While sleet and snow shut down the rest of Georgetown, Philodemicians braved the weather to debate Resolved: Marriage is an outdated institution. Making his induction, Mr. William Hallisey (COL ’16) of Connecticut keynoted for the affirmation with Ms. Caroline Egan (COL ’15) of New York. Also making her induction, Ms. Asha Thanki (SFS ’17) of Missouri negated with Ms. Madeleine Ringwald (COL ’16) of New York.
Mr. Hallisey gave a rousing keynote, condemning marriage as a zero-sum game that either ends in divorce or death. In today’s fickle and impermanent society, marriage is simply “not what we want anymore”, especially since it requires malicious intervention from a third party. He lambasted the Luddites who cling to a tradition that retards social progress and urged lovers to live free from the “cogs of bureaucracy” that come with marriage.
Ms. Thanki denied that third-party recognition equates to malicious intervention. She stressed that a wedding ring carries the benefit of universal recognition. This recognition validates a relationship, while the contractual bond of marriage ensures that the relationship will continue. She focused on marriage as a commitment to fall back into love when love seems gone and said that people only give it their all within that commitment.
Ms. Egan warned against dismissing the affirmation as cold-hearted, claiming that no one on her side was negating love. She put the debate in terms that the Society could understand well when she argued that third-party intervention from the church or state destroys the liberty of a couple. Even if public recognition is an important part of marriage, there’s no reason that recognition requires an arbiter.
Ms. Ringwald countered that the church and state only recognize marriage for the benefit of the couple involved. She maintained that humans fundamentally desire monogamy and emphasized that family-building can only happen in marriage, while pushing back strongly against the idea that high divorce rates negate the importance of marriage as an institution. Importantly, she reminded the Society to approach the debate outside the context of college and consider how valuable is might be, out there in the big and scary world, to have one person to come home to at night.
Ms. Laura Kurek insisted that our society has warped the meaning of marriage, valuing the glitz of weddings and rings over the life that follows. Mr. Kevin Diasti contested that marriage is actually a very practical way to express our biological predisposition to monogamy. Like Ms. Kurek, Ms. Abigail Grace eviscerated the “ring by spring” culture that forces marriage to create love rather than manifest it. She urged the negation to explain why love cannot exist without marriage. Mr. Daniel Kendrick called this challenge unfair because even those who support marriage recognize that real love must come first.
Mr. Daniel Graff questioned the point of marriage, since monogamous relationships are entirely possible without a piece of paper. “Lemmings are monogamous!” Mr. Joshua Weiner countered that commitment may mean sacrificing individuality, but that sacrifice is worth the cost. Mr. Benjamin Mazzara (COL ’15) disagreed when he declared that nothing is better than coming home to an empty dorm room to watch Star-Trek in his underwear. Mr. Thomas Shuman (COL ’17) displayed a bit more romance, arguing that marriage is about finding someone who will come along for the Star-Trek marathon.
Mr. David Edgar acknowledged that Mr. Shuman proved why marriage is good, but that doesn’t explain why our culture needs the concept, especially when third-part arbiters bias marriage in favor of certain groups over others. Vice President Anna Hernick responded that marriage symbolizes what society values, so it cannot be called biased.
Ms. Emily Coccia questioned whether our fast-paced, indecisive generation could really value the permanence of marriage and the officialdom that comes with it but Ms. Colleen Wood turned this point on its head, claiming that our generation has rejected the divorce and bad marriages of our parents. She pointed to Beyoncé and J.Z. as a popular example of respectful, modern marriage. Mr. Michael Mouch deemed her argument a fallacy because marriage’s popularity has nothing to do with whether or not it’s outdated.
Mr. Jacob Arber shifted the conversation to love, which he said was about shared values, ideas, and roles. That kind of love can only exist with recognition from others. Mr. Gregory Miller agreed, but insisted that the tax benefits and visiting rights that go along with marriage take romance out of the institution. Chancellor Peter Prindiville contended that Mr. Miller’s argument was outside the realm of the debate and asserted that the push for marriage in the gay community demonstrates the value we place on public recognition.
Ms. Amanda Wynter insisted that our courageous generation needs no paper contract to make a lifelong commitment, but Mr. Patrick Spagnuolo countered that the importance of societal acceptance and ritual demands a public institution like marriage. Ms. Heather Regen argued that societal acceptance should come organically from people simply saying “I love you”, not “I do”.
When the debate returned to the keynoters, Ms. Ringwald deconstructed several arguments from the floor. She maintained that it’s much harder to say “I do” than “I love you” because the first requires lovers to sacrifice for each other while the second does not. She also took aim at the “piece of paper” argument, comparing the idea of love without marriage to Georgetown without a degree. We value that degree, just as we value marriage.
Ms. Egan told the Society that most girls begin planning their wedding at age seven, but she didn’t, instead thinking about the person she would fall in love with. Since love precedes marriage, a wedding license only represents that which has been long known.
Ms. Thanki strongly disagreed, contesting that that piece of paper means validation and acceptance by the community. She asked the Society to consider two couples who live together for their entire lives, one in marriage and one that ends up that way. There’s something significant in the early commitment made by the married couple.
Mr. Hallisey found no such significance, arguing that love is what really counts, with or without marriage. The security and complacency of marriage have nothing to do with the bliss of love. Finishing with a bang, Mr. Hallisey assailed the three ring circus of marriage: the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and suffering.
As the laughter faded, the Society divided the room, voting 12-1-38 to negate. Marriage can rest easy.
The following speakers were awarded Merrick points:
- Ms. Asha Thanki, Chancellor Peter Prindiville, & Ms. Heather Regen – 1 point
- Ms. Madeleine Ringwald – 2 points
- Ms. Amanda Wynter – 3 points
- Ms. Caroline Egan – 4 points
- Mr. Patrick Spagnuolo – 5 points
This brings the Merrick totals to:
- Mr. Patrick Spagnuolo – 15 points
- Ms. Amanda Wynter – 9 points
- Ms. Colleen Wood – 7 points
- Mr. Warren Wilson & Ms. Heather Regen – 6 points
- Mr. Drew Cunningham & Chancellor Peter Prindiville – 5 points
- Ms. Caroline Egan – 4 points
- Mr. Jacob Arber & Ms. Madeleine Ringwald – 2 points
- Ms. Emily Coccia & Ms. Asha Thanki – 1 point
Most importantly, the Society inducted Mr. Hallisey and Ms. Thanki. Congratulations to two wonderful new members! Huzzah!