This is a short essay I wrote for a local paper. As you can imagine responses fell along predictable lines with no real dialogue on the merits of the idea. I'm hoping for better here.
The time has come to separate church and state in this country. No, I’m not talking about school prayer, that’s a red-herring. So are abortion and capital punishment but those are different columns.
What I am talking about is this business of the State sanctioning—indeed almost requiring—religious ceremonies be performed and duly recorded before certain legal rights and obligations are granted to two previously unrelated people.
That’s right…marriage. The keening wail heard from the religious right is matched only by the incendiary rhetoric from the left and it is time to separate the warring sides by returning to our deepest roots.
Marriage, by historical tradition is the joining of a man and a woman in the eyes of God however they behold that deity. As time and civilization marched forward this religious ritual became intertwined with civil law and has now deposited us at the brink of cultural Armageddon. It’s past time to sever those ancient ties.
Marriage, in my opinion and in the eyes of my church, is a joining of a man and woman in the bonds of Holy matrimony—emphasis on the Holy. This is as it should be in a faith-based joining. Your church may have a different viewpoint and that is altogether appropriate in a free society. Where the rub begins is when such unions convey legal rights and obligations in the secular world.
However unsavory or perhaps even detrimental gay marriage may seem to some, the fact of the matter is that government should be about the secular business of the people. It is past time to take the word marriage out of the government license and insert the word union, or even contract, for in fact that is what the civil side of a marriage is anyway. The act of obtaining a license and performing a ceremony in the front of witnesses creates real-world legal obligations that reach far beyond the grasp of any church.
Any mediocre jailhouse lawyer will tell you that a contract is an instrument in writing that legally binds willing parties to perform according to the terms of same. It can be entered into by any who have reached the age of majority and are mentally capable, without regard to race, religion, gender or creed. So be it. Society moved on though the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments about slavery, universal suffrage, abortion, civil rights for people with more melatonin than others and we will move through this as well. Dire predictions about the imminent collapse of civilization have preceded all these events and yet here we all are, still struggling with emotional and deeply held beliefs, as we will be when the next Great Big Hairy Deal comes along to supplant this one.
If I were a divorce lawyer I’d be standing on the tallest box I could find screaming for this reform. The problems and subsequent divorces in the gay community will be every bit as gut wrenching and resource wasting as they are in the straight world, but there will also be happiness and fulfillment for many, and after all isn’t that what the whole idea of marriage is about?
Let’s tell our governments to get out of the marriage business and get back to civil law. Want to get married? Find an accommodating church and minister and be joined in the eyes of God, as you see him, with no legal strings attached. Want to be legally bound together in a civil union? Sign the contract issued by City Hall in the presence of a Notary and witnesses. Then go have a party! I’ll be there with you in spirit.