Article 16

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protections by society and the State.

It would be so easy to make this about the gay marriage debate. So I will, although I will touch on other issues too.  Some people will read the first clause of this article and say “see, even the UN says men and women. They know that marriage is between two people of opposite sex.” Of course, the other articles often fall back on the use of male pronouns and I am pretty sure they meant for women to be covered in those discussions as well. Many of these same people would gloss over that “equal rights… during marriage” part of the clause.

I have a very hard time believing that the people who penned the Universal Declaration of Human rights would be deliberately hetero-sexist in constructing this Article. The whole point of the Declaration is to affirm human dignity. Denying marriage equality flies in the face of that mission. Besides, there is also this article’s third clause to consider.

The authors of the Declaration realized the importance of family. It is the first community any one belongs to. All other communities grow from it. Indeed, we often refer to our larger society as our family. The right to marry who you want is the right to decide who your family is. No outsider should be able to dictate that. Yet so many do.

So many still see marriage as not just between a man and a woman, but as an acquisition by the man. I wish I could say this was only the case in third world countries with arranged marriage, but there are sects of Christianity in our country that hold that the “wife is subject to her husband.” One of those people actually tried to be President (or would her husband have been the de facto President?)

To those that enjoy male, hetero privilege, marriage, if not the last line, is an important line of defense of that privilege. It asserts their dominance over women and, by keeping it out of the hands of non-heterosexuals, it asserts the preferred status of their sexuality. Not all straight men do this deliberately, but all enjoy its benefits, even those that openly fight against that system (and for whom I am grateful.) This article at least recognizes some of that, and hopefully, with greater discussion, all societies will recognize all of it.


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