Okay, so I’m not an expert or anything, but I’ve been watching the fight over gay marriage for a while, and getting angrier and angrier about the way things are. It pisses me off that my country is allowing religious ideals to interfere with the civil rights of its citizens.
But I think I have a solution, if anyone would go for it.
Here’s the thing. You’ve got the word “marriage”, which right now sort of has a double meaning in the United States.
On one hand, Marriage is a religious institution (or, in some churches, a sacrament). As I understand it, marriage is a statement before god and one’s chosen faith community that two people are committing to each other for life. In some cases this commitment means that in the eyes of god (however you define god), two people are now one being. Some faith communities only recognize this bond between one male and one female–others are more diverse in their definitions.
On the other hand, marriage is, according to the Webster’s Online Dictionary, “(1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage> .”
The part I’m most interested in for my purposes is the “consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law” bit.
What if we recognized the truth here, which is that the way marriage works in this country really goes against the separation of church (or religion, since many different religions have marriage) and state? Because I personally am pissed off that a religious ceremony can make people be married in the eyes of the government. (Yes, I know that people who get married in a church still have to file the paperwork with the courts or whatever, but the fact remains that religious institutions are allowed to perform legally binding marriages. Doesn’t that bug anyone besides me?)
What if we could change this set up so that churches could decide who they want to marry, and whose marriages they want to recognize, and the state could do the same, without anyone having to get their panties in a twist over it?
So here’s my proposal. Let’s have civil unions for everyone–gay or straight–and let civil unions be the only “marriage” recognized by the State.
And let’s make marriage a spiritual, faith based commitment for those who want it. Then all religious bodies could determine how they define marriage, and what marriages they will perform and honor.
If I could have a civil union with my partner instead of a marriage, I would. Our reasons for marrying were prosaic ones–health insurance, home ownership, co-parenting, etc. We went to a judge and it took fifteen minutes, and had little to nothing to do with our emotional and spiritual bond. That bond is none of the government’s business, thank you very much.
I think if we separated marriage and civil unions this way, ANYONE could have equal legal rights. At the same time, churches and other religious institutions wouldn’t feel like their right to decide who they will marry is threatened. We could have our cake and eat it too.
And in this scenario, anyone who wanted to could have both a civil union with all its attendant rights, and a marriage with its link to a religious community. And we’d be one step closer to having an actual separation of church and state, rather than only paying lip service to the idea.
Just my opinion, but it makes sense to me. If y’all want to discuss the concept in the comments, great, but any mean or flamey comments will be deleted. Keep it respectful please.
(Never fear, we’ll get back to pretty pictures soon. I just needed to get this off my chest.)