Nathan Sass

The State and Marriage – Time For A Divorce

In Gay Marriage, Politics, Theology on March 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM

The SCOTUS has now become entangled in the argument over gay marriage.

One side argues that the state should sanction the union of two adults without regard to gender, that marriage is a “right”, and that refusal to allow same sex marriage is therefore a violation of civil rights.

The other side argues that the state is within its purview to place restrictions on marriage, that marriage is not a “right” in the constitutional sense, and that the population has every ability to pass laws (through the legislative process and elected officials) that define the institution as they see fit, thus hetero only marriage is not a violation of civil rights.

Everybody seems to be missing the larger point (again).

First, it is essential to remember the legal system in the United States has its roots in Judeo-Christian ethics, as well as western European cultural experience. Our laws are based, in very large part, in the prohibitions and definitions found in the scriptures of those faiths.

In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s the US developed its own particular brand of western legal thought. Based largely on the legal systems in place in Europe at the time, we sought to perfect the flaws in the “old world’s” legal code. We did away with the concept of classes and the special protection of nobility and royalty.

We also did away with the concept of a “state religion”, via the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

For almost 200 years, the lack of an official state church required that that state itself assume the role of sanctioning body for many things that a state church in Europe would have dominion over.

One of those things was marriage.

Government’s involvement with the legal aspects of the religious institution of marriage in the US utilizing the same term “marriage” was a reflection of the universal religious definition, and the lack of an “official church” to govern it in the stead of the state.

It was also a reflection of the Judeo-Christian roots of the culture and the law.

If, as it now appears, those roots are no longer valid in either case, the government’s use of the religious term is no longer appropriate.

Rather than change the definition of a term government borrowed due to previously common core beliefs, government should cease use of that term in all cases as a reflection of a lack of commonality with the religious definition and use instead a new term reflective of their now distinct purely secular definition.

Thus, government should therefore only engage in civil union legislation, and have no further interaction in marriage in any way. Religious institutions alone should be left to use, and therefore define, marriage as they see fit, as per the First Amendment.

Recognizing that simple truth, and correcting the now flawed use of the religious term “marriage” by the secular state, would address the legal concerns of all parties.

Those arguing for the legalization of homosexual marriage would have their core complaints addressed, albeit under a different term, and have full civil equality with heterosexual couples under the law. All would engage in civil unions in the eyes of the state, and none would engage in “marriages”. This is the total equality they seek.

Those that argue against the legalization of homosexual marriage would also be satisfied as “marriage” would revert to an institution that is governed by, and therefore in the sole control of, religious institutions. No church could be compelled to conduct a marriage outside it’s belief systems, and those that wish to be joined in the eyes of God and the State could still do so, as they do today, provided they are members of a faith institution that allows them to do so.

While it may not make the extremists on either side happy, it is the best possible outcome, in my opinion.

Those on the extreme side of the pro Gay marriage argument may be unsatisfied because they cannot use the traditional term “marriage”. They may be unhappy that the state will not compel a church to recognize or perform their ceremony. They may be upset that the state will not compel a private individual to recognize their union in the same manner, and thus justify their sexuality as fully acceptable.

Those on the extreme side of the anti Gay marriage argument may be unsatisfied and believe that the state is sanctioning homosexuals, and therefore homosexuality, under the law. They may be upset that the state no longer uses the term “marriage” for heterosexual unions. They may be upset that the state no longer reflects their belief that homosexuality is undesirable.

Oddly, both of these groups have the same mentality, and are looking for the same thing. They each want the state to impose upon others THEIR beliefs, by force of law. The Pro side wants the state to mandate full acceptance and equality of homosexuality, even upon private individuals and religious institutions. The Anti side wants the state to validate their personal hatred of homosexuality under force of law, even upon private individuals and the culture at large.

Both groups are in the end asking the state to become the “thought police” and demand universal acceptance of their personal beliefs, and the argument over marriage is just a pawn for their shared bigotry. They may be bigots of opposing colors, but they are both bigots none the less.

Therefore let us all say that the state can unite two people in civil unions for legal purposes as the population, and the law, sees fit to define, and the church can likewise marry anyone they see fit as the faithful, and the doctrine, sees fit to define.

To each, his own.

Then perhaps we can begin to discuss more urgent issues like the debt, deficit, and the increasing decay of the urban centers of this great nation.


Authors Note:  Your author is a Bible-believing Christian. As such, I believe that homosexuality is sinful. So is adultery (including divorce, and marriage of a divorced woman), sex outside of marriage, the use of the Lord’s Name in vain, coveting that which is not yours, and lying.
As I have done many of the things on that list (and more), I am in no position to play God and condemn a man or woman that commits a different sin, judge the status of their faith, or the destination of their soul. That is something reserved only to God.
My faith teaches me that my job is to love and forgive as Christ has, regardless of the type of sin. Christ forgave the prostitute (which was in those times more “sinful behavior” than homosexuality), so it is distinctly un-Christ-like for his followers to not do the same today.
My commentary is not a condemnation of homosexuals, or based in hatred for them. All men and women are children of God, and as such deserve the same treatment from me, regardless of the “type” of sin they commit.  Since we are ALL sinners, I can only treat others as I would wish they treat me.
  1. I think a much larger focus is being avoided and especially by the media. I don’t believe that most political conservatives care how someone chooses to share their life and with whom. I do not care to pass judgement based on any religious beliefs since I believe my creator and theirs will handle that job as planned just fine without my help. What I do have an issue with is an insistence by the gay community to redefine my normalcy. That’s right MY normalcy as with millions of others. You have no rights to infringe on my contractual agreement of Marriage defined as between a man and a woman. YOUR normalcy is fine until you insist it be MINE. This is purely another ugly example of special interest whining and a version of hatred to insist you change against your will to satisfy a minorities motive whatever it may be. Take whatever contractual benefits you can bargain for and call your life commitment contract whatever YOU like but stay out of MARRIAGE. If this isn’t satisfactory then let it be known for the fact that I believe it is and that being it has nothing to do with equality and everything to do with an ideological agenda of special interest.

  2. Nathan, you and I are in the same boat. I am a sinner and Jesus is my savior. I believe homosexual sex is sinful. I will share what I believe with everyone, but I will not be judging anyone. Jesus will handle that. I resent the hijacking of the institution of marriage by radical homosexuals. I agree with you in regards to civil unions. Property rights, succession rights, and association rights could all be enforced on that basis. Leave marriage to the churches. I believe that radical homosexuals are aiming for universal sexual license. By that I mean that homosexual men are free to pursue pleasure with any male they choose, regardless of age. In order to do this requires trivializing marriage as the proper shelter for children to be raised. Since homosexuals cannot reproduce, they will demand rights to adopt and reproduce with the help of surrogates. Guess what happens to those children who are brought into those homosexual family units. Now, I know that children these days receive scant protection from the law from conception to birth. Once born, they seem to be the targets of adults that would like to sexualize them for fun and profit. I suppose the demands of freedom (for adults) must be served.

  3. This is exactly what I have been thinking! I even wrote my state rep. today to suggest that our state government start looking into this idea.

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