Monday, February 3, 2014

What Marriage Is. And Isn't.

I had a discussion the other day with a friend about gay marriage that started me to thinking a little deeper about the subject.

I am two fighting factions within myself. I am a libertarian. as long as what you do doesn't affect me, have at it. What ever two consenting adults do in the privacy of their home is fine; I have no objection.

It is when you drag aberrant behavior onto the front porch that my rights kick in.

Marriage had been the purview of religion for thousands of years. It has only been recently that the state has become involved in the regulation of marriage; recently being the last 200 years or so.

When you think about it, marriage today can be separated into two parts; a civil union blessed by the state, and a religious union, blessed by the various religions. For example, you can get married in a church without a marriage license. The marriage is valid within your sect, but will not be recognized by any government. Legally; you aren't married, and are not able to enjoy the legal rights of being married.

Or you can be issued a marriage license, and have a justice of the peace perform the ceremony. Legally you are married, but, depending on your religious beliefs, you are not married in the eyes of God, and can not enjoy the religious benefits of being married.

75% of folks do both. They have a marriage license issued and then have a church wedding. A smaller percentage opt for a civil union, and an even smaller percentage opt for only the religious ceremony.

What do the gays want? A civil union, blessed by the state, or a religious marriage, blessed by God? Some religions already allow same sex marriage, and their clergy have performed many of these rites. There are also some states that allow same sex marriage- none that have put the proposal to a popular vote, by the way- but a few do. So if the gay couple live in the right state, and belong to the right religion, they have both ceremonies performed.

And that is the choice of their state and their religion.

But should that choice to ban or support same sex marriage be taken from me and my religion? That is, I think, the key question, and one that hits on my libertarian stand.

There is some talk that the state should just get out of the marriage business altogether. I disagree. Stable family relationships are the basis for a strong state and strong economy. The state has a distinct interest in promoting and fomenting strong families, and therefore has an interest in marriage. Some of the programs that the state uses to promote marriage and families may or may not be discriminatory, but lets face it, they are an advantage to the majority in this country who have a traditional marriage of Mom, Dad and kids.

It is that family unit that has created a strong social community for the last thousand years, and is worth protecting. The state has valid reasons for promoting and protecting families, and should stay in the marriage business.

So, now we are back to the initial question; what do the gays want? The sob stories we hear all involve the civil part of marriage; rights in hospitals, rights in probate court, rights to adopt children. It would be perfectly possible to solve each of these issues with legal documents that would allow the partners to work through these issues that would not involve the state at all.

There are some issues, like tax filings, that would require a state or federal recognition that the partners were a couple. But how many people will these rule changes affect? Even if it is a million, that is less than a third of a percent in a county of 360 million people. How much upsetting of the apple cart do we want to do for such a smaller percentage of the population? Particularly if there is a large percentage of the population against same sex marriage on religious grounds?

If my religious beliefs preclude me from accepting homosexuality and same sex marriage, can the state force me to accept and support same sex marriage through law?

So, here is the bottom line. In a country of 360 million people we have a million tops who want to marry their same sex partner. We have 190 million who believe that the partners are living in sin, and their coupling shouldn't be.

So what are we denying the same sex couple? We are only denying them the right to have their union recognized by the state.We aren't jailing them, or confining them to a ghetto, or denying them life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

We are also maintaining a 'Bright Line', where marriage is a union reserved for a man and a woman. Once that line is moved to include two men or two women, where can the line not be moved to include?

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