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Thursday, August 03, 2006

I Do, I Do, Not YOU, Part, Uh...Err...

Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News Morro Bay CA, July 19, 2006

The Matt Davies cartoon on the editorial page of the Times was laugh-out-loud funny. It showed a dour judicially robed guy holding a gavel and wearing a badge labeled “State,” holding hands with a guy robed in clerical garb sporting a badge labeled, “Church,” with the State judge saying to the cleric, “Tsk . . . Some people get so squeamish over a marriage like ours . . .”

Yes, it’s that time again. The 1st District Court of Appeals heard arguments as to whether same-sex marriage in California is legal as all the Usual Suspects weighed in. However this district court rules, the case will be appealed to the State Supreme Court.

Clearly, gay marriage is on the national radar and is now a useful base-churning political issue that’s great for fund-raising and the fear-mongering that has generated the panicked rush by various states to write constitutional amendments to prevent the terrifying, catastrophic, nation-destroying horror of . . . OHMYGOD! . . .gay people getting married.

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of the arguments for and against gay marriage is that the issue is forcing people to examine just what “marriage” is, and in what manner should the state be involved.. The political cartoon mentioned above had it right: The marriage between church and state has long been unexamined, so a full airing of the many issues “gay marriage” brings up touches directly on just what “marriage” is in the first place. Which, no doubt, accounts for a lot of the fear and fury. Critically examining sacred cows is scary to many people.

The July 11th Times story reported that California Atty. General bill Lockyear is arguing “that California’s marriage laws should be upheld because the state has long viewed marriage as an opposite sex relationship and because gays already enjoy many of the rights of the married under the state’s domestic partner law.” Note the use of the word “many.” Countered Justice J. Anthony Kline, “So we have two kinds of marriage here, one a domestic partnership but isn’t it really the same as the other kind? It’s a second-class one.”

In general, the State certainly has a vested interest in getting involved with domestic arrangements when there are children present because it has a role to play in ensuring the legal rights of all children born within its jurisdiction. But gay couples as well as straight couples are having children, adopting children, raising children. Yet one group gets the full benefits of a state-sanctioned ceremony called “marriage,” while the other group only gets many benefits, which hardly fits a notion of equal justice under law.

In addition, the Times story reported that other courts have “decided against same-sex marriage based in large part on the view that procreation was a basis for marriage and only opposite sex couples can have children without technological assistance or adoption.” Those arguments aren’t part of this particular case, but clearly have ceased to be a valid argument since with vasectomies, birth control pills, senior citizen weddings, in-vitro fertilization and “rent-a-womb” surrogacy, a variety of technologically assisted procreative and non-procreative methods are used by both straight and gay couples.

Ultimately, Justice Joanne C. Parrilli asked two of the most critical questions of all. First, she asked “whether society as a whole has the right to define what marriage is.” The answer to that is a qualified “Yes, of course.” The State [i.e. the voters] now defines the various legal responsibilities marriage entails and what rights it confers. But the legal “definition” must also pass court muster to ensure that the rights and responsibilities are equally available to all citizens.

But it is Parrilli’s second question that gets to the heart of the matter: “whether the state should get out of the business of issuing marriage licenses and instead issue ‘union licenses’.” Indeed. Take the word “holy” out of “matrimony,” and what you have left is: Secular Domestic Partnerships With Full Legal Benefits Equally Applied To All.

In short, the State needs to get a divorce from the Church. All couples wishing to be Domestically Partnered can do so at a State office, then those wishing to make their union “holy,” are absolutely free to go to a church, synagogue, mosque or whatever of their own choosing for whatever religious blessing they wish to have bestowed on their union.

Just like the First Amendment promises.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would be happy if someone could get the lunatic fringe on the far right to stop trying to start Armegeddon in the Middle East.

PublicWorks said...

Well,

What about a 3-way marriage, how about 4-way marriages (y' know, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice - 'do you Bob take Carol & Ted (well, maybe not Ted) & Alice) to yada yada yada??' Why should they be 'discriminated'.

Maybe the libertarians should rule. Get the state out of marriage completely, do everything by contract?? Simplify tax rules in the process.

Imagine the ceremony, the preacher (oops, I mean lawyer) has forms in triplicate at the alter. '..... You may now sign on the dotted line!' Enjoy the honeymoon.

Shark Inlet said...

The problem is that the state gets to define marriage, something defined by our culture, our churches and our own personal beliefs.

There will, of course, be considerable friction when the state's definition disagrees with our own.

I would suggest the state get out of the business entirely. Churches and individuals should define what makes a marriage. If one church wants to allow gay couples to marry, great. If another church wants to disallow such marriages, great. Individuals can choose their church membership and follow marriage rules of their own choosing.

Of course, there are still the legal issues associated with the owning of property jointly, the raising of children and the right to speak for others who may be incapacitated by injury or illness and the like, but the state could set up some sort of legal status (maybe calling it "domestic partners" or some such) that currently has all the same legal rights and responsibilities as what we call a marriage today.

Essentially the Church and State should separately control the issue in their own area of authority.

Problem solved ... heck if the sewer were that easy ...

Next.

Anonymous said...

Publicworks said... "Imagine the ceremony, the preacher (oops, I mean lawyer) has forms in triplicate at the alter. '..... You may now sign on the dotted line!' Enjoy the honeymoon. "

Are you married?? Before the ceremony there is legal document signing behind the scenes... the two getting married and two witnesses must sign as well as the "preacher"... at that point the marriage is official... the rest is just smoke and mirrors.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Shark Inlet, in that there should be some sort of status for same sex unions. I am a married straight (35 years) and happily so, but in my many years I have known gay couples who are so much better adjusted than many of the bickering straight couples I have known.

You know, love is where you find it. If two people of the same sex decide they want to be joined legally, and have a legal union giving them all the rights and privileges of marriage, then I ask you, why not?

I knew a gay couple that was together for 42 years. Only the death of one, parted them. A more devoted, loving and caring couple, I have never seen. God willing, that straight marriages should be so good! If that was not a marriage, then I don't know what a marriage is.

Sure, maybe the word "marriage" can only bring up visions of a man and a woman, and - this may upset some people- how about a civil ceremony of, as Shark said, Domestic Partnership- granting al the legal ramifications of a legal marriage. It would solve a lot of legal hassles with custody of children, etc., and really, what is the harm?

I do not feel that legal recognition of Domestic Partnership threatens anyone. Give these folks a break.

Churadogs said...

Anonymoose sez:"Are you married?? Before the ceremony there is legal document signing behind the scenes... the two getting married and two witnesses must sign as well as the "preacher"... at that point the marriage is official... the rest is just smoke and mirrors. "

That "legal document" is what THE STATE issues and it includes a whole raft of purely secular rights and responsibilities and benefits. The "smoke & mirrors" is the "religious" part and can vary from church to synagogue to mosque to whatever. It's the separation of the two that's at the heart of the debate.

One poster asks what if three people want to "marry." Good question.In many cultures, that's a norm or certainly a "normal" opton and their societies have codified how that relationship is to be structured, vis a vis "rights" of all in that "marriage."

Based on "Christian" precepts, our culture picked one man/wife combo. But that's just our culture's choice. The question remains, What interest does the state have in such unions? Tax breaks? Inheritence rights, Real estate? etc.etc. All secular matters that can be codified in a variety of civil laws.

*PG-13 said...

Jumping in a little late but I can't let this one go by without playing too. Also, I enjoy it when Ann wanders out of sewerville. There is so much more to life than sewers!

Ann > In short, the State needs to get a divorce from the Church. All couples wishing to be Domestically Partnered can do so at a State office, then those wishing to make their union “holy,” are absolutely free to go to a church, synagogue, mosque or whatever of their own choosing for whatever religious blessing they wish to have bestowed on their union.

Shark Inlet > Essentially the Church and State should separately control the issue in their own area of authority.
Problem solved ... heck if the sewer were that easy ...


Oh, if only it was that easy ;-) Like so many things in our world I suppose it could be that easy. Probably even should be. And in a more perfect world it would be. Sadly, we live in a very skewed, imperfect and blended world still needing lots more blending. Its not a slam on our culture that it is still very much trapped between the secular and religion. Most cultures are caught in the same trap. This is more a reflection on the human condition than a statement about cultures or governments. Don't be fooled. This isn't about any seperation between spirituality or spiritual practice and government. It is more about the seperation of one kind of governance from another kind of governance. Religions are not so much concerned with spirituality as they are concerned with protecting their system/organization/bureaucracy/church/political body/power. Which is why the founding fathers - perhaps for the first time in western history - attempted to separate the two. They recognized that church and government were, in reality, competing more closely as forms of governance than as spiritual practice versus government. A church is a governing body. And it will compete with any other governing body attempting to infringe upon its governing space. As a governing body it will not only forever protect its rule but, somewhat inherently, will also forever try to extend its rule. Extension is a mode of protection. The historical norm of government has almost always been a monarchy, an oligarchy (plutocracy) or a religious oligarchy. Only fairly recently in history have dictatorship and democracy been added to this (overly simplified) list. Thus the issues surrounding definition of marriage is all about governance not spirituality. On both sides it is an issue of governmental control. As Ann describes in her article the US constitutional government needs to define mattiage for legal purposes. This then reflects into a broad set of areas of authority such as taxing, property rights, health care, retirement benefits, child benefits, etc. Churches begrudgingly - due to historical precedent - accept government authority over these things but at some point they have to draw the line. Not because it has anything to do with their spiritual practice but because not drawing the lines threatens their own sphere of governing control. They use the Bible (or whatever book & history they base their religion on) to rationalize their stand. But the simple facts are such rationalizations ebb and flow with social and cultural evolution. Points are conceded (or reclaimed) in support of governing authority and power. The church's enforcement of holy matrimony upon the culture is far more about governing control than it is about religious authority or spiritual practice.

Yes, it should be easy for those wishing to enter into holy matrimony to exercise their rights to do so and for others wishing for something else to exercise those same rights. Unfortunately we are still burdened by a cultural history wherein the church wields extraordinary secular power. Why? Because they like it. And they will not give it up easily.