s a few which may provide some laughter or in some cases, tears. In Ohio, it is unlawful for a woman to appear in public while unshaven. This includes legs and face. In Oklahoma, it Is Illegal to have a sleeping donkey in your bathtub after 7pm. In North Carolina, it is illegal to hold more than two sessions of bingo per week, and those sessions may not exceed 5 hours each session. In New York, it is unlawful for a woman to be on the street wearing “body hugging clothing”, yet the next law in their code states, women may go topless in public, providing it is not being used as a business. In South Carolina, it is illegal to get a tattoo. Tattoo seekers residing within their border must run to the Georgia state line in order to receive their desired ink. Actually, I personally did this in the attempt of landing my wife her first tattoo. Though these laws are fun and bizarre, the one which stood out the most hails from the state of Tennessee. Tennessee marriage law states, you can legally marry your half sister. Wow! Yeah, Wow! I’m sure each of these laws made absolute sense when created, however as time moves on, what use to make complete sense to past generations, now seems antiquated.
This past week while reading God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction by Adrian Thatcher and Love is an Orientation by Marin I was struck by the evolution of marriage, specifically how the criteria defining how two become married has changed throughout world history. These changes led me to consider what affects these cultural views have had on the understanding of sex, gender and qualifications of those to be married within each system. The following are three perspectives within each cultural norm or system.
Three States of Marriage
Matrimonium Initiatum… Rethinking the before and after. In this system, two individuals make an agreement together for commitment to grow together throughout life. Though no ceremony is performed immediately, the two individuals are considered to be betrothed to one another. Familial and church structures endorse this commitment , allowing the couple to grow in their relationship with one another and when ready, able to have sexual intimacy with one another. As long as the familial and church structures are alright with different sex or same sex partners, the two can grow nurturing their relationship into a covenental marriage over time.
Matrimonium Consummatum… Throughout antiquity, various cultures used the act of sexual intercourse as the marriage structure. More specifically, the male had to ejaculate into the woman for the marriage to be complete. After researching this structure of marriage, it left me asking the question, “How many in our current culture would technically be married to another person due to the amount of sexual partners one has had throughout their lifetime?” Within this system there also seems to be a potential contradiction. If marriage is then defined as one who ejaculates into another, then male to male relationships make the cut, while at the same time leaving a female to female relationship not lawful.
Matrimonium Ratum… Our current way of marriage in the States today. In this form of marriage, structure is left up to the individualized State law as well as the church. In this form a wedding must take place with an official recognized by the State where the wedding is being performed. Though I am ordained and licensed in the State of Pennsylvania, it does not mean that I can perform a marriage in the State of New Jersey. Each State has varying laws on who and what sex can marry. For instance, in the State of South Carolina, specific counties forbid mixed races to marry. An Asian man is not allowed to marry a White female. Yet other states, such as California and Massachusetts perform legalized same sex marriages as equal to any other. Currently in February 2014, 17 States have legalized same sex marriages.
As history comes and goes, so do laws. Our understandings and insights change. How have you changed? If married by the above states of marriage, how would you fare?