Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Soapbox: Marriage Should Not Be the Government's Business

I thought I had written about this before, but as I searched through past posts, I couldn't find any evidence of it. Perhaps I have talked about this topic so often that I have written about it in my mind.

California's Proposition 8 has effectively shut down gay marriage in the state. Many gay people are mad about it and I sympathize with their frustration over not having the same rights as heterosexual couples, but my solution to the problem is not the same one many people want to see.

I am against government recognizing gay marriage, but then again I am against the government recognizing heterosexual marriage. Marriage is not the government's business. I'd rather see us go to a European system where churches marry people, while the government only deals with civil unions. Note: I am not talking about civil unions for gays and marriage for straights. I'm talking about a complete separation for everyone.

Civil unions should be allowed for any committed couple. Whatever rights the government currently confers through marriage should instead be conferred through civil union and should not be subject to any religious interpretation or filter.

Marriage is a religious thing. If one religion decides that marriage can only be between two people of the opposite gender, while another decides that marriage is only between people of the same gender, while a third religion says marriage is only between sheep and Swingline staplers, then more power to them all. What do I care? I don't want the government telling religions what to do any more than I want religious views being put into our government. All committed couples should have the same rights before the law.

Note that my argument is essentially a semantic one. I truly believe that the biggest problem with gay marriage is that the word "marriage" means different things to different people. To many religious people, "marriage" is a sacrament. To others, "marriage" is an institution through which government and other non-religious institutions confer civil rights. Both groups are right, but are talking about different types of marriage. I think it would help if we referred to the latter as "civil union."



Michelle said...

Paul, I've been making this argument for awhile. I think that the concept of "marriage" is intrinsically religious or spiritual, whereas the concept of a civil union, in which we benefit from state recognition of a partnership, is the appropriate business for the government to be in.

It seems distinctly un-American to me that my Catholic priest signed my marriage license and religion has been wielded extremely effectively by the religious right to oppose gay marriage thus far because of the American system.

reston kid said...

Michelle: Thanks for the comment. I have sent links to this post to a couple gays friends of mine and they agree with the sentiment as well. Strategically, It seems that the way to make this happen is to keep pushing to allow gay marriage, then use that as a way to have this discussion about the separation of church and state.