Anthropology and Gay Marriages

Essay by Kimmiann831University, Bachelor'sA+, September 2004

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As Americans, we who consider ourselves a moral majority generally view the idea of gay marriage as some sort of social taboo. This is a result of a long-standing hangup America has with the sexual ramifications of marriage. Puritanical influence suggests anything outside of a man-woman marriage relationship would be considred socially unacceptable. Anthropological research, however, shows that there are many culturally diverse forms of marriage which have gained social acceptance in the Western world.

When one seeks to define the concept of marriage in America, they can refer back to the research performed by New York lawyer and anthropologist Louis Henry Mogan. In the 1860's Morgan set out to do a cross cultural study of marriages in the Western Hemisphere. Though his data was less than perfect, Morgan showed that all societies had some form of a regularized partnership, but no standard form could be identified. "Even within society, there was an elasticity of marriage form."(www.

Washington Morgan found a couple of arrangements that would be considered unusal to the Victorian Western world . These marriages included one man to several women, one woman to several men and "visiting" marriages whereby a man may visit his wife but not live with her. As Morgan assembled his data, he like other anthropologists discovered that it would be difficult to broadly define human marriage that would hold true for all its socially legitimate forms.(www.

What other anthropologists generally discover is that one of the main purposes of marriage is to provide children with a legitimate identity - in other words, a "last name" for offspring. These marriages could provide some diversity as well. Biological paternity was not necessarily a universal basis for identity. An example of this would be the case of adoption in America. In many cases the...