Monday, January 24, 2011

Marriage, Civil Unions, The Church & The State

With all that seems to be going on right now in the great state of Taxifornia with the budget and taxes, it would seem that the ol' "gay marriage" debate has taken a bit of a back seat for now. I'm honestly quite comfortable with that as it seems that when the issue flares up, people really tend to stop looking at it rationally and let emotions get the best of them.

I'd like to take this pause to put together something that I had been planning on posting for quite some time, yet have not had a chance to get around to doing. How about we stoke the fire a bit?

I believe that most conservatives have a very good, black and white understanding of something. Let me explain. I have a marriage to my wife that is in place because we, based on our religious beliefs, held a ceremony in which we, in the eyes of God, joined together in a marriage. I also have a civil union to my wife that is in place because the person who performed our ceremony is also a state-appointed officiator of civil unions sponsored by the County of Orange, and by proxy, the state of Taxifornia. It is a very simple concept, and quite honestly, goes very well with the idea of the separation of church and state. Our marriage applies to all of the religious beliefs that we have - the afterlife, together forever, adultery, sins, etc., and our civil union applies to all of the stately legality - our legal obligations to each other and to the state that will exist throughout our union, as well as the legal obligations we have to each other if we split up and the legal obligations we have to each other pertaining to any children we might have together. Do you see how there are two separate things going on at the same time here? Our marriage is governed by our moral obligations and our civil union is governed by our legal obligations. I say that as a nation, we really should start looking at these as two separate things that occur concurrently.

Now, I am going to divert from the conservative pack here, but in the interest of finding a solution to our problem, let me say that when it comes to civil unions granted by the state, I am all for them. I am even all for them if we are talking about two men or two women wanting to enter into a civil union. I truly believe that this is a matter of state and should be governed by the state, and as such, any two people, regardless of gender, even transgendered, should have the same exact rights as everyone else in their civil unions. Two men and/or two women who have the same civil union certificate that my wife and I have should have the same exact rights granted by the state that we do.

One problem, however, that we need to fix before moving forward with our separation of church and state is that I do not have a "civil union" certificate issued by the state, but a "marriage" certificate. The state should not be allowed to issue such a thing as a "marriage" certificate. It should be called a "civil union" certificate, issued just like a business license, or any other state document. This should be issued regardless of gender and religion, again, just like any other state document. A "marriage" certificate, to run concurrently with a "civil union" certificate, should be issued by the church that performed the ceremony.

Do you see where I am going with this? When it comes to morality, let's deal with and seek an audience with religion. When it comes to legality, let's deal with and seek an audience with the state. Let's have a separation there. The religions do not get to dictate to the state who can have a civil union, and the state cannot dictate to the religions what they consider to be a marriage.

If the U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of church and state in the literal sense, then why is it that the act of joining two people together in a court house in the eyes of the state carries the same name as the act of joining two people together in a church in the eyes of God? I argue that they should not be called the same thing, as they are truly two completely separate things. Should we not all be getting civil unions at the court house and marriages in a church? I can go through a ceremony at a church, but if it is not performed by someone licensed by the state, then my civil union is not valid to the state. The marriage is valid to the church and to God, but the civil union does not occur unless the ceremony has the approval of the state by means of the ceremony being performed by a state-approved agent. Does it not make sense, then that a civil union could be an agreement by two members of the same sex? It's a legal agreement witnessed by a state-appointed agent. Makes sense to me.

But, then, what also makes sense to me, is that if I am getting married in a church, or being married by an agent of the church, should not that marriage adhere to the traditional definition of one man and one women that the religion adheres to? That also seems to make sense to me. So, man and woman joined together by a person ordained by the church, marriage - Man and woman joined together by a person ordained by the state, civil union - Man and woman who have done both, either in a ceremony performed by one person with both church and state ordainment, or two people, one with church credentials and one with state credentials, or at two separate ceremonies - in the eyes of the church and God, marriage - in the eyes of the state, civil union.

It all boils down to a game of semantics, then, doesn't it? Now, mind you, I am saying that a man and woman with a civil union should have the same exact rights and privileges that a man and man or woman and woman have through their civil unions. Now, if the semantics are important and we need to start talking about what the churches themselves call the joining of two people who are the same sex, then isn't that a matter for the church, and not a matter for the state? Isn't that what you wanted in the first place? Separation of church and state. If two men or two women can convince the Catholic church to marry them, then hey, more power to you, but that should have nothing to do with my ballot, my courts, and my government. If a man and a woman, and a man and a man, and a woman and a woman, all have the same rights under the civil unions that are issued by the state, then at the state level, and honestly, even at the federal level, the argument should be over. You can call it whatever you want to, but legally, they should all be civil unions that are issued by the state. Anything beyond a civil union should be between people and the churches, not people and the state. Like I said, separation of church and state.

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