First, it was Arizona Senator John McCain’s daughter Meghan who came out as a young Republican in full support of marriage equality for gays and lesbians. Now, the youngest daughter of former President George W. Bush is—like her mother Laura before her—publicly proclaiming her support for marriage equality. In a video released this week by the Human Rights Campaign, Barbara Bush, proclaims herself “a New Yorker for marriage equality.”
As the New York Times reports, in the video Ms. Bush says, “New York is about fairness and equality. And everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love.”
The 29-year-old Ms. Bush, who lives in Manhattan, ends the video by asking others in the state to “join us.”
Over at Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link, blogger Jenny Tyree isn’t surprised at Ms. Bush and Ms. McCain’s support for marriage equality. “It’s rather easy for 20-somethings—or millennials—to jump on the very tidy-looking ‘rights’ bandwagon that proponents of same-sex marriage have made marriage to be,’ she writes, rightly observing that the majority of people aged 18-29 support marriage equality.
What these darn kids are missing, Tyree says, is a real appreciation of biblical marriage. Instead, they’ve grown up “breathing air thick with a cultural disregard for marriage. Experiencing the personal benefit of having a married mom and dad doesn’t change what they witnessed—willful divorces and the suffering of the children of divorce. The result is a generational embrace of sex as a right and marriage as one of many lifestyles, rather than as the best family structure for children and a stabilizing force for society.”
Which is an interesting take given that Ms. Bush and Ms. McCain aren’t showing “cultural disregard for marriage” so much as they’re actually supporting the expansion of the institution to include more people who want to provide a stable family structure for their families. Statistics show that as many as 14 million children in the United States have gay or lesbian parents. What Ms. Bush and Ms. McCain support, then, are the formation of families that can provide “structure for children and a stabilizing force for society.”
Particularly galling is the anti-marriage equality camp’s insistence that they support “biblical marriage.” In an excellent new book called Unprotected Texts, Jennifer Wright Knust, a religion professor at Boston University, writes that “the Bible offers no viable solution to our marriage dilemmas. There is no such thing as a single, biblically-based view of legitimate marriage.”
When one actually reads the Bible (something a majority of “traditional marriage” supporters have obviously not done), one finds a myriad of models for marriage—most of them involving one man and many women—and all of those women are property of the man they are married to. Women were subservient to men in every way and had no voice or rights of their own. By the time we arrive at the Christian scriptures, we find Jesus openly discouraging marriage for his followers, requiring them to leave their families and follow him exclusively.
“From Jesus’ perspective, then,” Knust writes, “the family is made up of fellow believers, not kin with formal ties outsiders might recognize.”
Saying that one supports “biblical marriage” then is to say that one supports polygamy, or owning women, or leaving one’s family altogether and dedicating one’s life exclusively to following Christ. What millennials like Ms. Bush and Ms. McCain understand is that the tradition of marriage has evolved into a more inclusive institution encompassing mixed race marriages, and non-procreative marriages. Marriage today is not a matter of familial arrangements to enlarge land holdings or status. Marriage today is about the love and commitment between two people—as well as the government perks bestowed on the couple. Adding gays and lesbians to the mix does nothing to weaken marriage—it’s simply another evolution away from “biblical marriage” that was more about property rights than love.
Biblical marriage, according to Knust, looked like this: “women belong to men; male honor is tied, in part, to how well men supervise the women in their care; and men demonstrate their wealth and success by the number of legitimate wives and children they are able to acquire.”
Actually, given religious right preaching about how men are the head of the household and women are subject to the rule of the man, perhaps the religious right does believe in “Biblical marriage” after all.
No wonder Barbara Bush and Meghan McCain are such a threat.