The original conversation took place (& is still housed) at The Griper's blog, Just a Man with his Thoughts: Homosexual Marriage. Anyway, here's what I think:
Marriage shouldn't be bound by law at all, but by the church. (It is a sacrament, after all.) I'd much rather see civil unions (any legally-based union between two people including--but not limited to--the sacrament of marriage) governed by state/federal law, and marriage itself governed by the church one attends.
I'd like to see the word "marriage" replaced by "civil union" in all federal/state law, giving every two folks who're united either by the church or by a judge the same rights and responsibilities. That allows the church to maintain the sacrament, and the government to maintain law, which is as it should be, in my opinion...
With divorce so common and families disintegrating, I don't agree that any union between two consenting adults ought to be discouraged by law, particularly since I believe that a two parent household--even a homosexual one--is more beneficial than a single parent one. While it's good to want to encourage the "best" situations for children via law, we ought to be consistent and base our decisions on what other situations encourage &/or outlaw based on the rest of that same scale. If one cannot have a traditional family situation, what's the second best situation for raising children? What's the third? Is a two parent household lead by homosexuals really less beneficial than a single parent household? And if (as I suspect) it is better for children to have two parents--even if they are two gay parents--why are we as a society not doing more to discourage divorce via law, rather than gay marriage?
Makes me wonder...
Speaking for myself, I'd prefer we not base laws on religious conviction alone. "Sin" and "illegal" is not the same thing, nor should they necessarily be. While murder is both, I wouldn't want there to be legal consequences for not honoring one's parents, or misusing the name of God, for instance. The sacred is the sacred, and that's fine. But the sacred should not bind the secular to its will.
In the same way, I do not wish to see "separate but equal" govern the legal union of two people. Yes, there are other ways to get most of the benefits of a union, and yes, anyone can write anyone else into a will. But when two people in love come before the state (or any agent of the state, which in this case includes religious celebrants) to unite themselves to one another legally, they should receive the same benefits as everyone else who does so, on that basis alone.
Marriage is a religious sacrament. To the extent that there is any question about what constitutes a marriage, one should look to his/her faith to answer it.
But as a legal matter, the religious definition and specific rites of marriage need hold no sway, though I'm fine with recognizing a religiously based union as one way of entering into a legal union. But just as I wouldn't want to enact a law stating that one can only be legally united in a place of worship, I would prefer that religious conviction not be the be the final arbiter of who may & may not enter a legally recognized union, with all of the benefits & responsibilities that entails.
I can appreciate your not wanting to tolerate anything your faith teaches is a sin. But we in America do not all share your faith, and American law should not be based on your faith, either. While I was a big fan of "blue laws," and--being in retail-- miss having that time set aside for my faith & my family, much of America rejected having laws requiring us all to keep the catholic Sabbath. Still, I'm sure many Catholics still honor it, and refrain from frequenting those businesses and institutions that choose to break God's law... ...on the Sabbath, at least. While it may be a sin to conduct business on a Sunday, laws forbidding it are all but gone and, while we don't have to like it (& can each make the choice as to whether to commit a sin by working / shopping on the Sabbath) we do have to accept that not everyone in America chooses to keep the Sabbath, and it's very unlikely that those laws enforcing it are ever coming back.
Biblical references are always tricky. Going back to the last few paragraphs, it appears that we retail folks would be in real trouble should too many Americans follow the bible too closely (Exodus 35:2 "For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.") While it's likely you may've already seen it, I include the mythical Letter to Dr. Laura (or "even though touching the skin of a dead pig is unclean, (Lev 11:6-8) may I still play football if I wear gloves?") in reply.
I disagree that tolerance calls on one to love the sin. It merely asks one to recognize that not everyone shares your faith, or it's particular view of what is/isn't sinful. You may certainly still disapprove of the sinful behavior...
To be clear... I am not saying that there should be no law regarding legal unions. In fact, I believe there should be. I would just prefer to see the word "marriage" replaced by "civil union" in every law currently on the books, and view the religious sacrament of marriage as but one path to a civil union.
That keeps the sacred institution of marriage safe from defilement by the state, and allows those who are not united by a priest in a church to obtain all of the benefits & responsibilities that come with that legal, moral, and emotional commitment.
Finally, the will of the people argument. For that, I turn to Glen Greenwald:
California's marriage ruling -- what it means and what it doesn't mean - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com:
"Equally misinformed will be anyone arguing that this is some sort of an example of judges 'overriding' the democratic will of the people. The people of California, through their representatives in the State legislature, twice approved a bill to provide for the inclusion of same-sex couples in their 'marriage' laws, but both times, the bill was vetoed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said when he vetoed it that he believed 'it is up to the state Supreme Court' to decide the issue.
Polls have found substantial support for gay marriage in California, with dramatic trends toward favoring gay marriage. While there was a referendum passed in 2000 limiting marriage only to opposite-sex couples, five years later (in 2005), California's state legislature became the first in the country to enact a same-sex marriage law without a court order compelling them to do so. Thus, even leaving aside constitutional guarantees (which, in a constitutional republic, trump public opinion), today's ruling is consistent with that state's democratic processes and public opinion, not a subversion of it."
For me, this is the basis of my beliefs on the subject: "constitutional guarantees trump public opinion in a constitutional republic. "
Glenn addressed it again in more detail a week later:
The California marriage decision and basic civics - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com:
"That a law invalidated by a court is supported by a large majority is not an argument supporting the conclusion that the court's decision was wrong. Central to our system of government is the premise that there are laws that even the largest majorities are prohibited from enacting because such laws violate the constitutional rights of minorities. Thus, the percentage of people who support the law in question, and how lengthy and painstaking the process was that led to the law's enactment, is totally irrelevant in assessing the propriety of a court decision striking down that law on constitutional grounds."
"...a court striking down a law supported by large majorities is not antithetical to our system of government. Such a judicial act is central to our system of government. That's because, strictly speaking, the U.S. is not a "democracy" as much as it a "constitutional republic," precisely because constitutional guarantees trump democratic majorities. This is all just seventh-grade civics, something that the Brookings scholar and those condemning the California court's decision on similar grounds seem to have forgotten."
In response, my friend The Griper said:
"as to the idea of renaming it [marriage] for secular purposes i will only quote shakespere, "a rose by any other name is still a rose."'
But I'm suggesting that we're talking about two different "flowers" here. The terms "Marriage" and "civil union" have different meanings. I'm not suggesting calling the rose "marriage" something else, but recognizing that the rose of "matrimony" is but one kind of flower in the garden and that, while a rose has certain unique characteristics, many of the rules of botany apply to other flowers, as well.
"and all laws are based upon religious conviction of right and wrong."
You'll note that I never said otherwise. (In fact, I pointed to murder as an example of an action that is both an illegal act & a sin.) But murder isn't an illegal act because it's a sin, and that's the difference. (If it were otherwise, there would be laws against being disrespectful to mom, and almost every teenager in America would be incarcerated.)
Some sinful acts are also illegal acts, but that does not mean that every act deemed sinful by one denomination or another need be illegal.
(As an aside, we might explore whether the concepts of "right & wrong" are strictly religious convictions or, more broadly, moral ones where religion plays a part for those who believe, and not so much for those who don't, as well as the religious implications of the law against making a right on red, but we can save both for another time.)
I like the idea that meanings are contained in people, but also believe words and correct definitions must play their part, if we humans intend on finding common ground & solving common problems. (And while someone recently suggested that folks on the left are anti-semantic, the fact is, some of my best friends are meaningful.)
tolerance - OneLook Dictionary Search:
(Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, 10th Edition) - sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own b: the act of allowing something
(Webster's Revised Unabridged, 1913 Edition) - The endurance of the presence or actions of objectionable persons, or of the expression of offensive opinions; toleration.
All together there are 23 general dictionary definitions at this site (along with several medical, business, & other "special" definitions). I only chose the Websters, but if another definition suits the meaning of anyone here better, we can explore further.
Put me down as aligning myself with this one: Tolerance.org: What Is 'Tolerance'?:
"The word "tolerance" is surely imperfect, yet the English language offers no single word that embraces the broad range of skills we need to live together peacefully.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the Greek term "agape" to describe a universal love that "discovers the neighbor in every man it meets." The various disciplines concerned with human behavior have also offered a variety of adjectives: "pro-social," "democratic," "affiliative."
In its Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, UNESCO offers a definition of tolerance that most closely matches our philosophical use of the word:
Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance is harmony in difference.
We view tolerance as a way of thinking and feeling — but most importantly, of acting — that gives us peace in our individuality, respect for those unlike us, the wisdom to discern humane values and the courage to act upon them."
Declaration of Principles on Tolerance
Here is the whole of Article 1 - Meaning of tolerance:
Article 1 - Meaning of tolerance
1.1 Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty; it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.
1.2 Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence. Tolerance is, above all, an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. In no circumstance can it be used to justify infringements of these fundamental values. Tolerance is to be exercised by individuals, groups and States.
1.3 Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.
1.4 Consistent with respect for human rights, the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one's convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one's own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behaviour and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one's views are not to be imposed on others.
"ok, what are the the differences in meanings?"
Griper had already answered his question in his initial post on the subject:
"and marriage performed by a civil servant of the government has always been defined as a civil union. in fact some religions don't even recognize it as a marriage but society does. and government treats them both as the same."
Marriage is a sacred rite uniting two people in love according to the traditions of the faith.
Civil union is essentially a legal contract between two people in love, governed by local, state, & federal law.
What I say is, the government has no place in determining religious tradition, nor should they be bound by any particular (or even "the vast majority of") religious traditions in this country when crafting secular law. Legally, almost ALL marriages (as I defined the terms) are civil unions, but there are plenty of civil unions that are not marriages, as defined by many churches.
I was "united" to my wife by a judge, meaning there are religions who don't see me as being any more married than Adam & Steve or Adina & Lisa in NH. I can tolerate that, but still believe that the laws of NY give me the same rights & responsibilities to & with my wife as they would if I were married n my local Roman Catholic church.
Marriage is marriage; one of several ways to enter into a civil union with another person. But "marriage" & "civil union" are not synonymous, any more than "rose" and "flower" are.
My religious tradition--Unitarian Universalist--WILL perform a marriage ceremony for homosexuals. Our creed allows it. In this case, the couple is married in the eyes of our faith, but not civilly united according to the government.
Marriages and civil unions are different, one one can have either one without the other, in some cases.
"the right to marry is the stated goal of the homosexual community not a civil union."
This is because many (& perhaps most) local, state & federal laws are written with the word "marriage" not "civil union" in them.
But if you ask them, I'm willing to bet my last dollar that the vast majority of the homosexual community seeking the right to marry are looking for the legal rights, not the religious rites, and striking the word "marriage," & replacing it with "civil union" in the laws would suit them just fine, without hurting heterosexual unions (be they marriages like yours, or civil unions like mine) in any way.
(And for the record, I would never support anyone's effort to demand that any given church be compelled by law to marry anyone that their faith says are not a suitable couple. I suppose there are a few gay or human rights activists who might...)
"as for the rest that is what we are speaking of, state recognition, not religious recognition. and the state has already defined the union as a union of marriage."
Not for my fellow Unitarians... I've been to two homosexual weddings. According to my church and my faith, these folks are married. According to the state, they're not.
If you agree that marriage is a religious rite governed by the church rather than the state, and that my church has recognized and performed marriage ceremonies for same sex couples, than the state hasn't "recognized & defined the union as a union of marriage." That is... unless you believe that the state can dictate the terms of religious rites.
"the only reason it is defined as a civil union is the recognition of the person performing the ceremony, a civil servant rather than a minister of religion."
So all those folks who go to city hall are not really married, then... They are united in the eyes of the state, but not in the eyes of God. That's consistent with my position in saying marriage & civil union are not the same, and that the law has no place in legislating the sacred rite of marriage, and should instead legislate the legal rights involved in civil unions, and include the sacred rite of marriage as one way to become civilly (legally) united.
"and if you are right in regards to their attitude then changing the other laws will serve the same purpose without the controversy.
why change laws creating division instead of changing laws that result in unity?"
I think the primary controversy is in redefining marriage. Not only does my proposal not do that, it actually makes marriage more sacred, by only including those who are united in a ceremony of faith, rather than a secular ceremony of law.
If my ceremony by a family court judge (friend of the family), in the outdoor court of a beauteous hotel, followed by darn near the best reception anyone's ever been too (Not too gaudy, not too cheap, simple good food & live music) means I'm not married to my wife of 8 years come next September, I'm pretty sure Adam & Steve or Adina & Stephanie can be "not married" as happily as my bride & I are. (...aren't?... Whichever... You get my meaning...)
I can see where many will find in "controversial" to discover that they are not really married, but that's only because the wrong word was used in laws in the first place. The law calls my union a marriage, but calling it that doesn't make it so. My church calls a union of two souls--whatever bodies they're housed in--a marriage, but that doesn't make it a legal union.
The second controversy involves tolerating homosexuality. Perhaps those who view it as a sin or otherwise immoral don't want the government to sanction or condone it by giving homosexuality legal recognition. To the extent that's true, your solution does no better than mine because, either way, the government is recognizing homosexuality as a valid lifestyle, sanctioned by state and federal law.
If you believe I'm misstating or overlooking something here, please let me know... But the way I see it, these are the controversies...
"and i would add that changing the other laws are more beneficial because it gives the people the right to choice in those matters not government. and you are the one who is always advocating for the right of people making the choice in matters, aren't you?
in other words, my solution is beneficial to everyone not just a few as your solution would be."
I believe that we are the folks who make up our government, so it's the people making the choices & speaking about them, regardless...
But I still don't see how my suggestion benefits only a few, or why yours benefits many...
The ability to make legal provisions stipulating legal & financial arrangements is law, already (though I understand that there are places where laws need tweaking to make them better or more fair).
But because those arrangements are automatic by virtue of a legal union (called marriage), it still treats some citizens who enter into said unions (like Adam & Steve, "married" at a Unitarian Fellowship) second class citizens, because those benefits are not automatically given to them, the way they were to you and I when you got married, and I got "married." Our unions (yours a marriage by religious rites, and mine a "marriage" without those rites) are not treated equally under law.
Why should Adam & Steve have to see a lawyer to get what we get by virtue of our unions. Religiously, your union & theirs are both sanctioned by faith. While some of the specific traditions in my church are different than the ones in yours, the UU ceremony they had would be just like the one you & your wife or me & mine could've had at that church. The only difference is, at the end of our ceremonies, the state would recognize our marriages and hand over the legal goodies automatically, while Adam & Steve need to see a lawyer to get what we get by virtue of being men united with (married to) women.
If the laws on wills, medical decision-making, child custody, and the rest are sufficient, why grant these things automatically to some unions, and not others? Why shouldn't you & I have to see the lawyers to set these things up for our spouses, too? The answer, I think, is that they are not sufficient. A union is a union is a union. And every union deserves the same consideration under law.
"my post dealt with marriage as defined by the state. it had nothing to do with church or religion."
Marriage always has to do with religion, and the state has no business defining it.
"the people of the state of California expressed their will, by inititive, by enacting a law declaring that marriage was to be only between a man and woman. The Supreme Court of California defied the will of the people by declaring that law unconstitutional."
I believe this "will of the people" idea was covered quite well above. Please follow the Glenn Greenwald links found in this post, or just read what this wise soul said on the subject.:
"this assumes that the people cannot pass laws which are unconstitutional and that is false. we are a nation bound by a Constitution not the will of the people. if we were a nation bound by the will of the people there would be no need for a Constitution."If you're looking for the original comment from whence that came, it appears here, from Griper's own keyboard.
"so, any reference to the idea of marriage being a sacrament of the church is irrelevant because my post was not comparing the two types of marriage only the one, marriage as a legal bond as defined by the state."
Well, it is your original post, but I believe the religiosity of marriage is central to any discussion on the subject, be it heterosexual marriage or the issue of homosexual marriage. In my eyes, the legal bond is incidental to marriage, and certainly cannot be used to define the term.
Aside that, it is the religiosity of the term marriage that creates much of the controversy you do seem to wish to talk about. I just don't believe you can take the religion out of a discussion of marriage & homosexuality any more than you can take religion out of a discussion of Christmas.
Blogger: User Profile: Lista:
"Actually, Repsac, marriage is both a religious rite and a legal contract and I'm not sure that it is governed by the church as much as it is by God. I really don't think that the religious side of it has to do with laws, but simply with always doing the right thing before God in love. Right or wrong, the church doesn't usually get involved in legal matters such as divorce. That's been left up to the secular courts."
I see marriage as being the religious component, and civil union as the legal component, and the fact that those writing secular laws incorrectly used the word "marriage" in those laws as the primary problem here.
In almost all churches (that is, according to the version of God worshiped in most churches), homosexuals cannot marry. Leaving my faith (& a few others, I think) aside, there is no such thing as homosexual marriage.
(That my church worships a God that allows homosexual marriage while most churches worship a God that does not, is where that tolerance thing comes in. While we each believe that the God we worship is offering "truth," while the other is offering "falsehood," we accept that different faiths believe different things, give each other some space, and hope that one day the other will come to a better (that is "our own") understanding of God.)
For the most part, I don't even believe that those fighting for "homosexual marriage" WANT marriage. They want the rights that come with the legal union. (They call what they want "marriage" for the same reason we are here; wrong word in the law.) If it were otherwise, there would be a whole lot more picketing of churches, and a whole lot less picketing of politicians. I think I once heard one gay rights activist talking about changing the rules of the church. Aside that one guy (& I'll grant that he may have a few friends), it's really all about the laws and about equal protection under those laws, and that really isn't about marriage...
The church doesn't often get involved in legal matters, & I'm not suggesting they are here, either. But the reverse is also generally true. The law doesn't often get involved in church matters... But in using a sacred term as a definition in a secular law, the law is treading in space they're not meant to inhabit, and causing all this commotion. Folks are up in arms over the redefinition of marriage, when no one is really trying to redefine marriage at all. The redefinition is of what constitutes a legal union, not a sacred one. Marriage is safe.
"The only problem with your argument, though, Repsac, is that it requires the state to "recognize these marriages", even the Homosexual ones."
That is what I believe & where I'm headed (except for changing the word "marriages" to "unions"), but if you look back, I've never actually said so thus far... Changing "marriage" to "civil union" in the law does not require a given state (or "the state") to offer civil unions to same gender couples. All it does is decouple the sacred right of marriage, as defined by God & over which the church--not the state--holds sway, from the argument. It makes the argument over same sex unions what it really is; a discussion of rights, equality, and law. The recognition of those unions, if/when there is to be any, comes later.
"Christianity does not sanction or condone Homosexuality, Repsac, and most of us would prefer that the state didn't either."
Leaving aside the issue of Christianity, I can appreciate that you feel that way... I simply disagree with you.
I wonder whom you mean by "most of us"? Most Christians? Most Americans? They (we?) are welcome to have their say, but as Griper said above, the US & state Constitutions trump even the will of the majority, sometimes... If a law goes against the Constitution, the law falls, at least until the Constitution is amended in such a way as to allow the law to stand. Protection of the minority from the will of the majority is one of the hallmarks of a constitutional republic.
"You are actually the one who said in your response to Griper "recognize our marriages and hand over the legal goodies automatically".
In doing so, I was talking about my union with my wife, and his union with his, both of which are recognized by the state as marriages under current law...
My contention was, if you & I decided to go to my church & have a double ceremony with Adam & Steve -- (I know... It's so sudden... It seems like just yesterday we were but two strangers talking on the internet, and then... 8>) -- both you & I and Adam & Steve would be before the same celebrant in the same church, hearing & speaking the same words of love & fidelity just moments apart, but at the end of that ceremony, only you & I would be legally united and afforded all the rights & privileges that entails, according to the state. It doesn't seem just, to me.
"Is "handing over legal goodies" synonymous to "recognizing a union as a marriage"?"
Only in so much as the law uses the term "marriage," currently. What I prefer is that the state recognizes a union as a union, and treats every legal union with the equality that this country prides itself on offering its citizens.
Every union is not a marriage, and I do not believe every union should be recognized as a marriage, either. That's why I object to the state using the word marriage in the law. They're muddying the waters by confounding the sacred with the secular...
In debating whether I'm married or civilly united, Griper (see just below) seems concerned because the word marriage is (incorrectly) used in law, and therefore I am married because the law says so. To me, THAT'S a redefinition of marriage more great than anything I've heard gay activists (except that one guy I mentioned earlier) suggesting. Marriage is not a legal concept, but a sacred one, and the state cannot change that by using the term in law.
"in other words, let the people decide who gets the benefits not the state. benefits are still received but the beneficiary is determined by the person who is actually handing over the benefit by some act of his own, not the state. and it does not need a lawyer to do that."
I'm still not quite sure how you propose that would work, especially given this litigious society. While one can write out one's wishes regarding health care, child custody, and disposition of property after death on a piece of notebook paper, no one is obliged to follow those wishes under law, and even when lawyers are involved and the proper forms are filled out & every signature notarized, such things are frequently challenged in court by well meaning & not so well meaning family members alike.
"remember repsac, married persons receive and give benefits that not only homosexuals cannot give or receive but also any other single person cannot either. a heterosexual couple shacking up have the same problem."
Again, I'm not sure I understand your meaning... Are you wishing to make it easy for any two people (heterosexual couples living together, homosexual couples, parents/adult children, close friends) the ability to bestow on each other all the rights & privileges afforded legally united couples, or are you saying that couples united by law share a unique bond, and thus deserve special consideration as regards these rights & privileges?
Personally, I go with the latter. (I agree there ought to be another way for one person to give another each & every one of the rights afforded united couples, but not that it ought to be a simple process that one can do capriciously.)
"as for you not being married to your wife, i'm sorry, i don't buy into that. for you to convince me that you do not think you are married in every sense of the word you'd have to tell me that you are not the husband of your wife and that she is not your wife for one thing. for those identities are the exclusive property of marriage whether it be legal or in God's eyes.
the next thing you would need to do is convince me that you did not ask your wife to "marry" you and mean it in every sense of the word, that is if it was you that asked.
third you'd have to convince me that when that civil servant performed the ceremony you did not feel you actually married the girl but felt that it was only a cicil union.
thirdly when you fill out that income tax form you feel like you're lying when you mark the space "married filing jointly"
fourthly when you went down to the court house and bought that marriage licence it wasn't for the purpose of getting married. and you do not have a "Marriage certificate"
when someone asks if you are married you say no because you feel you are not married but only civilly united.
you go to your wife and tell her that you ae not married and she agrees with you without question.
I understand your difficulty, Griper, but if you really don't buy into what I'm saying, you'll have to take that up with the churches & religions you cited above, when you said.:
"and marriage performed by a civil servant of the government has always been defined as a civil union. in fact some religions don't even recognize it as a marriage but society does. and government treats them both as the same."
Marriage is a sacred rite.
Marriage is not a legal contract or obligation.
As a religious rite, marriage can only be performed according to religious tradition, and I know of no religion that allows government functionaries to perform sacred rites.
God and the church determine who can participate and who can officiate, and the law has no role to play in those decisions.
Civil union is not a religious rite.
Civil union is a legal contract / obligation.
While the law may choose to recognize unions performed by religious officials, it must do so equally if it is to do so at all.
The law determines who can participate and who can officiate, and God & the church have no role to play in those decisions.
If Lista & I go to city hall to tie the knot, we're civilly united. (Though the church may choose to recognize that as a marriage... Some do, some don't.)
If Lista & I go to her church or mine to tie the knot, we're married. (The law chooses to recognize this as a civil union, as well. But it's not obligated to do so.)
If you & I go to city hall to tie the knot, we get turned down, except in a few select places. In those places, we're civilly united. With a few exceptions, no church chooses to recognize that union as a marriage, and they are not obligated to do so.
If you & I go to my church to tie the knot, we're married. But the law chooses not to recognize that marriage as a civil union.
Sure, any of us can call any of those ceremonies and the subsequent day to day life resulting from them a marriage (or a civil union) but saying it doesn't make it so... Both marriage & civil union have specific definitions that don't change because people (including me, sometimes) use the words incorrectly or imprecisely. Marriage has come to be used as shorthand for any civil union, in the same way that Coke, Xerox, & Frigidaire represents all cola, any copier (or copies, or the act of duplicating) and all refrigerators. That's all well & good, but it doesn't mean plenty of folks who use those terms don't then take an RC out of their Maytag, and drink it while making color copies on their Brother copier.
What we or others call it isn't always what it is, and I think that should answer all of your concerns about my "marriage".
"before the controversy there was no such definition of a civil union, a marriage was a marriage regardless of who performed the ceremony and everyone recognized that when you sought and received a divorce that you were dissolving a marriage."
Change is constant... Once upon a time, folks didn't talk much about homosexuality (or racial issues, or gender equality, or child abuse, or ...) but the fact that polite society preferred not to discuss 'em never meant these issues didn't exist.
The good old days were frequently not as good as folks remember 'em...
There is still more, including my thoughts on nature/nurture with respect to homosexuality, beginning here.