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.