This past week, the state of Minnesota passed their marriage equality act. Governor Dayton almost immediately signed it into law. I am a neighbor to Minnesota; the border is a stone’s throw away and our area’s social and business commerce is so intermingled we are like twins. I’m proud to almost be from a state that recognizes and supports basic human freedoms and rights, and I predict Wisconsin isn’t going to be far behind.
As I see it, the reasons for continuing to deny the right of marriage according the civil laws are so full of holes, cheese cloth would provide a better veil to cover the fear, bigotry, and hate that are the true origin of protest.
I used to be a proponent of granting gay couples civil union and preserving marriage in its traditional form. After all, this would give the gay couple all of the same legal rights and responsibilities. I thought that’s what mattered.
And then the injustice of that solution came to roost on my doorstep. I have been divorced and remarried. I could not be married a second time in the church of my upbringing without an annulment, which I had solid ground for obtaining. I chose not to go the route of proving that a spiritual union never took place and therefore the marriage never existed in the eyes of God or the Church (or both, I’m not exactly sure). Talk about denial – we had 22 years and three children to show for this “non spiritual” union.
Better than that, because my second husband’s first marriage took place in his wife’s faith and not ours, their marriage was automatically not recognized as valid and therefore he could be granted the sacrament of marriage in our shared faith, even though it would be his second legal marriage. Confused? So was I.
Rather than feel shamed or chastised, or whatever I was supposed to feel at being denied by my church, I figured it was irrelevant. I had other options, and the feeling in my heart was all I needed to tell me I was married a second time. We were joined in marriage by a judge of the court with all our family and friends present, and despite religious sanction, my husband and I share a spiritual union.
But what if that were a different scenario? What if there were some archaic law stating that one marriage is all you get? You can get divorced, you can commit to and cohabitate with another person, create and raise a family again, you can even do this serially with numerous partners, but you will never again be married.
That should be okay. I would still have all the trappings of marriage. I could even protect all my interests with legal documents, so it should suffice, right? Hell no. When I fell in love I yearned to be married – nothing else was going to do. Being married to the person I love is very tangled up in my perception of happiness. I believe that for most of us, it is a basic human desire – perhaps greatly fostered by millennia of social conditioning, but none the less an undeniable need for most of us.
Still, I didn’t connect any of that with the gay marriage issue until an acquaintance told me that because God defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, marriage is sacred and set apart from civil unions. In her opinion, it would be okay to let gay couples have civil unions that gave them legal rights as a couple, but to let them marry would tarnish what she and her husband have.
What a cold slap in the face. When I told her I stood before a judge to get married in what is commonly referred to as a civil union, and asked her if that made my marriage somehow less than hers, she back-pedaled a bit, trying to remove the offense I had taken. However, she continued to offer up all the holy and hole-riddled arguments as applied to same-sex couples. My own words came to haunt me when she suggested that “they” could call it something other than marriage, to make it “seem” more than “just” a civil union if they wanted to.
My marriage license, which I applied for and filed in the courthouse of my county of residence, says exactly that – Marriage License. My husband and I are no less married, by law or by spirit, than any couple who stands at an altar to have their union blessed in their chosen faith. And that’s where people get so confused on this issue.
The rights, privileges, and responsibilities of marriage are recognized in the laws of the state in which the couple resides. The legal act of marriage is actually a contract, protected by law. A man and a woman can get “married” all day long in a church or by a religious officiate, but they are not legally married until that license is applied for and filed in legal records. As evidence, every faith based marriage includes this declaration by the officiant, “By the power vested in me by the state.”
States, of course, recognize clergy as legal officiates, but aside from that the faith-based ceremony in and of itself is more akin to the commitment ceremonies that same-sex couples have been performing all along. Without the license, the couple would be married only in the eyes of God, not in the considerations of the state.
After that fact, all the arguments fall like dominoes. Marriage is for the purpose of creating families? Tell that to childless couples, and I imagine they would feel as insulted as I did when told my civil union somehow ranked below a real marriage.
Tell that to children who suffered through the bitter divorce of their parents, and they might think any two parents who loved each other would have been better. The sexual orientation of parents has little to do with what “kind” of family they will create or whether it will last; it only gives them a better chance of creating one without much effort.
If gay marriage is legal, children will grow up considering it an option when they otherwise may not have? Okay, that might be a little true, but it will only be those who are gay. The “option” isn’t going to have the magical power to change one’s sexual orientation.
Gays can choose to live straight, but they won’t consider that if we legalize gay marriage? Gays have numerous choices. They can remain in the closet, even so much so that they marry and raise a family heterosexually. They can accept who they are and go public with their relationships, or choose not to act on their gender preference and remain single and celibate. What they cannot choose in most states, is to be happily wed to the person for whom their heart yearns.
Gay marriage will eventually take over and procreation will cease? Wow, this one just blows me away. The only way anybody could possibly believe, that if given the chance of social acceptance everybody will turn gay, is if they have been denying their own gender preference all along.
If we legalize same-sex marriage, churches will be forced to perform ceremonies uniting gay couples? Never going to happen, at least not by government directive. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state.
The Fourteenth Amendment, by the way, guarantees equal treatment under the law, and states: No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its the equal protection of the laws.
Whether you consider marriage a privilege, a liberty, or a protection of one’s legal interests, it seems apparent to me that in denying the right of same-sex couples to marry, states are violating the law as set forth by the constitution.
As for marriage being defined by God as the joining of one man and one woman, I have been unable to find such in the bible, though I admit I am not a biblical scholar. The choice to follow a faith is personal, as is the interpretation of any faiths religious texts and doctrine. Those who choose to do so can be grateful that their religious freedom to do so is protected by law in this country. However, so is my right to choose my own spiritual path, or no spiritual path at all.
And it seems to me that once you remove the faith-based teachings from the arena, which say homosexuality is unnatural and same-sex couples are committing sin, you also remove any valid argument against same-sex marriage by civil law.
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