So there has been a lot of talk regarding marriage equality lately. Within the past week the Vice President Joe Biden openly supported same-sex marriage, President Obama got grilled for not openly supporting it, North Carolina outlawed it with a constitutional amendment, and then Obama announced that he supported it. That’s a bit of a hullabaloo.
(Quick side note about the North Carolina business: The new amendment also outlawed Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships, but left the North Carolina law that allows cousins to be married untouched. Thank God!)
Well, as far as I understand marriage, this conflagration seems to be an utter waste of time. I often feel alone with this stance because everyone seems so fervent. I am surrounded on all sides, stuck in no-man’s-land of a vicious and bloody stand-off.
So let’s describe this no-man’s-land in case you happen to share this small spit of idealism with me.
Marriage is defined by Dictionary.com as:
1) a. the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies.
1) b. a similar institution involving partners of the same gender: gay marriage.
I find it mildly amusing that there are two primary definitions, just so everyone is equally miffed.
But to extract the non-sexualized essence, marriage is to “establish their decision to live as [spouses] by legal commitments, religious ceremonies” . That seems pretty straight forward, but its not. You see there is a contradiction in the definition. The phrase ‘by legal commitments’ and ‘religious ceremonies’ are juxtaposed to define or establish the same system. Anyone with a 4th grade education knows that a system being backed by force of law is diametrically opposed to the concept of religious ceremony (That is if your 4th grade teacher covered the Separation of Church and State).
The Separation of Church and State in the USA was established long ago by the founders of the nation, I will cite 3 specific and definable examples.
- It was first established in the Constitution of 1787 Article VI wherein it explicitly denies religious affiliation as a requirement for governmental office: “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”. Illustrating that religion had no connection in government.
- It was again reaffirmed in the Bills of Rights, as the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Once again making it clear the legislatures inability to regulate or enforce religion, a concept which is very important and we will return to it later. (It is also understood that since the President can only enforce the law of the legislature, he too is barred from religious entanglements. If you believe that to be false and you subscribe to the theory of executive (royal) prerogative, you have entirely different problems that we can’t address right now.)
- Actual authors of the Constitution and political forces such as James Madison, James Wilson, and Thomas Jefferson were all devout Christians. These men also made their thoughts clear about the fact the our state is one that cannot be ruled or legislated by Religion. Jefferson wrote about the ‘wall’ built between the two systems ( Jefferson’s Letter Regarding Secularism ). I wouldn’t call these men those who mince words or misrepresent their ideas.
With a firm understanding of the separated Church and State, we move on to the next step in the problem.
Marriage is a religious institution. Marital situations may have existed before religions, but the current understanding of marriage is a construct of the different religious traditions. Nearly all religions of the world have their own customs, methods, standards, and qualifications for marriage. Yet somehow we, or a large portion of the US population, believe that there is some overarching consensus regarding what ‘marriage’ is or at least enough of one to legislate on the institution. Are you fucking kidding me? You’re going to tell me that Muslims and Christians, who in so many trivial cases oppose each other, agree about something as sacred as marriage? I’m not entirely convinced.
Even if such a consensus doesn’t exist, there is something that does: Licensed Marriage. That is to say, there exist licenses, laws, legal precedent and rulings that regulate the institution (on a Federal, State, and Local level). Ay, there’s the rub! Why is the government in the business of marriage? Why does any US government have the power to regulate a religious institution and thereby breach the Constitution and the First Amendment? It is not allowed, we know it is not, yet we allow it to happen.
Because of this unfortunate reality, opposing forces attempt to exert control over this ‘legalized marriage’. Christians who believe marriage cannot be homosexual want it to be legally defined as such. Others who don’t want the heterosexual constraints fight against such measures. While people like myself are left on the sidelines, baffled.
Maybe to resolve the issue we should return marriage to its original state: a religious institution that individual churches and faiths have complete autonomy over. Remove all text and reference to marriage from our laws. Instead create a new system (actually just elevate an existing system) and make civil unions the only legally recognized marital/spousal arrangement. All parties win, those of faith who do not acknowledge same sex couples are free to perpetuate such barriers. Same sex couples can still have the same legal rights and financial privileges that marriages currently enjoy. (And even get married in Churches who will embrace them to boot!)
Why are people so adamant about preserving the text of marriage in our laws? Many claim it is to ensure that the integrity of marriage is maintained. As many people have pointed out: exponentially increasing rates of divorce and adultery in heterosexual marriage is doing the lion’s share of that task. Something as despicable as adultery was even explicitly outlawed in the Ten Commandments. Maybe my reading comprehension isn’t great but I failed to even catch a whiff of a reference to homosexuality in that particular sacred contract.
All I know is that something as important, sacred, and downright religious as marriage shouldn’t be under the purview of any law beyond that of the church that oversees it. As Jefferson said, “religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship”
Maybe I’m crazy, but if I had a religion: I would never sacrifice a ceremony so important to the likes of the Federal Government, and I wouldn’t be in the business of stomping on other peoples personal liberties.