[This post is one that I never got round to finishing it, but I hope there is enough of it to make its point - and to serve as a reminder that today is the last day for submissions to the Government's consultation on redefining marriage (which can be entered here).]
Imagine that human beings reproduced asexually. That each of us was able to produce offspring at will without involving a second party. And that we could trace our lineage all the way back to the origins of life through a succession of asexually reproducing species.
To forestall an obvious objection to the point I am making, I will allow my asexual humans to have a capacity for pleasurable mutual stimulation, but this serves no reproductive purpose whatsoever.
Do you think that under these circumstances the institution of marriage would have evolved?
If you can see any compelling reason to expect that it would have done, let me know. I can't.
More than likely people would set up households consisting of more than one adult with their respective children. But there would be nothing special about the number two. It could be three parents with their kids, or ten. And there would be absolutely no reason why the parents should not be siblings - indeed it's very likely that they would be.
If reproductive arrangements provide no basis for anything resembling marriage, what about that pleasurable mutual stimulation? Would it give rise to the expectation of an exclusive partnership? Would there be the further expectation, or at least aspiration, that such a partnership should be lifelong? And would it, still further, be the business of state and religious authorities to affirm that aspiration by bestowing official recognition on it?
Well, why on earth should it? I enjoy playing chess with Mr Happy, indeed he is my favourite opponent, but that doesn't mean I want to agree with him that we will both forsake all other players till death us do part. And naturally the state doesn't give two hoots either way. So why would the stimulation thing be any different?